I recently had a conversation on twitter with my friends Desiree and Mindy on starting an exercise program. Some of you may remember Desiree from my profile on her (TIP TUESDAY: Be Passionate About Your Lifestyle). As usual, Desiree and I were geeking out over TRX exercises. Mindy comments on how she has no idea what we are talking about, but that it just sounds scary. She said she is just glad she can get through running a short distance without stopping. Desiree and I advise her to start somewhere, no matter how small. If you look at the long climb to your goal, rather than all the steps leading up to it, you can potentially set yourself up for failure or just get discouraged. With a strong foundation, you can effectively build your strength. Being patient takes time, hard work, and dedication, but will prevent injuries in the long run.
Whatever your activity is, there are progressions which increase your exercise intensity. The best example I found is what I learned during my TRX Training certification – the TRX Training philosophy of earning your progression. This means you only advance in an exercise after you mastered its basic component. You only want to add intensity with proper form. This also applies to a complex exercise. Break it down to its components before putting it all together. Here are some examples:
1) Burpee – We all know the Burpee is one of my favorite exercises (see TIP TUESDAY: Hail to the Burpee!)! It is also an exercise that most of us are terrified of. To make it less intimidating, master the components. The jump back into a plank is probably the hardest. Instead, step one foot back at a time into plank position. Not strong in plank? Practice holding a plank on your knees first, then progress to holding a plank on your toes. The same applies for the push-up. Once you master the Burpee, increase the intensity with weights, BOSU, or TRX.
2) Headstand – This yoga inversion haunted me forever. It literally took me over a year before I could finally do it freestanding. The modification I give my students before even attempting it is Dolphin pose. This is also a great posture to build your upper body, back and core strength. It is also a great alternative to regular push-ups. I teach my students to do headstand away from the wall, so that you train your body to master each step, rather than kicking your legs up. The progressions of headstand allow you to listen to your body and see how it adjusts.
3) Running – There is more to running than just moving your legs. Without proper form and technique, you set yourself up for injury. As I learned from my friend Mark (see TIP TUESDAY: Meet Mark Beier ~ Jack of All Fitness Trades), you are a much more efficient runner when you conserve your energy and utilize your upper body. This translates to running on the balls of your feet, rather than landing on your heels. You also want to keep your upper body forward of your knees, while maintaining rotation in your torso and shoulders. When you are first starting out, try short segments of hills on a treadmill. Not only will this increase intensity, but it will build your strength for speed. It is also more efficient than running on the treadmill at a zero percent incline for an hour. Make sure you foam roll and properly stretch afterwards.
Once you build your progressions, make sure you are constantly challenging yourself by going out of your comfort zone. Boredom is also another reason some people discontinue an exercise program. Do not let that be you!