So you have decided that you want to get more fit, more healthy, and get more movement in your body, then you may have considered joining a gym or actually working out at home.
I want to share with you some personal tips that I have used, as I was a gym novice at one point (everyone starts as a beginner, right?)
When I was a teenager, I decided that I needed to make a change, create more movement. Especially coming from an Indian culture where someone who is overweight is described as being “healthy”, I was often described as being “very healthy”.
Initially I was quite scared of going to a gym. Not only because it was very expensive for me at the time, or whether I would even use it enough, but I felt unsure and intimidated by my own limiting beliefs about knowing what to do and where to go.
I was very lucky, at the time I was living with my parents who had bought a treadmill for the family to use, so I had access to that, but I would also go outside for a run, or even a bike ride.
When it came to lifting weights, I was not sure where to start. So I bought a cheap set of weights and start using at home, just on the bedroom floor, every single day. Eventually as my confidence grew, and the weights got heavier, to the point where it was becoming dangerous, I started to consider using a gym so that I could prevent any potential injuries, and take my health and fitness to another level.
I was first worried that I would not fit in in a gym. The image I had in my mind was there would be all these big strong guys in there, and kept on drawing these false comparisons. Actually what I was pleasantly surprised by is no one in the gym cared, it was not like that at all, everyone is actually like you, and they are all too busy focussed on their own workout.
Make sure you choose a gym that you really like. I looked around at a lot of the gyms in my area before deciding on the one I joined. Take advantage of the induction by the gym staff. Ask as many questions as you can, especially about any of the machines that you are not sure of. Even today, if there’s a new piece of equipment in the gym that I am not sure about, I will ask one of the staff who are only too happy to show me how it works. This enables me to make sure I get the best use out of it, and also prevent any injury from incorrect use.
Other members of the gym may be meaning well by offering advice. However in my experience most people have fallen into so many bad habits, it’s best to always seek professional advice from the gym staff.
For whatever reason, there is a stigma regarding women generally avoiding the weights section of the gym (although I am happy to see this is starting to shift in recent years). See combining weightlifting with cardiovascular exercise is important for general wellbeing and health.
As a functional chiropractor and osteopath, I think about the body moving in a realistic way. I believe any workout should be a rehearsal to practice movements that we would do in the real world. With weightlifting that means using free weights rather than machines. I am a very big fan of dumbbells as they allow natural movement patterns.
Once you get used to some basic exercises, start considering using different weights in each hand. See when you are picking up bags, they are never the same weight in both arms. By mimicking that movements in the gym will allow your body to get used to it, so not only will you be more efficient at moving that way, it will also considerably reduce your risk of any injury.
Another great tip is to create balance in your body using weights. When performing a pushing movement, also make sure you perform an equal and opposite pull movement.
A common mistake with weightlifters in the gym is they are performing the movements far too fast. This can increase the friction on the tendons, making it more prone to tendonitis or injury.
Our muscles have two types of fibres – fast twitch and slow twitch. It is important to strengthen both.
When contracting and lifting a weight, aim to perform that in 2 seconds or less.
Hold the weight at maximum contraction for 2 seconds.
Then lower the weight for 4 seconds.
This is the safest and most efficient method I have found to help grow stronger and healthier in the muscular system. It also reduces a stress response in your body, so you have less cortisol hormone produced, which in large amounts can be damaging.