New Year presents new opportunities and for many attentions turns to how to get fit, but if you are new to exercise this process can be quite daunting. So, where do you start? Step onto any social media platform and you are bombarded with content on exercise routines, diet tips, supplements, rehabilitation, do, don’ts….most of this is confusing and sometimes factually incorrect. Exercise is great for both physical and mental health. As we settle down into another national lockdown in the UK to tackle COVID-19, exercise becomes more important than ever. This blog will tackle where to start when getting fit and give you some confidence on getting active!
Top Tip 1. Consider your Training History.
This is essential before starting your exercise journey. Sit down and reflect on how active you have been throughout your life and in the recent months. This information will play a key part in planning your exercise routine and where to start. For example, if you have not completed any additional exercise out of the saddle since you completed PE at school you will need to start with light exercise to allow your body to positively adapt. This could take the form of going out for a walk for 30-minutes twice a week or an easily bike ride for 20-minutes. Don’t feel put off by being completely new to exercise, with consistency you will be able to make great improvement. An initiative such as the NHS Couch to 5km is a great tool (find out more about their challenge here). In comparison, if you are regularly active out of the saddle and have a history of training then your body will already have a good baseline fitness level on which you can build more intense or regular exercise sessions.
Top Tip 2. Progressive Overload.
This is the most important factor for me when thinking about exercise. When completing exercise over time it is important to increase session difficulty, either by increasing the duration or intensity. This is the way we get an increase in fitness, we increase the stress or ‘overload’ on the body so it adapts. However, it is important that this is done in a controlled manner, which is where the ‘progressive’ part of ‘progressive overload’ comes from.
Make small changes to your exercise as you go along.
For example, you might go for a 1 mile run. To progress this session in a safe manner you could do one of two things, run the same mile but slightly quicker, thus increasing the intensity of the session or you could increase the distance of the run from 1 mile to 1.2 miles, thus increasing the duration of your exercise period.
Progressively overloading the body will reduce the chance of injury, the body likes to adapt in a controlled manner to things. Think about it like walking up some stairs, each step is like an exercise progression. Walking up a single step at a time is easy, if we try to go up 2 or 3 steps at a time this is challenging. These big increases in exercise can increase risk of injury - something everyone wants to avoid.
Progressively overloading the body will reduce the chance of injury, the body likes to adapt in a controlled manner to things.
Top Tip 3. Invest in your footwear
We all know the saying ‘no hoof no horse’, well the same applies to us humans! If you want to get active and progressively build up the frequency and intensity you are running, then invest in a trainer that is going to support you! There are many reputable sports brands such as Asics, Adidas and Nike that produce good quality sports shoes at a reasonable price. I live in my Asics when exercising and recently invested in a quality running pair myself, it made a huge difference to my comfort when running on the road.
If you have a larger budget and want to invest a little more into your kit you could go for a biomechanical running assessment with a qualified practitioner. This means finding your local running shop and booking in to go and run on their treadmill. They will film you running gait and how your foot contacts the ground. They then can recommend trainers that will support your running gait.
Top Tip 4. Rest Days.
If you are new to exercise out of the saddle, ensure you have at least two rest days a week. This will allow your body to recover and positively adapt to the exercise you’re completing. A rest day doesn’t mean you need to sit on the sofa all day and be sedentary. You can complete some light exercise on that day, for example a walk or yoga.
This Top Tip ties in with Top Tip No. 2 Progressive Overload. You need to give your body the time to adapt and fitness levels to increase. Giving your body rest days will allow this to happen. If you were to complete strenuous exercise every day of the week, your risk of injury would increase, as would your risk of developing a cold / upper respiratory tract infection as your immune system function would be dampened.
Think about your nutrition and fuel before and after a session. You would never start a car journey without enough petrol so don’t do that to yourself!
Top Tip 5. Fuel Around a Session
Think about your nutrition and fuel before and after a session. You would never start a car journey without enough petrol so don’t do that to yourself! Think about consuming something with carbohydrates before exercise for example a banana or cereal bar. Carbohydrates are your main fuel source during exercise. After exercise, consume food with both carbohydrates and protein, this will help your body recover. A great example of something tasty that is the perfect post workout treat is chocolate milk - this contains a good amount of both carbohydrate and protein.
Remember to stay hydrated throughout the day and post exercise. Consuming enough water is important to allow our bodies to function. Have a water bottle at your desk if you are working from home. It can become easy to forget to drink or rely more on tea and coffee when working from home.
Top Tip 6. Exercise with a Friend
Even now we still have the flexibility within government guidelines to exercise with someone from outside our household as long we are outside and socially distanced (key things to remember). Exercising with someone else is a great way to stay motivated and increase enjoyment. If you can’t get out to physically exercise with someone else, why don’t you try a home workout with your best friend on FaceTime or Zoom? This is something I did in the lockdown last year and it really helped me stay motivated to exercise and gave me some much-needed social interaction!
I hope these six top tips are practical and helpful in guiding you on where to start with exercise in 2021. Remember to follow @equestriansportscience on Instagram for more content to help you reach your potential as an equestrian athlete.
About the Author
Hi, my name is Rosa. I am a Sport Scientist and work with elite athletes in an University setting. I have an MSc from Loughborough University in Exercise Physiology and have researched equestrian athletes. I use scientific research to help produce my content so you can be sure that what I am producing is factually and scientifically correct! If you want to know about me and my journey to this point please have a look at my About page.