Getting Started / 101

Getting Ready For Your First Time


When setting out to achieve better fitness, the first thing you need to do is set goals and then set a plan to accomplish them. The acronym S.M.A.R.T. is a good method to use when setting goals:

S– You need to share your goals. Find a friend or family member that will help keep you accountable in your fitness endeavors. This will help you verbally commit to your goal(s) as well as give you a support group when things start getting tough and you want to quit.

M– Whatever your goal is, it needs to be measurable. Saying, “I want to start running” or “I want to start working out at the gym,” is not measurable. There is no objective way to determine if you are making progress towards these fitness goals. A better goal is to say, “I am going to run a 5k in less than 25 minutes,” “I am going to complete a triathlon,” or “I am going to bench press 200 lbs.”

A– Your goal needs to be attractive. If you have no desire to run long distances or even hate running, completing a marathon is not an attractive goal. If you hate lifting weights or could care less about going to the gym, setting a goal to squat 300 lbs. is not going to be very attractive to you. Having an attractive goal gives you more inclination to stick with your plan and a better chance for success.

R– Setting a challenging and realistic goal is incredibly important. If you have never run a step in your life, running a marathon next month is not realistic. Setting incremental, realistic goals is a better way to set yourself up for success. If you ultimately want to run a marathon, start out with completing to a mile run. Then progress to completing a 5k race and then a 10k race. Tackle a half marathon before you attempt the full 26.2 miles. On the flip-side, it is important to challenge yourself. If you can already complete a 5 mile run, completing a 10k (~6.2 miles) race is not going to be very challenging. Rather than simply completing a 10k race, set a target time you want to complete the race in.

T– Any goal you set needs to have a time component. Someone once said, “Goals are dreams with a deadline.” Without setting a timeline for your fitness goal, it is easy to grow stale or never pull the trigger. If your goal is to complete a 20k bike race, register for the event. Most events are non-refundable, so once you register the date you have to complete your 20k bike race is set. If you want to clean and jerk 200 lbs, set a date to test your 1 rep maximum and stick to it. Creating a time parameter for your goal is a great way to add accountability to your plan and a boost your chances for success.

If you have no experience in your chosen activity, it is a good idea to find someone that has some experience in the field help you form your plan and set your goals. If you have never lifted weights, find a personal trainer. If you have never run a 5k before, find a cross-country coach or someone that has completed a 5k to help you come up with a running program.

Be careful of free programs you find on the internet. While there is a good chance they are safe and work, there is an equal chance that the person who wrote the plan is not qualified to do so. This person also doesn’t know you, your physical limitations or your current fitness level. Review whatever plan you come up with a professional or someone you trust so that you can avoid injury and maximize your results.


Get Ready!
– Choose your activity
– Choose your location (home, gym, park, worksite, etc)
– Choose your coach, trainer, or workout buddy.
– Purchase or locate needed apparel, shoes and equipment.
– Map out your schedule.

Your workout should be a priority equal to your most important appointments. What is your travel plan? What is your rainy day plan? What is your “I don’t want to do this today” plan?
Now be consistent. Make it happen!

Warm-up And Stretching

By Toni Branner (Director of THEGOSITE Board of Specialists)
Exercise Physiologist, Wellness Coach, Author, and Speaker

Both competitive and recreational athletes often make the mistake of equating the words "warm-up" and "stretching." They comprise two separate parts of your workout. Although stretching exercises can be included in the pre-workout routine, the most important goal when preparing to exercise should be to increase the body temperature and to prepare the muscles, connective tissue, neurological and circulatory system to safely accommodate more intense exercise. Stretching cold can be more harmful than not stretching at all. The best time to stretch is after cardiovascular exercise or a muscular workout when the body temperature is elevated and joints are lubricated. The goal of stretching is to optimize joint range of motion but maintain stability in the joint. It is crucial to do the stretches correctly and to avoid unsafe positions.

For these reasons the warm-up phase is divided into two parts: The circulatory (thermal) warm-up followed by the stretching warm-up. The final stretch is reserved for the end of your workout.

