5 things to know before starting your gym program

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You’ve decided to start exercising in the gym. Maybe you’re feeling excited, motivated or perhaps a little anxious. Starting something fresh (or reigniting an old habit) can be challenging. If any of that resonates, then this blog is for you… here are 5 tips to help make your strength training program successful.

  1. Goal setting

Goal setting isn’t always easy. But having good goals helps establish what you want to achieve and when you want to achieve it by. A tool that you can use to help make the goal setting process easier is the SMART acronym.

    • Specific – Whether it be to lose weight, build muscle or strength, adding specificity to your goal gives you direction in your journey.
    • Measurable – Something quantifiable (i.e lose 5kgs of body weight, or add 2 kgs of muscle).
    • Achievable – We want to set goals that are challenging but possible to complete
    • Realistic – Setting goals that are realistic to your current circumstances. We dont want to set ourselves up for failure which is likely to have us shy away from doing the work to achieve our goal.
    • Time bound- A time based goal gives you a deadline, which helps give a sense of accountability (i.e you give yourself 10 weeks to lose 5kgs)

  1. Learning your exercises

This is important to ensure safety and efficiency of effort. Your technique will take you where your strength can’t go. Whether its a strength based exercise such as a squat or whether its running, good technique will help you find efficiency and rhythm with your exercise.

At the end of the day, there is a skill/technical component to most exercises. This is where the advice and guidance of a good trainer is so valuable. Learning how to do the exercises

  1. Ways to Progress

Having an exercise program and plan that is tailored to your goal is key. A good program should include different phases known as blocks, which are broken up by easier recovery weeks known as de-load weeks.

Depending on the time frame of your goals, these blocks can range from 3–6 weeks in length. The whole idea of a block within your training is to allow for gradual increases in intensity and volume. This way you are able to keep consistently tracking towards your goal

If strength training is new for you and you’re just getting started then keep it simple – try 2-3 strength sessions a week with a rest day between.

  1. Prioritize nutrition and sleep/recovery

Exercise is great, however exercise without adequate recovery is a waste of effort. When we exercise we break down muscle, however we don’t grow unless we allow for the repair of this muscle. A good place to start is with ensuring we are

  • Aiming for 7-9 hours of sleep a night.
  • Eating a balanced diet, getting adequate serves of vegetables and fruits, as well as a healthy source of protein.
  • Staying hydrated
  1. Play the long game

Rome wasn’t built in a day!

It’s common for people who start out at the gym, fall off with their training and give up entirely. This is often because they’ve either achieved their goals too early, or because they feel discouraged by perceived lack of improvement. Motivation wears off from the initial excitement, things get hard… what’s the point of continuing.

Playing the long game is key for success. The long game is thinking about how you can sustain an exercise routine beyond a short or medium term goal. Thinking in these terms helps build a positive relationship with your health, exercise and fitness.

As a result you’re much more likely to sustain your effort over the long haul and  see greater growth and progress. This is moving more towards lifestyle change and habit formation. Over time you might notice your attitudes change from “I guess I better exercise” to “I exercise because that’s part of who I am now”.

Bonus Tips

  • Seek help/guidance/advice from a trained professional/coach.
    • This is always a great idea if you’re new to the gym. The gym can be an intimidating process for someone starting out. Seeking help from a professional can help guide you through the process initially and provide you that added support and accountability in working towards your goals
    • Strength training doesn’t even necessarily need to be in the gym – working in outdoor group classes is another great alternative if the whole gym vibe isn’t your thing.
  • Go with mates
    • Having mates to exercise with can often be a source of motivation/accountability to your exercise goals. It will also help make the process fun especially on the days that you don’t really feel like exercising.
    • Joining a group training class is another way to meet like-minded people who want to get stronger/fitter/healthier like you.

By Prash Varatharajah

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