There are two polar opposite approaches as to how most beginners start exercising. One is to ease in – take it a little at a time, get off the couch, walk, stretch, maybe lift a little light weight two times a week. The other is to jump in – hire a trainer, join a cross-fit gym, take a daily class, sign up for a 5k or bike race, and then just go for it.
Which is right for you?
Which is right under what circumstances?
Here are the pros and cons to both approaches.
Pros of Easing In:
Starting off slowly allows the body time to adjust with much less muscle pain and strain. The likelihood of injuries is low, as is the likelihood of discouragement due to one’s inability to move their body without pain in the following days. Easing in also allows for limberness and strength to increase gradually but consistently, and the beginner is afforded the luxury of figuring out exactly what type of exercise is best suited to their temperament and lifestyle. (I.e., you might find that exercising at home to a DVD works better for you than going to a gym after work, or vice versa.)
Cons of Easing In:
Less chance of rapid fat reduction or muscle gain (change in how your clothes fit and your body looks) which lowers motivation and increases discouragement both of which translate into giving up before goals are met. Easing in is often a thinly veiled way to not really commit to your fitness goals, resulting in failure to change your body (this is illustrated annually in gyms crowded with new members only to see 75% of them disappear by March).
Pros of Jumping In:
Enthusiasm and motivation stay high as you quickly see results in your body quickly, energy is renewed, appetite is increased along with metabolism. Jumping in usually requires a larger monetary commitment (hiring a trainer, paying for a series of classes, buying home equipment). Monetary commitment, depending on how much money, often helps keep one focused as no one likes wasting money. Jumping into a new fitness regiment also allows you to quickly learn just what your body and brain are capable. There’s huge reward – joy if you will – in finding that you are able to up your level of fitness (i.e., being capable of doing more advanced fitness moves) which rockets you even faster towards achieving your goals.
Cons of Jumping In:
Obviously the biggest con is that of physical injury or pain, seconded by discouragement. I’ve seen trainers lose client after client because they jumped them in too quickly and the clients’ reaction to the subsequent muscle pain is to stop all exercise and not return. Jumping in without truly knowing how aggressive exercise will treat your body (and your brain), often results in a waste of money on DVD or home equipment that then gather dust. I advise clients who are hot for trends like P90X to see if they can borrow the DVD’s from a friend first and if they enjoy it after about a week, then go buy them. You can also, always get a free week pass at most gyms to try the gym out. Go at different times, even get a free training session – know what works for you before you plunge in.
No matter which approach you lean towards, take into consideration who you are, what your goals are, and what kind of condition you’re starting with. Most trainers will give you a free consultation to help you decide which approach is right for you, and I am definitely happy to give anyone a free consultation who fills out a query form on my websites.