The Circulatory/Thermal Warm-up:

The circulatory or thermal warm-up should be designed to raise local and core temperature and to increase blood flow to the working muscles. Because of this increase in temperature and blood saturation, a proper warm-up improves performance and reduces injury. Improved blood flow is necessary so that enough oxygen and nutrients are carried to the cells and so that the additional waste products produced can be adequately removed. The heart also has time to adjust to the increased demand. Studies show that beginning too quickly can cause abnormal heart rhythms. The higher body temperature allows nerve impulses to travel faster which maximizes coordination. In addition, the metabolic reactions that produce fuel for the activity occur more quickly and more efficiently. In the muscle, the mechanical efficiency of contraction is enhanced and the contraction itself is quicker and more forceful. Muscles are more elastic and extensibility of tendons, ligaments and other connective tissue is increased.

These physiologic principles make a strong case for not omitting the thermal/circulatory warm-up. It is especially important when exercise is performed in a cool or cold environment. Extremely cold surroundings may require a ten to fifteen minute circulatory warm-up. On a summer day three minutes might be enough. If an active warm-up is not possible or convenient, a passive warm-up such as a hot bath/shower or applied heat can also be effective.

Practically, the circulatory warm-up is simple. It is accomplished by performing rhythmic, continuous movement of medium intensity for four to fifteen minutes. Usually a light sweat is a good sign that you are warm. It is always a good idea to mimic some of the movements which you will be doing in your workout. Examples of proper circulatory warm-ups include:

Walking with arm movements, slow cycling, swimming or jogging, mild rope skipping low intensity, low impact aerobic dance routine, side steps with forehand and backhand swings (without the racket)

Movements specific to your sport. For example: Swinging motion without the baseball bat or golf club, then add the bat and club and swing with no ball…simulating what is to come in the real game or practice. Remember that no stretching should be included during this segment. The circulatory warm-up should continue until a light perspiration is present. At this point you should not feel tired or out of breath. Your heart rate and respiration rate are slightly elevated, your muscles are warmer, and you are ready to proceed to the next portion of your workout.

Benefits of a Circulatory/Thermal Warm-up
• Increased body temperature
• Increased heart rate, blood flow, and rate of breathing
• Blood flow sent to working muscles
• Increased metabolic rate (more fuel for activity)
• Faster transmission of nerve impulses
• Decreases chance of soreness caused by a build up of lactic acid
• Increased synovial fluid in the joints
• Increased speed and force of muscle contractions
• Decreased risk of acute injuries to muscles and connective tissues


Pick activities that appeal to you

Your program should be varied enough to maintain interest and diminish boredom. Your chosen activities should reflect your objectives, available time, and personal style. Remember that exercise is not always fun or convenient. Your workout must become a habit, just like brushing your teeth. And of course, you always feel better afterwards.

Make it as convenient as possible

If you have to drive twenty miles to exercise you are less likely to do it than if you can stop on the way home from work. Have an alternate plan for vacations, weekends, rainy days or very busy times.

Utilize support systems

A friend, co-worker, or spouse can cover responsibilities for you while you exercise and you can do the same for them. An exercise partner or class may hold you accountable to your commitment or your investment.

If it hurts – STOP!

You are unlikely to continue any activity which is painful or causes excessive soreness and inflammation. See professional advice and switch to a different activity until the injury heals. Learn to recognize the difference between fatique and pain.

Keep a log or journal

Logging your activity is helpful or note workouts in your calendar. There are also some great tracking websites. It is motivating to look back on our accomplishments and to see progress. A written 6 week contract with yourself has been shown to help adherence to your program.

Do not try too much too soon

It can be overwhelming to start exercising, change your diet and quit smoking all at the same time. I recommend starting with exercise and basic nutrition changes. As your energy increases and you feel better you will be motivated to tackle other lifestyle changes. However, some studies have found that certain people do better with abrupt, “all at once” lifestyle change. They feel better so quickly that it reinforces their new habit. You know yourself so this part is negotiable!

Avoid boredom. Vary your workout

Try different activities, locations, and exercise partners. Make exercise a family affair. Weekend hikes, cycling trips, and nature walks are wonderful!
You will have bad days and bad weeks. If you miss an exercise session, eat five donuts, or smoke a cigarette, remember that it’s not the end of your healthy lifestyle plan. Analyze why it happened, admit that you need to do better tomorrow and get back on track.

Reward your efforts

If you stick with your plan for a whole month reward yourself with a new outfit, tennis racquet, or weekend trip. You definitely deserve a pat on the back!

Beginner Check List

  • water bottle
  • sweat towel
  • weight training gloves and mat

The basics are different for each activity but stop and think before you leave for your workout.