The Art of Movement Edition 32: Training Principles 3 - Start Easy, Progress Slowly
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This newsletter is not just an opportunity for me to touch base with my dear patrons and show my gratitude for your monthly support, but also to offer you a 5 minute, easily-digestible read around the world of health, fitness and exercise. Here I will troubleshoot many common difficulties my clients experience, offer practical, actionable solutions for you to put to work in your life immediately, and of course provide my weekly motivation in the form of a favourite quote, and a takeaway lesson from it.
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For the rest of this year, I wanted to use my newsletter to summarise some important principles of training which I thought could help the average person understand training and exercises better. These are concepts we need to take into consideration when identifying the best way to put our next foot forward in pursuit of our exercise goals.
Edition 32 - Training Principles 3: Start Easy, Progress Slowly
Even with the best intentions, many people struggle to find time and motivation to maintain a regular gym routine. If you’re somebody who starts a training regime, but soon finds it hard to keep up with it due to factors like time, motivation or injury, this article will help you set realistic expectations for your programme, identify the right type of training for you, and get you started on the road to success.
What is the best type of training programme for you?
We’ve all heard that “one size fits all” really doesn’t apply to fitness. So why do so many people use training programmes for themselves that have been prescribed for another person’s needs? The reality is that there’s not a single workout program that’s perfect for everyone. The best workout program for you will be one that simply matches your current fitness level and desired fitness outcome, and four key factors you should consider when settling on your programme are: Your health status, fitness level, limitations and training goals.
Know your limitations before starting
If you’re recovering from an injury, it’s important to avoid exercises that could cause further damage. I regularly see people with knee, hip, and back issues joining circuit classes where they are required to jump, run or carry out explosive actions repetitively - this is a recipe for disaster! If you’re unsure which exercises to avoid, consult a doctor, physical therapist or highly qualified fitness professional. For example, if you have knee problems, avoiding the treadmill initially would be wise. Some common low intensity, knee-friendly exercises include cross trainer, swimming, cycling and yoga. If you are out of shape, it is crucial to start off with gentle exercises like regular walking or swimming - this will provide you with your ‘baseline’ and help you begin to lay your foundations. As you get stronger, you can gradually increase the intensity and variety of your workouts.
Plan your workouts in advance
It is always important to know what training you are doing and when, and why! An example from my typical training week might be:
(When) Monday - (What) Upper push workout (Why?) - Football match Saturday = tired legs
You’ll be more likely to stick to your workout program if you have a plan for success. Rather than attempting a random session that might involve some lower body on a Monday, I am acknowledging what state my body will be in on that day, and focusing on an area that will benefit me the most at that point in time, while simultaneously giving my legs a final, much needed rest day.
So, before you start your training, ask yourself what you want to achieve by the end of a certain period. For example, if you want to get stronger, your goal could be to build strength by lifting light weights initially, and making them progressively heavier every few weeks, until you can lift a certain weight by a certain date. Tracking your workouts will help you achieve this. Keep a log of your exercises, the number of sets and reps of each exercise, and your estimated exercise intensity. Tracking your workouts will help you stay accountable and show you where you need to improve.
Commit to your plan
If you’ve never been a regular exerciser, or you’ve struggled to maintain a regular workout routine in the past, one of the first things you should do is make a commitment to regular exercise. For example, commit to starting slow by committing to 10 minutes of exercise per day (70 mins total per week). You’ll be surprised how much progress you can make in a short period of time. Once you start seeing those results, you’ll become more motivated to keep on going. As you start getting more committed to your workout program, you can increase the duration of your workouts, and maybe switch to something like 20 mins, 4 days per week (80 mins total). A couple of months down the line, this could become 30 min workouts 3 days per week (90 mins) etc. Grow with your programme and don’t try to run before you can walk!
Make exercise a priority in your life
If you want to get serious about your workout program, you’re going to have to make exercise a higher priority. To do this, you’ll have to learn to say “no” to all those other activities that are keeping you from getting to the gym. For example, if you’re too tired to go to the gym after work, you’ll have to learn to say no to after-work drinks and parties, which are often the reason that people don’t get to the gym. That is not to say you will never have a social life - but there will be occasions where you just have to accept you might need to make the sacrifice for the sake of your training progress - otherwise, why did you start the programme in the first place? If you want to build a successful routine, you have to make it a priority in your life (P.S. Google calendar is your best friend).
The key principle to remember is simple - Start easy, progress slowly. Give it a try by scaling back your training and setting yourself up with the very basics for at least 1 month, and see how you get on.
“Don’t run before you can walk” ― Anon
Movement of the Week: Plank Hold Variations
2 x 10 reps (5 each hand)
Holding the plank position on your hands can be hard enough! But give this a try, taking 1 hand off the floor to balance and stabilise yourself with your other 3 points of contact. You don’t have to do it in the dynamic way I am demonstrating here with a goalkeeper (we are playing hand tag! Give this a go with kids, they will love it and it is a great way to teach strength), just simply take your hand off the floor slowly and carefully, maintaining level hips and neutral spine. Enjoy!
That’s all for this week! Please spread the word about my Patreon channel so more people can enjoy the videos and newsletters!