“Before You Exercise”- Tips for the Beginner Exerciser

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By Chris Koutures, MD

Member AMSSM

 

January 1 rings in the start of a New Year- and perhaps the start of a new exercise program. If your New Year’s Resolution includes getting into shape or starting to train for a particular race or triathlon, congratulations! You’ve made the first and often the hardest step towards improving your overall health.


However, before you lace up your shoes, pump air into your bike tires, or check the fit of your swimsuit, there are some other considerations to help keep you exercising safely well into 2007 and hopefully beyond.

  1. Find others to join the fun and participate with you. Finding a mentor to guide those first uncertain weeks can be of great benefit, especially if your goals include endurance events or exercise with more technical aspects (swimming, biking, cross country skiing). A training partner can help maintain enthusiasm. Any exercise program will have tedious and uncomfortable times, and as “misery loves company,” good company will make it easier to stick through the hard times and enjoy the good times
     

  2. Get some professional insight. Certain medical conditions should by no means keep you from exercising, but might deserve a medical evaluation to determine appropriate starting points for exercise to reduce risk of complications:

    • For weight issues, use the CDC's page to calculate your Body Mass Index. Overweight (Body MI 25-29) or obese (BM>30) individuals may need to start and progress slower.
       

    • For previously sedentary men over 40 or woman over 45, many recommend a physician evaluation before starting a new exercise program.
       

    • For any pre-existing medical issue (heart disease, asthma, diabetes, smoking) visit your doctor for a “tune-up.”
       

    • For chronic or under treated bone or joint issues get them checked out—don’t let an old “high school injury” or long-standing back issue slow you down.
       
      A sports medicine physician is uniquely qualified to perform these evaluations. To find one, log on to the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine website at www.amssm.org.
       

  3. Think about sugar, fat, and protein. In an effort to lose weight, many will combine increased exercise with extreme diet changes. While gravitating toward healthier foods (fruits/vegetables, whole grains, less processed and fast foods) and controlling portion size are sensible ideas, the timing and intake of food around exercise is also important.
     
    Remember that exercise will increase your body’s caloric needs—too great a reduction in calories may limit energy sources, slow recovery, and make exercise more difficult. Taking in healthy quick-acting energy sources before exercise (fruits, energy gels, cereal) and finishing exercise with longer-acting carbohydrate/protein combinations (chocolate milk, bagels, peanut butter, energy bars) can make a big difference in feeling more energetic.
     

  4. Follow the yellow brick road. If your plans include a triathlon, marathon, or other endurance event, don’t try to re-invent the wheel or go at it alone. In addition to seeking out a mentor (see above), consult a training website (such as this one) or find an appropriate training program. While starting a new exercise regime is definitely a trail-blazing experience, you can use a path “broken in” by others to help you decide when to schedule the first competition or race, and how best to get there injury and illness-free.
     

  5. Start slow, and take time to smell the roses. The greatest risk to injury, dejection, and quitting a program is trying to do too much, too fast, too soon. You might have to begin a marathon training program by walking—that’s OK. No matter how you start, begin with a distance/intensity/time investment that you can do 3-4 times a week (every other day with rest days is a reasonable way to start) for 20-30 minutes and be able to talk to your training partner without much difficulty (unless you are swimming).
     
    Increase no more than one element (distance, intensity, or time involvement) each week, and make that increase no more than about 10% (go from 3 miles to 3 ½ miles at most). Realize that the third and fourth weeks of a new program may be the highest-risk points for overuse or overtraining injuries. Easing back at this point can pay big dividends down the road.

Over those first few weeks, don’t over-emphasize how much weight you have lost, or how fast you can run a mile. Instead, savor how much more energy you have or how much easier it is to finish that swim. Soon enough, you will have set the foundation for a new habit- a healthy exercise program that will bowl over family and friends as they celebrate the new you!

Chris Koutures, MD
Member AMSSM
Anaheim Hills, CA

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date: December 31, 2006

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AMSSM

The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) was formed in 1991 to fill a void that has existed in sports medicine from its earliest beginnings. The founders most recognized and expert sports medicine specialists realized that while there are several physician organizations which support sports medicine, there has not been a forum specific for primary care non-surgical sports medicine physicians.

FIND A SPORTS MEDICINE DOCTOR

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avatarAMSSM

The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) was formed in 1991 to fill a void that has existed in sports medicine from its earliest beginnings. The founders most recognized and expert sports medicine specialists realized that while there are several physician organizations which support sports medicine, there has not been a forum specific for primary care non-surgical sports medicine physicians.

FIND A SPORTS MEDICINE DOCTOR

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