Sometimes it seems like honoring that New Year’s resolution will be next to impossible. It may have been a year or more since you last picked up a dumbbell, and the logistics of figuring out a fit future may seem overwhelming. Keith Chittenden, a certified strength and conditioning specialist who works at fitness club operator Town Sports International, outlines a wealth of ways those who have been out of the weight room for a while can get back into the swing of things.
“All effective fitness plans starts with setting your goals,” says Chittenden. “Know your goals and have a plan organized around them.” Chittenden recommends making your goals specific; for instance, deciding if you want to get fit for a competition or just drop a couple pounds. He suggests these goals be measurable (and recommends you start with your baseline strength before beginning any regimen) as well as making sure that the fitness goals are both attainable and realistic. Finally, he also advises that you place a timeframe as to when you want to see these results.
Chitten advises that newcomers don’t go overboard during the beginning of their training. “Returning to a workout regimen needs to be taken slow and steady,” says Chittenden. “It is important to take each day and each workout step by step. Do not attempt to do too much too soon or you will be susceptible to an injury.” Chittenden points to tendonitis as a common injury for those returning to the gym after a long absence.
It is vitally important to research a gym before joining it, says Chittenden. “You want to choose a gym that fits your needs and schedule,” he advises. “Before getting sucked into a ‘New Year’s fitness deal’ advertised by the fitness club, you need to know what to look for.”
Tour the gym and look at the quality of the cardio equipment and weight machines. Most gyms should have an adequate amount of machines available for use for its members.” Chittenden advises that the machines be newer (no more than seven years old), modern, and easy to use. “Beware of gyms that have more than five machines that are ‘down for maintenance,’” he adds.
The same goes for personal trainers. “Not all fitness trainers are created equal. There are trainers that have specialized education, experience, and skills that can mean the difference between success and failure,” notes Chittenden. “Just as you would research a doctor to perform a surgery, the same is true when searching for a health and fitness professional.” Chittenden notes that the most prestigious organizations certifying health and fitness professionals are the American College of Sports medicine (ACSM), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), and the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).
“As you are finishing up your workout, do not forget to stretch,” warns Chittenden, who adds that flexibility is just as important as the workout itself when it comes to a comprehensive fitness regimen. “When working out, the muscles that are being trained are under tension and stress,” he says. “You must relieve that tension by stretching the muscle when the workout is complete. This will keep your joints and muscles moving efficiently and reduce the chances of becoming injured.”
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