How to Start Exercising: A Beginner’s Guide to Working Out
Exercising regularly is one of the best things you can do for your health.
Soon after you start exercising, you’ll begin to see and feel the benefits that physical activity can have on your body and well-being.
However, working exercise into your routine takes a lot of determination, and sticking to it in the long term requires discipline.
If you’re considering starting to exercise but don’t know where to begin, this article is for you. Here’s all you need to know about starting a routine and sticking to it.
Regular exercise has been shown to significantly improve your health (1Trusted Source).
Its greatest benefits include helping you achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, maintain muscle mass and reduce your risk of chronic disease (2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source).
Additionally, research has shown that exercise can lift your mood, boost your mental health, help you sleep better and even enhance your sex life (1Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
And that’s not all — it can also help you maintain good energy levels (9Trusted Source).
In short, exercise is powerful and can change your life.
Exercise can improve mental function, reduce your risk of chronic disease and help you lose weight.
There are various types of exercise, including:
- Aerobic: Usually the core of any fitness program, it includes periods of continuous movement. Examples include swimming, running and dancing.
- Strength: Helps increase muscle power and strength. Examples include resistance training, plyometrics, weight lifting and sprinting.
- Calisthenics: Basic body movements done without gym equipment and at a medium aerobic pace. Examples include lunges, sit-ups, push-ups and pull-ups.
- High-intensity interval training (HIIT): Includes repetitions of short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by low-intensity exercises or rest periods.
- Boot camps: Timed-based, high-intensity circuits that combine aerobic and resistance exercises.
- Balance or stability: Strengthens muscles and improves body coordination. Examples include Pilates, tai chi poses and core-strengthening exercises.
- Flexibility: Aides muscle recovery, maintains range of motion and prevents injuries. Examples include yoga or individual muscle-stretch movements.
The activities above can be done individually or combined. The important thing is to do what suits you best and to have fun with it.
Common types of exercise include aerobic, strength, calisthenics, HIIT, boot camps, flexibility and stability. You can do them individually or combined.
Boxing Agility Drills
Few sports incorporate the type of physical demands on an athlete as boxing. In addition to requiring sufficient strength in your arms, legs and core, boxing requires excellent balance and foot speed to properly evade and overcome your opponent.
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Volume 0%Agility drills, which challenge an individual to change their direction or speed in response to an unpredictable stimulus, can help you develop the ability to adjust on the fly during a match. Improving your footwork and agility requires patience and persistence. To properly focus on this area, try incorporating two to three sets of each drill detailed above into your pre-existing workout several times per week. Remember, it is important that agility drills contain a reactive component where the participant is unable to anticipate changes in direction or speed. Because of this, working with a teammate is an important part of your training. Try these drills at home or in the gym with the help of a partner.
Four Corner Drill
The four corner drill challenges an athlete to rapidly accelerate and decelerate in multiple different directions.
How to do it: Stand in the middle of a large room. Place a cone 20 feet ahead of you, 20 feet behind you and 20 feet away from you on each side. Have your partner begin by shouting a direction (front, back, left or right). If “front” is shouted, sprint to the cone in front of you and touch it before backpedaling to the middle. If “left” or “right” is called, shuffle to the side and touch the cone before returning to the middle in the same manner. If “back” is called, backpedal and touch the cone before running full speed towards the center again. Have your partner continue to randomly call out directions for 30 to 60 seconds.
Ladder In and Outs
This ladder exercise helps you develop your boxing footwork while incorporating two different planes of motion.
How to do it: Stand facing an agility ladder with the long portion extending to your left. If you do not have one, you can draw a long ladder on the ground using chalk. Begin by stepping into a rung with your left foot and then repeating the motion in the same rung with your right. Next, step outside the ladder starting with your left and then your right foot. Continue the pattern as you move towards the other end of the ladder. When your partner claps, reverse the direction and step into the rungs leading in and out with your right foot. Have your teammate continue to clap intermittently as you perform the drill for a minute.
The clock drill simulates the physical movements of a boxing match by incorporating a fighting stance into an agility exercise.
How to do it: Stand in the center of a large room and place 12 cones around you in a circle like the hours on a clock. Assume a fighting stance and quickly shuffle forward in between two cones as you practice jabbing an opponent. Then, shuffle back to the center of the circle. Continue to rapidly move in and out of the cones as you rotate in a clockwise direction around the circle. Have your partner sporadically yell “switch.” When this occurs, alternate directions around the circle while continuing to step in and out of the cones. After 60 seconds has elapsed, take a break.
