Since I’m gearing up to launch some more new program pilots, I thought this post might come in handy:
Today’s post is all about practical approaches, so I’m going to just jump to what can help you get where you want to go. Whether or not you had fitness gear during the start of the pandemic, chances are you’re not sure what you actually might need to get started. It’s a pretty simple list, actually. At this point, these items can be had much more easily than last year! Could you have more than this? Yes. Do you need more? NOPE.
- Yoga mat
- Resistance bands
- A few small dumbbells – from 1-5 pounds each.
The safest way to start is to use only the weight of your own body – the resistance bands and hand weights/dumbbells are to help your muscles adapt to new movements. You’ll be working for at least the first few months this way, as well as walking (or jogging or biking – the point is that it’s something you either already do, or would like to do more of). Personally, I think walking is the best low-stakes form of exercise – you can do it unless you’re injured, and it’s relatively safe compared to higher impact exercises. It can be done almost anywhere – you don’t need a treadmill.
Bodyweight doesn’t mean pushups or crunches – there’s a whole world of exercises out there, and not all are right for everyone. If you struggle with upper body strength, pushups don’t necessarily solve that – it depends on how your upper body’s muscles move. A fitness assessment can help with that. Certified personal trainers like me do assessments to help predict the best ways for you to improve your strength and flexibility. If you don’t want to go that route, stick with movements that don’t cause you pain. The whole ‘no pain, no gain’ concept is outdated. Pain is never helpful or valuable in exercise, ever.
Getting a yoga mat means you can try yoga and/or pilates, as well as do floor exercise and stretches more comfortably. Get a thicker one if your knees or hands don’t like hard surfaces. Just remember that the thicker the mat, the more wobbly it will feel when you’re standing on one foot, for example. You can always go with a thinner mat & then get two small yoga knee pads for when you’re kneeling – for many people, that’s the preferred way to go. Also, it’s just easier to carry & store a thin yoga mat than a thick one.
Resistance bands – you can get a kit from Amazon, Target, Walmart, etc., either with handles or without. Get clip/handles if you can – they’re more versatile once you’re stronger. Also, a loop band – looks like a giant rubber band made out of stretchy material is very useful for many exercises. You’ll want to get a loop band for working on your leg strength & you can also use a lightweight one for shoulder/arm exercises – they’re also fairly inexpensive. Either way, a whole set of resistance bands should run you less than $50, and you have countless options with them.
Hand weights, also called dumbbells – stick to 5 lbs and lower. If you’re new to working out with weights, stick to 1-3 pounds max. If you have ankle/wrist weights lying around, they’re useful, so don’t throw them out – but they’re a bit clumsy to use in place of a dumbbell. Don’t use wrist or ankle weights if you’re a novice, as they stress your joints & you probably won’t find that out until afterwards, when your knees, hips, or shoulders are aching after a walk. Best to find ways to use them that avoid limb-based momentum and impact, like holding them over your head, putting them into a bag for a farmer’s carry, etc.
OK, so that’s really all you need to get started. If you work with me, you might also want a foam roller (a large cylinder of firm dark foam for helping with muscle tightness), and a tennis or softball for some smaller muscle release as well. After you’ve spent a few months working out with this simple setup, you can see if you need or want something more elaborate – the nice thing is that you’ve spent very little money. I personally like to hunt for fitness equipment at thrift stores & then just give them a good cleaning: saving money & the environment at the same time!
Remember: always get a doctor’s clearance before exercise if you’re dealing with chronic illness, issues or pain – you’ll save time and effort by not trying to force your body to do movements that are going to maybe make things worse. It may seem like a hassle, but it’s not.
The reason that trainers insist on doctor’s clearances goes far past simple liability. Imagine that you’re all signed up for a new fitness program you’re excited about. You forgot to mention that your hip is probably going to need a replacement in the next 12 months. You & your trainer find out in the first session or two that you can’t do the things you were dreaming of when you signed up, because now you’re having some pain/weakness. You’re going to be discouraged about movement. We trainers don’t like it when people are discouraged, because they take it out on themselves – they lose motivation, and often decide not to exercise at all. Now, personal training isn’t physical therapy, so in our scenario, you asked your doctor for clearance to exercise & they said, “You’re good to go, but no movements in the xyz plane or jumping.” Your trainer will take that information and translate that into workouts you CAN do. If you are talking with a trainer and have serious health issues, and they do not ask for medical clearance after learning of them, go find someone else. They’re either too inexperienced, or they are not familiar with keeping clients with health issues safe. Exercise is strenuous, yes (and fun!), and you should know if you need to handle some activities differently.
If you’re in a situation where you’re in physical therapy, the physical therapist can also give very good advice to help you continue improving beyond their care (you’d come back to physical therapy if it’s the correct solution for a problem). Corrective exercise specialists, like me, love working with people with input from the client’s doctors/therapists, etc. While we’re not in the medical field, we are trained to work with clients who have graduated from needing physical therapy, or who have successfully completed cardiac rehab & have clearance from their doctor.
A great team of doctor, physical therapist, and personal trainer sounds like something only pro athletes have, but that’s just because you’re probably not used to people taking as much care of their bodies as they do their cars. Your body isn’t worth less because you don’t have a sports contract or an engine! In fact, your body is priceless.
That’s it. Nothing fancy, to get started. If you don’t have any of these things, you can still get what you need here for less than $