The reason I started looking into barefoot running was the reason that most of us do, and that's injury prevention. Historically, I have tried running; I've tried training for the London marathon, I've tried running 10k, but the result was always the same. Bad knees, tight IT bands, and eventually injury. In the end, I just gave up. That was until I read about barefoot running.
Before changing to a barefoot running style, I went to have my gait analysed. I ran on a treadmill barefoot and the experts checked the way I run. They claim that everyone is designed to run and it is only due to cushioned running shoes that we end up getting injured.
The main struggle I had with barefoot running was the impact on my calves. Changing to a forefoot strike puts a lot more pressure on your calf muscles and they start to ache a lot. Like anything, you need to build up slowly. I did build up my training and I got faster and became a much stronger runner. But it was time to welcome a new running injury, shin splints.
Read more: Shin Splints Prevention And Recovery
So after building up working through the issues has been changed in worth it? Completely.
Remember, changing running style will not happen overnight. This is a long, slow process.
If you haven't exercised in a long time, if you're overweight, or if you've never exercised at all, the prospect of joining a gym or going for a run can be overwhelming and just down right terrifying. We're here with top tips and advice for getting active as a complete beginner.
There's no better time than right now to change your life. If you've been thinking about getting started for a while but you've been putting it off or making excuses, you need to just start. There will always be a million reasons why you can't get out there, but it won't be until you've broken the ice that it becomes easier. Go ahead and join that gym or buy those running trainers.
Treating yourself to fresh activewear is a great way to get motivated and start you off in the right frame of mind. Having comfortable, proper gym tops rather than an old t-shirt and a stylish sports bra instead of your normal bra can be the difference between a terrible workout and a great one and will make you want to exercise so that you can show off your new fitness clothing!
You're already exercising more than you think
If you take your dog for walks or go walking at the weekend with your family, you have already made a great start! This is an easy base to improve upon, by making those dog walks longer and brisker, and by finding more challenging routes to walk at the weekend with your kids. If you take public transport to work, you perhaps have to walk to the station or from the bus stop to your office. Have confidence in yourself and make sure you know that mentally you're not going from complete scratch. This will make increasing your weekly exercise easier mentally.
Find a type of training you enjoy
There are so many ways to workout; you don't have to slog on a treadmill for hours or do some crazy manoeuvre that you saw someone else doing at the gym. Activities like yoga are very low impact and are a great way to build up your base fitness if you haven't moved in a while. Walking is also perfect as it's free and you can do it anywhere! If you do want to try running, you may benefit from group running as it takes the guess work out of it and will mean all you have to do is turn up and run. In the same light, there are many benefits of joining a running club such as companionship and making new friends.
Working out when you're overweight
It can seem very daunting to start exercising when you're overweight. If you're not ready to join a gym or hit the streets with a run, you can easily make a start in the comfort of your own home. Try a home workout that doesn't require any equipment and just uses body weight. By getting up and getting moving, you are making an excellent start.
When overweight, it's important not to put your joints under too much strain. Start with low impact movements like body weight squats, lunges, and sit ups. Go back to basics with a simple circuit training routine that gets your heart rate up without compromising your health and making you feel like your chest is going to explode!
If you are coming back from an injury or from having kids, you need to take it slow. There are lots of easy ways to exercise when you have kids, but getting back into it after giving birth can be a scary prospect. Take it slow and always listen to your body.
If you're looking to try a new sport, break it down into manageable chunks. Activities like cycling are much more accessible than you think and you don't need all the fancy gear to get out there. For something more complex like a triathlon, find a triathlon training plan for absolute beginners that you can follow which guides you through the training process and helps you understand what you need to do to succeed.
Make it enjoyable!
One of the biggest reasons why people give up on exercise is because they don't enjoy it. There is absolutely no reason why you need to be forcing yourself to go running or lift weights if you don't enjoy it. These days, there are unlimited ways to get fit from gym classes to dancing and it's all very accessible. There are some surprising ways to get fit like hula hooping and trampolining which are far more fun and enjoyable than pounding the pavements for mile after mile. If you enjoy your workout, you will be far more likely to continue the trend and stick to it.
The fitness pendulum regularly swings from cardio being more important than strength training to strength training being more important than cardio. Recently, however, a consensus has emerged: Both types of exercise are necessary for optimal health. Strength training and cardio are the Yin and Yang of human fitness.
People usually decide whether to do more strength training or more cardio based on their goals. If they want to lose weight, they do cardio; if they want to build muscle, they do strength training. While this is a reasonable approach, it’s a bit oversimplified.
Conversely, those who do cardio often avoid weight lifting because they fear it will make them look too “bulky,” while those trying to put on size often skip the cardio in fear of losing muscle. Both of these are common fitness myths.
