Advice for Starting an Exercise Programme Safely

Advice for Starting an Exercise Programme Safely

You've decided it's time to start exercising. Congratulations! You've taken the first step on your way to a new and improved body and mind. How you do this safely is another matter. There are many things to consider to ensure you do not end up injuring yourself in the early stages of exercise. This is the last thing you need!

In this article we will look at 10 key points to consider when taking up exercise, including some great advice on proper training method to ensure you continue making gains and do not over-train or burnout.

1. Start Gradually

When starting an exercise regime, remember to start gradually. Even if you have done the activity before, it is important to start slowly if you have had some time away. A great way to start running is by undertaking 2-3 runs a week of 10 minute duration. Try to increase the total time run by no more that 15% per week. This will keep your risk of injury low. 

2. Health Check

Before starting any exercise programme it is important to ensure you are healthy enough to undertake it safely. If you have a history of underlying heart disease, respiratory conditions or other chronic medical disorders, a visit to the doctor would be advisable to ensure that the programme is going to be safe.

3. Cross Training

Any structured training programme will have elements of cross training within it to ensure that the body is not overloaded with the same type of exercise time after time. If you are undertaking a running programme then biking, swimming, and rowing would be good examples of crosstraining. It is normal to have 1-2 sessions of cross training a week. These sessions could have specific goals such as interval training, cardio or recovery. Mixing it up is very important in helping to reduce injury risk. 

4. Progressive Training Programme

Many people start a new training programme without having any idea on how it should be structured. Typically it begins with running 2-3  time a week and then continues this way over many weeks. This is not an ideal way of training. The body will either start to fatigue or it will get bored and any training effect will be lost. Progressive overload is an important concept to have within a training programme. The first few weeks of a programme should include a gradual increase in load (increasing by 10% a week is considered safe), this should then be followed by a recovery week where the loads are 50% of a normal week. The recovery week ensures your body has a chance to rest or recover. It will also make the next block of training more effective. Continue to alternate 3 weeks of building and 1 week of recovery and you will decrease your risk of overtraining considerably. 

5. Recovery

Recovery techniques are important to ensure that you are able to undertake the next training session without having lingering soreness. There are many methods of recovery and they are best done immediately after training.

  • Stretching
  • Ice Baths
  • Foam rolling
  • Massage
  • Rehydration and Refueling - drinking and eating

6. Nutrition

Taking on enough fluid and food for training can be something many people forget about when beginning a training programme. When you exert more energy by training it is important that you have this energy available to begin with.  You may find your appetite increases as you increase your training - this is normal. Refueling and rehydrating is absolutely necessary after training. Drinking some water and a having snack containing carbohydrate and protein will be adequate in most cases after training. If the training session was longer and harder than electrolyte replacement drinks may be needed. 

7. Strength training

No matter what type of training programme you are undertaking, strength is going to be important. If you want to get faster at running, better up the hills on your bike, or just stronger, than strength training is how you will make the gains. Incorporating a strength session into your programme with help to ensure the muscles you are wanting to use are getting specifically stronger. Simply doing a home programme of squats, lunges, step-ups etc. with hand weights can help increase your leg strength - it is that easy. A physiotherapist can advise you which exercises would be most beneficial.

8. Equipment

Would you ever go on a big road-trip without checking you car tyres or brakes? Well it is no different for your running shoes or bicycle. Ensure your equipment is in good shape. Having old shoes can lead to a lot of foot and lower leg issues when the loads increase. Having the wrong bike set-up can also lead to similar problems. Both of these equipment are easily remedied and your physiotherapist can help ensure you get the right advice.

9. Use Technology

With so much technology available these days, it would be silly not to take advantage of it. Whether it is a simple heart rate monitor or a more advanced app for monitoring your training schedule there will be something that helps you. Having a simple heart rate monitor can ensure you train at the right intensities making your sessions more beneficial. It will also reduce the likleyhood of overtraining.

10. Get Your Niggles Treated

If you do happen to get pain due to exercise, then it is important to get assessed by a physiotherapist to ensure you do not make things worse by continuing on with your programme. Sometimes injuries do not need a lot of time off to enable them to settle, modification of your training programme may be all it requires. Your physiotherapist will be able to help you return to full training with a structured rehabilitation programme. Do not wait until things are really sore, this will often lead to further time off. 

There are other many other things to think about if you are serious about your training. Talking to your physiotherapist about any other concerns will ensure that you head in the right direction from the start. Good luck with your training!!