An agility ladder is a great tool for improving your boxing skills.Image Credit: istockphotoluis/iStock/GettyImages
This drill works on lateral movements while also targeting the stability muscles in your legs that are used to maintain your balance after being hit or throwing a punch.
How to do it: Stand on the short end of an agility ladder and assume a mini squat position. Quickly shuffle step to your left into the first rung of the ladder with one foot and then the other before stepping each foot out of the rung on the other side. Then, reverse directions as you perform the same motion on the next rung forward. Continue to alternate back and forth with the same step sequence until your partner yells switch. When this occurs, reverse the motion and continue the in-in-out-out pattern backward towards your starting position. Have your teammate continue to randomly change your direction for a minute long session. To make this more challenging, attempt to jab or punch while completing the drill.
1. Lateral Plyometric Jumps
Lateral plyometric jumps help build explosive power, balance, and coordination by using our natural body weight. This advanced agility training exercise is essential for any athletic position that requires lateral coordination and power. For best results, be sure to perform this drill after a thorough warm up.
Builds explosive power, balance, and coordination.
Begin jumping over a line on the ground.
With feet no more than hip-width apart, bend your knees to squat
Pushing through your heels quickly, push upward and sideways
toward the other side of the line. Land softly and absorb the shock
by squatting deeply.
Repeat jumping over the line in 30 – 60 second intervals
2. Forward Running, High-Knee Drills
Requiring only a basic speed later and your body, this agility training exercise is designed to improve foot coordination and speed for all field sport athletes. Simply run with high knees forward through the ladder, landing in every ladder space. For this simple drill, proper form is key. Be sure to land on the balls of your feet and drive forward with your arms.
Improves foot coordination and speed.
Use a ladder on the ground.
Run with high knees forward through a ladder
Land in every ladder space.
Land on the balls of the feet.
Drive forward with the arms.
3. Lateral Running, Side-to-Side Drills
Lateral running drills greatly improve both knee and ankle stability, making them ideal for court-sports. For proper form, maintain a low center of gravity and quickly step side-by-side through the ladder. Be sure to step both feet, one at a time, inside each rung of the ladder. While driving your arms forward, always aim to land on the balls of your feet. Repeat from right to left and then again, left to right. Proper form is the key to your success!
Improves knee and ankle stability.
Maintain a low center of gravity while quickly stepping side-to-side
through the ladder.
Step both feet, one at a time, inside each rung.
Drive your arms forward and always land on the balls of the feet.
Repeat from right to left. Then again left to right.
4. Dot Drills
Agility and explosive speed are achievable when you have the appropriate leg strength, something that is improved with basic dot drills. Dot drills are just one of the ways in which you can increase knee and ankle strength, giving you the additional stability you need for field sports, racket sports, basketball and soccer. Dot drills allow these athletes to fluently change direction without notice.
To complete the dot drill successfully, use tape to place a small “X” on the ground in the pattern of a five, as seen on a dice; you may also use a dot drill mat. Start your warm-up by jumping from dot to dot with both feet at once. After you feel warmed up (approximately 30 seconds), progress to one foot hopping and then try to follow a specific jumping pattern.
Improves leg strength to achieve change of direction, speed and agility.
Use a dot drill mat or place a small “X” on the ground in a dice
pattern of 5.
Warm up by jumping with both feet from dot to dot for 30 seconds.
Progress to one foot hopping and follow a specific jumping pattern
one leg at a time
5. Jump Box Drills
Great for your quads, glutes, and hamstring muscles, start by stepping into a VertiMax 8 with a medium to heavy resistance (depending on your ability). Keeping your knees over your toes, jump as high and as fast as you can. Land safely on the balls of your feet. Repeat VertiMax jump box drills for 10 – 20 seconds.
Builds quads, glutes and hamstring muscles.
Step onto the V8 platform using medium to heavy resistance.
Keep knees over the toes, jump up onto the bench or box as fast as
Land on the balls of your feet,
Repeat jumping for 10 – 20 seconds.
6. L Drills
L Drills, aka Cone Drills, are a popular agility training exercise used by coaches and professional trainers to develop rapid change of direction ability and speed.
- Set your cones up for the 3 Cone Drill.
- Start at the line in a 3 Point Stance.
- Come out low for about 5 yards, maintaining medium speed control, touching the line at the center cone.
- Once you touch the line, immediately return to the start cone, and touch the line using the same hand.
