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How not to fall off the exercise wagon

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Health & Fitness

How not to fall off the exercise wagon



  • Fitness trainer Fredrick Lugongo says as a beginner at the gym, the hardest part is figuring out what to do.
  • When you start exercising, you imagine that you can do it by yourself but Mr Lugongo recommends that as a first-timer, get a trainer.

When Hellen Atieno decided to join the gym late last year, she was determined to get a toned body.

The journey began with a lot of enthusiasm but the results did not match her expectations; achieving the perfect body took longer.

“Laziness slowly began to creep in because I couldn’t see the fast results I had hoped for. And before long, I quit the fitness journey,” she says.

Ezra Oyando, a fitness trainer at Total Fitness Connection in Embakasi, Nairobi, says Ms Atieno’s case is not an isolated one as the gym can be intimidating and overwhelming for a beginner.

He says that the expectations of newcomers are high, leading to most of them quitting if they cannot see quick results.

Others, Mr Oyando points out, think the journey is easy failing to understand that fitness requires 100 percent commitment.

“Others get bored of doing the same activity over a while,” states the trainer, adding that some lack the energy to continue.

Fitness trainer Fredrick Lugongo says as a beginner at the gym, the hardest part is figuring out what to do.

“You probably know about squats, biceps, and push-ups but the daunting part comes with what exercises to do first or how to go about doing them well,” says Mr Lugongo.

He says that although each person has a different reason for hitting the gym, there are some common dos and don’ts for a gym first-timer so that the fitness journey lasts

Get a trainer

When you start exercising, you imagine that you can do it by yourself but Mr Lugongo recommends that as a first-timer, get a trainer.

The trainer will design a workout programme to help you follow through the fitness journey.

The workout programme, he says, will be used as a monitoring tool for your progress. The programme will also guide you on how to change the exercises over time.

“The trainer will design a routine that fits your fitness level and goal,” he says.

Have a meal plan

If the goal is to bulk up, a beginner should go through a surplus calorie meal plan by eating more than what the body needs.

This means an intake of more proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, as more energy is required during exercises while the proteins and fats are needed to build muscles, as well as vegetables and a lot of water.

On the flip side, those intending to lose weight should stick to fewer portions of food. Go for a caloric-deficit meal plan.

“Don’t eat or remove foods from your diet because your friend is doing the same. Most of the people end up following what other people do yet that does not suit their bodies,” he says.

Start slowly

Whether your goal is to lose weight, build muscle, or both, Mr Lugonzo explains that a fitness journey should start with focusing on improving body motion, building endurance and strength.

A newcomer should begin with moderate workouts of low intensity involving free weights and machines. Free weights include any weight you can pick up and move around, such as dumbbells.

“Don’t use the big machines or go for the intense exercises. Start by building your mobility, fitness, and strength first before gradually moving to exercising with weights and using the heavy machines,” he adds.

The first week will involve improving motions with the second week graduating to building endurance and strength by exercising for three days a week. Each day, do between 8 and 12 reps and three sets.

By the third week, a person will have made fitness a habit and prepared his or her body for rigour. This involves performing harder and longer exercises while adding more progressive overload, says the trainer based at Moran Lounge in Nairobi.

The low-intensity exercises should go for between 30 and 45 minutes then reduce the intensity in the third week before increasing in the fourth week to monitor performance.

“Do more of low-intensity workout as you gradually increase the intensity as rushing will put you at risk of getting injuries. Don’t rush into training with heavyweights. Also, don’t overtrain to minimise risks of injuries,” avers Mr Lugongo.

What to train

The trainer warns against falling into the trap of only training the muscles one wants to grow or the ones that easily respond to training, or worse, skipping out on training certain body parts because they are daunting to exercise.

Having a certified trainer, he says, will be able to come up with a well-rounded training programme that will have you hitting all major body muscle groups and not just focusing on a single part while under-training the other.

“Aim to do at least three things in your workouts weekly; train the legs, push some weight (and pull some weight.”

In terms of the reps and sets, he explains that this will depend on a person’s goal. For instance, if it is to add strength and power, build muscle, or improve muscular endurance then the reps will vary per set.

“The reps also depend on the exercises you’re doing. Exercises like bench presses and squats are easily trained in low-rep ranges, taxing the body after just a few reps while more detail-focused exercises like shoulder raises are often best done in sets of 10 to 15 reps to protect the joints,” the trainer points out.

Be patient

Mr Lugongo says that most newcomers fall into the trap of setting deadlines for themselves to begin seeing results, not knowing that progress depends on many factors, including a person’s starting point, age, body type, and nutrition.

“Don’t expect to look like a superhero in a month, no matter what the Internet or other people say because building muscle takes time, and the aesthetics are often the last thing to come.”

He warns that one will also likely experience a plateau which is a stage where you stop seeing rapid changes despite exercising.

“Generally, they occur because the body has grown too familiar with the current training protocol and needs a new workout. Change the order of exercises, the training style, or even the tempo of each rep can assist in crushing a plateau,” he explains.

Post-workout recovery

Mr Lugongo recommends enough sleep because resting is also part of training over and above ensuring a balanced diet post-exercising as well as enough water intake.

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