Myth 1: Lifting weights will make you ‘too bulky’
Many of those who do cardio often avoid weight lifting because they fear it will make them look too “bulky.” This is not necessarily the case, however.
The thing to understand is that muscle growth is a gradual process. Trust that your biceps are not suddenly going to rip through your shirt after just a few curls. What weightlifting and strength training will do, though, is work to improve your overall endurance, mobility, strength, and metabolism.
Contrary to popular belief, strength training is actually one of the most effective ways to lose weight. Why? Because muscle burns more calories than fat when a person is at rest. A muscular person, in other words, burns more calories at rest than the average body type.
Aside from burning extra calories, strength training is also beneficial for the following reasons:
- It reduces superficial and visceral fat around your abdominal. A study by Harvard University found that men who did 20-minutes of weightlifting actually burned more long-term fat than those who did the same amount of cardio.
- It’s good for your heart. Everyone knows that running, swimming, and other aerobic exercises are good for your heart, but it turns out that strength training is as well. Strength training is especially effective at reducing (bad) LDL-cholesterol.
- It aids in injury reduction. This one is obvious, but strong muscles make you far less likely to injure yourself.
- It contributes to longer life expectancy. Weight and strength training, it turns out, may also help you live longer.
Myth 2: Cardio will make you ‘too lean’
Just as runners may be afraid of getting “bulky,” weightlifters sometimes avoid doing cardio because they fear losing muscle. This perception, too, is misguided.
While it’s true that in some extreme cases, doing incredible amounts of cardio can lead to muscle loss, it’s almost never the case. The first thing your body burns (that is, uses for fuel) is the food you eat. Next comes fat and only then will your body resort to burning muscle. So, unless you have zero percent body fat and are working out on an empty stomach—losing muscle by doing cardio is not something you need to worry about.
Cardio beats out strength training in the following areas:
- Boosting your metabolism: Running, specifically, stimulates the production of the hormone FGF21, which increases metabolic rate.
- Improving your brain function: Cardio exercises like running and swimming have been shown to improve mental function and overall sense of well-being.
- Improving sleep: Cardio helps you get to sleep longer, enter REM quicker, and wake feeling more rested.
Balancing Strength Training with Cardio
There are three basic ways to balance strength training with cardio: You can do a switch-off routine, a same day/independent routine, or a same day/same time routine.
This routine takes into account a 5-day workout schedule, with the focus alternating between cardio and strength every other day.
- Sunday: Start off with a simple jog. Go as far as you can comfortably go. In the beginning, this may only be a mile or maybe even less. As time goes on and your abilities improve, you should try and work up to doing at least 3-5 miles every Sunday.
- Monday: Take a rest day.
- Tuesday: Do a full-body weightlifting routine. This should include one to three chest exercises (4-sets), one to three back exercises (4-sets), one to three shoulder exercises (4-sets), two to four leg exercises (4-sets), one to two bicep exercises (4-sets), and one to two triceps exercises (4-sets).
- Wednesday: Either jog again or do some other kind of cardio exercise like swimming, stairs, or using the elliptical. Regardless of which cardio exercise you choose, it should be for no less than 20-minutes.
- Thursday: Repeat the same (or a similar) full-body weightlifting routine you did on Tuesday.
- Friday: Do a final day of cardio. Again, this can be either jogging, swimming, using the elliptical machine, running on the treadmill, going to a spin class, or whatever else gets your heart rate up and your body sweating for at least 20 minutes.
Same Day/Independent Routine
This involves combining your cardio and strength routine on the same day, one after the other. It’s wise to begin with weight training first to warm your muscles up, as beginning with cardio can fatigue your muscles too quickly before you’ve even started lifting.
Same Day/Same Time Routine
The same day/same time routine is best embodied in high-intensity boot camp classes like CrossFit and Orange Theory. These kinds of workout classes aptly combine cardio and strength with short, alternating bursts of each in one workout.
About the author: Ellie Batchiyska is a health and wellness writer for Stethoscope.com, where she covers heart-healthy fitness tips, dietary recommendations, and overall lifestyle choices.
If you're new to exercise, the fitness industry can seem daunting and impossibly complicated. Follow our 5 top tips so that you can wade through the misinformation and start getting fit the right way.
1. Consistency is more important than intensity
One of the most common trends for exercise beginners is to go in all guns blazing and then burn out because it's not sustainable. If you've never exercised before or you're coming back from a pregnancy or injury, you need to take it easy. Exercising as a complete beginner can be a big undertaking and you need to have a plan of action as well as realistic goals.