- Next, turn and sprint back around the center cone, planting off your inside foot for a hard turn and figure eight around the end cone (again, planting your inside foot).
- Make a sharp cut around the middle cone, turning on your inside foot, and sprint back to the starting cone, to finish the drill.
- Repeat 3 – 5 times.
Develops rapid change of direction ability and speed.
Start at the line in a 3 point stance.
Come out low for 5 yards maintaining medium speed control.
Touch the line at the center cone.
Immediately return to start cone and touch line with same hand.
Turn and sprint back around the center cone planting off inside foot
for hard turn and figure 8 around the end cone planting inside foot.
Make sharp cut around middle cone on inside foot and sprint back
to start. Repeat 3 – 5 times
7. Plyometric Agility Drill
Athletes use plyometric jumping exercises to build explosive power and speed. Additionally, these challenging agility training drills improve coordination, dexterity, and effectively improves sports performance. Using a set of small hurdles, jumping on one or both feet can develop agility and increase foot speed for runners and field sports athletes alike.
- Set up several small agility hurdles, placing about 2 feet between each hurdle.
- Start with your legs shoulder-width apart. Begin to jump upward and forward, clearing each hurdle. Be sure to land lightly on the balls of your feet.
- Upon landing, immediately jump again, driving forward with your arms.
- Repeat several repetitions.
- Repeat the drill on only the right foot and then only the left foot.
Builds explosive power and speed. Improves coordination and dexterity.
Set small agility hurdles 2 feet apart.
With legs shoulder width apart, jump upward and forward clearing
hurdles. Land lightly on the balls of the feet.
After landing immediately jump again, driving forward with the arms.
Repeat with both legs several times.
Repeat drills with right foot only and then left foot only.
8. Shuttle Runs
The shuttle run is a standard agility training exercise used by athletes who play stop-and-go sports (i.e. soccer, basketball, and hockey). Shuttle run drills are an easy way to inject some high-intensity training into a basic conditioning program while you build speed, agility, and endurance.
Set a training area with two markers, such as cones, about 25 yards apart. With explosive speed, sprint from one marker to the other marker and back. Repeat 6 – 8 times. Consider switching it up by including forward-touch-return runs, forward-backward runs, and side-to-side runs.
Ultimately, agility training sets apart average athletes from exceptional athletes. Adding the above agility training exercises to your weekly conditioning routine will have you taking it to the next level within a few weeks.
Benefits stop-and-go sports with high-intensity training.
Set two markers like cones about 25 yards apart.
With explosive speed, sprint from one marker to the other and back.
Repeat back and forth 6-8 times.
Switch it up by including forward-touch-return runs, forwardbackward runs, and side-to-side touch runs.
It’s important to consider a few things before you start an exercise routine.
1. Check Your Health
It’s important to consult your doctor and get a physical medical examination before starting an exercise routine.
This is particularly important for those who are not used to strenuous physical activities, as well as individuals aged 45 and over.
An early checkup can detect any health problems or conditions that could put you at risk of an injury during exercise.
It can also help you optimize your workout, making it easier for you and your personal trainer to understand your limitations and create an exercise plan tailored to your particular needs.
2. Make a Plan and Set Realistic Goals
Once you decide to start exercising regularly, try to create a plan that includes attainable steps and goals.
One way to do this is to start with a plan of easy steps to follow. Then you can continue building on it as your fitness level improves.
For example, if your goal is to finish a five-kilometer run, you can start by building a plan that includes shorter runs.
Once you are able to finish those short runs, increase the distance until you can run the whole five kilometers continuously.
Starting with small goals will not only increase your chances of success, it will also keep you motivated every step of the way.
3. Make It a Habit
Another key component of exercise success is to stick to your routine.
It seems to be easier for people to maintain an exercise routine in the long term if they make it a habit and do it regularly (10Trusted Source).
A review of studies concluded that replacing an unhealthy behavior with a new healthy habit is a great approach to maintaining it in the long term (10Trusted Source).
Furthermore, making a schedule or exercising at the same time every day are good ways to sustain your routine and make it last.
For example, you can make exercise a habit by planning to work out right after work every day.
Before you start working out, get a health check-up and make a plan with realistic goals. Then, make exercise a habit by incorporating it into your daily routine.
You don’t need to be a high-performance athlete or used to working out for hours to start exercising today.
These 150 minutes can be configured any way you want. For example, you can do a 30-minute workout five times a week or a 35 to 40-minute workout every other day.
