Illustration of three women working out

How to ease your way into working outHow to ease your way into working out

January is just days away.

As always, this means that people will soon be rushing to pick up discounts on gym memberships as the annual post-Christmas fitness craze sets in.

If you’re not used to working out on a regular basis but are looking forward to getting back into the swing of things, we have put together some useful tips and tricks to consider before you step back into the yoga studio or the weight room.

Rushing back at full blast might feel productive – but if your muscles haven’t been properly exercised in a long time, it could actually be harmful to go too hard.

Here’s how to safely ease your way back into working out, and making sure you get the maximum return from your investment into your health.

Why is it important to start out slow when you’re a beginner at fitness?

As the saying goes, it’s quality over quantity.

Let’s debunk a common myth: going to the gym frequently doesn’t mean you’ll see the results you’re after, Marni from PureGym explains.

‘Rest is just as important as getting a good workout,’ she tells us.

‘If you don’t give your body adequate time to rest, then your muscles cannot repair to their full capability. You then might find that you are not able to train at your best in your next workout.

‘You could also end up burning yourself out and injuring yourself, which might take you some days out of the gym. More doesn’t necessarily mean better.’

Be extra careful if you’re hitting the weights and doing deadlifts.

Get your technique right first.

‘Deadlifts are a great compound movement to incorporate into your routine, and for most people it is a perfectly safe exercise to do,’ Marni adds.

‘As with any exercise (not just deadlifts) trying to lift too heavy or with poor form may lead to injury. Therefore, instead of avoiding deadlifts it is just important to master the movement pattern first before adding lots of weight.

‘By prioritising proper form over weight, this will help to make sure you are recruiting the right muscles and are lifting safely and controlled – in order to benefit properly from the exercise.’

What’s more, in addition to hurting yourself physically, if you haven’t been in the gym for weeks, months, or even years, pushing yourself into doing hardcore workouts straight away could impact your mindset.

If you grow resentful of the work you’re putting in – or feel unable to keep up the pace – you might stop altogether.

It’s about adjusting your body slowly, rather than pushing yourself past your limits on day one.

This rule goes for anyone who has taken a break from working out for a while, including athletes and those who hit the gym every week.

Illustration of girls playing football

If you don’t fancy the gym, try a group activity (Picture: Ella Byworth)

Every person has a baseline of strength and stamina, but even so, doing an hour of weights and an hour of cardio when you haven’t been exercising for several weeks (while off on holiday, for instance) can be harmful, as Natalie, who plays netball twice a week and hits the gym three times per week realised recently.

‘The main thing that I notice after a couple of weeks out of the gym is that my energy levels are at rock bottom,’ she tells us.

‘Trying to go straight back into the same level of cardio leaves me completely wiped out and demoralised – so when it comes to sprints on the treadmill or on the bike, I tend to start slower and build my speed and endurance back up again over a few sessions, until I feel back to my best.

‘I once badly jarred my back after going too heavy on the barbell squats. I jumped straight back into the weight I was at before a two-week holiday, and my body was just not ready for that at all.

‘I try not to be too stressed or hard on myself if I have to take a step back on my gym regime – I know I’ll get back to where I was in just a week or two, and it isn’t worth injuring yourself.’

What type of exercises are good to start with if you’re a beginner?

Personal trainer Chris Antoni, founder of Tailor Made Fitness, tells us that it’s best to begin with basic exercises.

‘If you are new to fitness, I always think the basic exercises such as body weight treadmill, cross trainer, squats, push-ups, dips of a bench, mountain climbers, ab crunches are good exercises to start with to help build up some all-over body strength and fitness,’ he says.

‘If you did want to have some resistance use the machines as they are stable and easier to keep good technique.’

As for classes, he recommends circuits, spin and yoga for newbies.

Stepping into a gym or a class can be stressful for a beginner and it’s easy to compare yourself to others – but try to focus on your own goals instead, and remember that most people are too busy with their own routine to pay attention to yours.

However, it might be beneficial to book an introduction at your gym (you’ll usually get offered one when you sign up) or book a session with a personal trainer to get the basics down and to help prevent any ‘I look stupid doing this’ thoughts.

If you’re working out at home, take advantage of reliable fitness apps for guidance or hire an online PT.

Chris recommends to make a plan and stick to it, and adjust it over time.

Illustration of three women working out

‘Some tips on how to keep your workout consistent is to build up how much you do, for instance maybe for the first week set yourself a target to train 3-4 x for 20-25 minutes and each week add another 5 minutes to your workout each week,’ he says.

‘It takes 21 days to create a habit so aim to do some form of exercise for 21 days, this could be for 10 minutes a day to 30 minutes. You could do a class, watch a YouTube video and workout at home, go for a walk/run, go swimming etc.’

A great way to keep up your workout routine is to do it with a friend or engage in the social aspect of fitness.

Personal trainer and martial arts expert Matt Fiddes, who has trained Love Island celebs such as Megan Barton Hanson, swears by group workouts for beginners.

He recommends finding a good exercise class that you can commit to, as well as have fun with.

‘It is more fun and less intimidating than just showing up to class on your own,’ he tell us.

‘You will stay focused and will less likely quit if you join a weekly class with friends and other family members. You are more likely to get out of a routine if you decide to go to the gym on your own.

I say, turn your exercise schedule into a social activity.

‘Besides the health and fitness benefits, group classes are great at boosting your confidence and it also a great way to meet new friends, too.’

Above all, remember that physical activity – whether it’s a 15- or a 50-minute run, lifting small weights or big –  is good for your body and mind.

So be kind to yourself and take it one step at a time. Patience is a virtue for a reason.

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