Focus on keeping up the exercise consistently in a way that you can maintain for the long term. The secret to a lot of fitness professionals is that fitness is their way of life, so try to incorporate your exercise into your daily life. Walk to work or cycle to the shops and make sure you enjoy your workouts so that they aren't a chore. A small, short workout is better than no workout at all.
Read more: How To Set Fitness Goals
2. Talk to a fitness professional
When starting from scratch, it can be easy to make mistakes and believe fitness myths that could send you in the wrong direction. Before you embark on a new exercise regime, talk to a personal trainer or fitness instructor so that you can get some advice to get your started. A lot of personal trainers will offer a free taster session so make the most of this, especially as they may do a fitness assessment for you so that you can see where your starting point is relating to your fitness levels.
Additionally, most gyms will have personal trainers and fitness instructors wandering around the gym, so feel free to ask them for help if you're struggling with an exercise, they'll be more than happy to help you. If you're opting for a group fitness class, talk to the instructor either before or after the class so that they can give you advice and get you started.
3. Don't copy what other people are doing
This is a common mistake to make: you see someone doing something, it looks interesting, so you copy it. However, a lot of the time you will find that they are not doing it correctly or they are performing the exercise with bad form and therefore by copying them, you are picking up bad habits early on.
If you're going to copy someone, copy the exercises and movements that a personal trainer is doing with their client. People do all sorts of crazy and unusual exercises at the gym, some that they've just made up or some that they saw online. Not only this, they might be training for a specific sport or goal that is different from yours, and they may well have completely different experience to you. Avoid copying others and you'll avoid getting injured and picking up bad habits.
Don't copy crazy exercises like this just because you see someone else doing them!
4. Invest in your fitness clothing
If you're going to make fitness a part of your life and you want to get fit for good, it's definitely worth investing in good gym clothing and fitness wear. Seek out brands which are designed by and endorsed by athletes as this activewear will be intelligently designed with the wearer in mind so you know that the running leggings won't fall down as you run and the gym tops won't chafe or rub as you move.
Trying to train in old cotton sweatshirts and worn out trainers may be fine to start, but you will soon find that you are uncomfortable and unable to reach your full potential at the gym. Invest in good quality gym wear and you'll be more motivated to train hard and consistently.
5. Don't give up
Research shows that 43% of people expect to give up their New Year's resolutions by February. Fitness and exercise are easy things to give up on when they get hard and then you're back to square one. No matter what, you need to be dedicated. Follow the above 4 tips to set you up for success so that you're less likely to want to give up, and make sure you don't quit when it gets tough as that is when you will start to see results!
The energy and excitement of making new year's resolutions and getting fit is well and truly burnt out and the gym is starting to empty out again. How can you stay motivated when all you want to do is melt into the sofa and eat? We're here to help. Follow these tips to boost your motivation when it feels like there's no hope.
1. Partner up
If you have someone to let down, you'll be less likely to flake. Having accountability means you have more of a reason to get to the gym and it will be more hassle to have to text your friend or personal trainer to say you're not going and then get an earful from then than to just go. Plus, you'll know that once you're there you'll have a great time because training with a buddy makes training more bearable.
2. Get changed
How many times have you been sat on the sofa watching TV after work telling yourself "I'll go in a minute" or "I'll go when this show is finished" and then it never happens? By getting changed into your activewear you're getting the ball rolling and getting into the right frame of mind to work out. Once you're changed into your sportswear you're already halfway there and will be much more ready to get out there and go train.
3. Take your gym gear to work
If you go to the gym straight from work, you won't have a chance to talk yourself out of it. If you pair this with point number 1 of partnering up and telling your friend you'll join them at the gym, you'll be well on your way to success. Get changed at work and go straight to the gym instead of going home first. It's much harder to gee yourself back up once you're home from work than if you continue the momentum from your day at the office.
4. Have a workout to look forward to
There's nothing worse than finishing a monotonous day at work and thinking about now having to go and run on a treadmill for half an hour while staring at a wall. By planning out a fun and exciting workout, you'll actually want to go to the gym and do it. Try circuit training or functional training to mix things up and talk to a personal trainer if you'd like to try something new like Olympic weightlifting or CrossFit. If you're dreading the workout, getting motivated can be impossible. Whereas if you're actually looking forward to it, exercising can be a joy instead of a chore. If you enjoy something like Zumba, sign up for a class! Group exercise can be a great way to stay motivated too.
5. Use the 10 second rule
If you find yourself making terrible excuses like "it's raining" or "I'm too tired" then use the 10 second rule. It's very simple: count to 10 and then go anyway! This will eliminate your mind telling you that you can't do it and 9 times out of 10 you'll find that you actually enjoy the workout and will be pleased that you went.
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