"How to Exercise?”
Starting Stamina Slowly
In a few of your previous columns, you’ve mentioned the importance of including “stamina” exercises at the beginning of each workout session. Could you please be a little more specific about which types of cardio you think are best for somebody just getting back into the swing of fitness. I want to do things right and I don’t know which activities are the best for those of us re-starting from scratch.
- Buddy D
Your question is a timely one, and getting back into the swing of stamina right now, before the new year begins, is a most admirable aspiration. We have only seven weeks left in 2022, but there is still plenty of time to transform before January, or at least get a strong running start.
If you haven’t exercised for a while, please start slowly. Your body will respond to almost anything, and there are plenty of activities from which to choose. Even pathetic quantities of stamina will elicit rather substantial adaptations within the body, at least initially. As long as the movements utilize at least some of the largest muscles within the body, in a rhythmic manner, and can be continued for at least a few minutes (and hopefully longer), your quantity will qualify.
To give you a specific program is beyond the scope of this intro; however, since you are taking that first step, consider these two simple suggestions with regard to starting stamina:
- Do take it in stride.
- Don’t do it on a treadmill.
Firstly, your initial cardio sessions should be extremely light. Easy does it! If your heart, lungs, and blood vessels have been at rest, at best, they respond by detraining quickly, and often completely. If your brain has been giving your body an extended vacation, you really can’t expect too much from either one of them when they return to work. Again, easy does it!
This isn’t a race. Especially when coming out of the gate, make sure that you set your own pace.
Interval training, timed sprints, hill sequences, and random programs are fun, but please avoid using these more intense options for the first week or two. Instead, pick a comfortably low workload that you are able to maintain for a long time, and then do it for only as long as you see fit. At this point, duration doesn’t really even matter.
Performing even only a few minutes of stamina is still more than what you’ve been doing recently, right? Your body will have no choice but to respond accordingly. Put your brain in charge of your body for a change, and your body will change in a way that will recharge your brain. It’s a positive feedback loop that reinforces your efforts, which further reinforces your efforts.
Short-duration and low-intensity are two key principles to help you overcome the resistance to getting re-started. Taking your stamina in stride, at least initially, is your first priority.
Now, let’s take a look at my second point… about not striding:
One of the most important principles to gaining consistent results from an exercise program is to regularly perform activities that are NOT a familiar part of your current routine. Most people, even when “completely” sedentary, still walk on a daily basis.
Since your body has already adapted to walking, then stepping onto a treadmill is essentially a high-tech way of doing what your body is already doing each and every day. Granted, walking and jogging and running are great forms of cardio, but not for you, and not for now. Striding is either too familiar… or too forceful.
If available, you’re usually better off performing styles of stamina that are less familiar to your body. As often is the case, less is more. Force your body to change by forcing it to do something different, and differently.
I also suggest limiting exercises to non-weight-bearing activities; in other words, take a load off. Start with modes of movement such as biking and rowing, so that you can at least sit down while you’re moving. Swimming is another wonderful option. These modes aren’t necessarily easy, but they’re easier. Weight-bearing and weight-displacing exercises (such as stair climbing and rope jumping, respectively) should definitely be avoided, at least initially.
So, please take this advice to heart: start with a low intensity of just a little, lighter cardio. There’s plenty of time left in the year to both progress slowly and make progress quickly.
Until next time… when we move from stamina to the Top-Ten Training Tricks for STRENGTH.
Doug Jones earned his Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Maryland on a full academic scholarship and has served professionals and personalities as a concierge fitness trainer for decades. As a resident of Kauai and Connecticut, he has helped millions of people learn the secrets of fitness and fat loss through his Super 7-Week Shape-Up System. Doug has trained thousands of clients personally and is looking forward to helping you reach all of your health and fitness goals.
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