However, recent studies have shown that packing this minimum requirement into one or two training sessions per week can be as beneficial as spreading the sessions throughout the week (12Trusted Source).
Overall, it’s important to start slowly and increase the intensity as you build your fitness level up.
Lastly, even though a daily amount of physical activity is needed for good health, allowing your body to rest is important too.
Not letting your body recover from the stress of exercise increases the risk of injuries, such as muscle strains and stress fractures, and can result in overtraining syndrome (OTS).
Exercising too much can also weaken your immune system and increase your risk of infection, hormonal imbalances, depressed mood and chronic fatigue (13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source).
The minimum recommendation for exercise is at least 150 minutes per week. However, it is important to start slowly and let your body rest from time to time.
Below is an easy-to-follow, one-week exercise program that does not require equipment and will only take you 30–45 minutes a day to complete.
This program can be adjusted to your fitness level and made as challenging as you want.
Monday: 40-minute moderate-pace jog or brisk walk.
Tuesday: Rest day.
Wednesday: Walk briskly for 10 minutes. Then, complete the following circuits, resting 1 min. after each set but not between exercises. Stretch afterward.
- Circuit #1: 3 sets alternating 10 lunges for each leg, 10 push-ups, 10 sit-ups
- Circuit #2: 3 sets alternating 10 chair-dips, 10 jumping jacks, 10 air-squats
Thursday: Rest day.
Friday: 30-minute bike ride or moderate-pace jog.
Saturday: Rest day.
Sunday: Run, jog or take a long walk for 40 minutes.
The one-week program above is just a simple sample to get you started. For more workout ideas and plans, check out the following links:
- 9 quick total body workouts that you can do anywhere (no equipment necessary)
- Workout plans targeting specific body parts and for various skill levels
- 7 beginner workouts for various goals and body parts
- Workouts for your specific body type
There are a variety of exercises you can do, and the plan above is just one example to help get you started working out.
1. Stay Hydrated
Drinking fluids throughout the day is essential for maintaining healthy hydration levels.
2. Optimize Your Nutrition
Be sure to consume a balanced diet to support your fitness program.
All food groups are necessary to sustain healthy energy levels and get the most out of your workout. Carbs are particularly important, as they can fuel your muscles before exercise (20Trusted Source).
Carbs are also important after exercise to replenish glycogen stores and assist the absorption of amino acids into your muscles during recovery (17Trusted Source).
Lastly, regularly consuming healthy fats has been shown to help burn body fat and preserve muscle fuel during workouts, making your energy last longer (20Trusted Source).
3. Warm Up
It can also improve your flexibility and help reduce soreness after your workout (22Trusted Source).
Simply start your workout with some aerobic exercises like arm swings, leg kicks and walking lunges.
Alternatively, you can warm up by doing easy movements of the exercise you are planning to do. For example, walk before you run.
4. Cool Down
Cooling down is also important because it helps your body return to its normal state.
Some cool-down ideas include light walking after aerobic exercise or stretching after resistance training.
5. Listen to Your Body
If you’re not used to working out every day, be mindful of your limits.
If you feel pain or discomfort while exercising, stop and rest before continuing. Pushing through the pain is not a good idea, as it can cause injuries.
Also, remember that working out harder and faster is not necessarily better.
Taking your time to progress through your fitness program can help you maintain your routine in the long term and make the most of it.
Be sure to stay hydrated, eat a balanced diet, warm up before exercising, cool down afterward and listen to your body.
The key to staying motivated and making exercise a habit is to have fun while doing it. This allows you to not dread having to exercise.
Like the sample exercise program shown above, you can mix up activities while keeping it fun for you.
Joining a gym or group fitness class like yoga or Pilates, hiring a personal trainer or doing team sports are also good ideas to increase motivation and enjoyment (24Trusted Source).
Working out as a group or with a friend can also assist in maintaining accountability and motivate you to keep up your good work.
Furthermore, tracking your progress, such as logging your weight lifting or noting your running times, can help keep you motivated to improve your personal records.
To maintain your motivation, mix up your workouts, join a gym or team sport and track your progress.
Starting a new exercise routine can be challenging. However, having real objectives can help you maintain a fitness program in the long term.
There are many different types of physical activity to choose from. Find a few that work for you and be sure to vary them occasionally.
The goal is to start slowly, build up your fitness level and let your body rest from time to time to prevent injuries.
Keeping track of your progress or joining a fitness group can help you stay motivated and achieve your goals. It’s also important to eat a healthy diet and hydrate regularly.
So, what are you waiting for? Start exercising today!