Ask a PT: I really want to start a new workout routine, but I don’t want to get hurt. Where do I start?

Connie MienkeThis is a great question I think everyone has when embarking on a new fitness routine. Whether it’s just been a while, you’re coming back from pregnancy or injury, or you’ve never been a work-out type of person but your doctor said that now is the time, here’s some guidelines to keep you safe and happy.

First, pick out something you actually want to do. Working out should not be torture! It should be fun, doable, and something you have easy access to so you can’t easily talk yourself out of it when you just don’t feel like it. Whether walking outside, hiking, biking, dancing in the living room, swimming, joining a gym, joining a fitness class, or building up to your first 5K run, start by picking 2-3 activities that will work for you.

Next, no matter your work-out goal, build your cardio base. This is the safest way to build up to anything else like strength training, Zumba, or completing the Warrior Dash. Begin by walking, biking, or swimming one mile if you have not been doing anything (or dancing for 10 minutes). Once you can perform this activity, build this to 1.25, then 1.5, and then 2 miles (or 20-30 minutes of dancing in the living room).

Once you have this cardio base, up the ante by getting into your goal activity. Start jogging part of that time (run/walk 50% of the time with a 5 minute warm-up and cool down walk). Or add some light weights after a cardio warm-up. Add hills to your hiking, intervals of faster pedaling to your biking, or faster songs to your dancing. You get the point. Keep pushing your heart rate (and sweat rate) by roughly 10% each week until you have reached your target fitness activity.

If you start to feel pain somewhere, double check your footwear (adequate, newer, appropriate for your activity), warm-up and cool down activities. Be sure you are stretching when you are done with your activity. Also remember that if you have not done anything for a while, you are likely to feel some muscles soreness, but this should feel dull and achy pain in your muscles, not your joints, and should be fairly widespread the 24 hours after your activity, not just in one area. Obviously if you have chest pain or shortness of breath that is new and unexplained, consult your family doctor. If you feel you may be injured, feel free to schedule a complementary injury screening at MotionWorks, and we will be happy to evaluate your pain and give you some exercises or a different exercise approach to help you get back on track.

If strength training seems scary to you, but it’s something your physician has recommended to improve bone density, shore up your posture, and prevent or treat osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, feel free to start with our Build a Better Body series to work the right muscles to give you a strength base without needing any extra equipment or heavy weights.

A new work-out routine should be fun, not scary! Get the help and encouragement you need from your friends and family, your community, personal trainers, or your physical therapists at MotionWorks! You’ll never regret spending a little quality time on yourself, and you will have more energy to spend with your friends and family as a result! Go get ‘em!