What can I do to prepare for a new fitness program?

Before starting any type of fitness program, be sure to seek clearance from your medical doctor. Once cleared for physical activity, assess your fitness level by establishing a few benchmarks against which you will measure your progress. The following are a few examples of assessments you can keep track of: weight, circumference measurements at the neck, chest, waist, and thigh, body mass index (BMI), push-ups completed one minute, and time to walk one mile. Write down the results of your assessments so that you compare them to future results. Design your fitness program based on your goals and the results from your assessments. Oftentimes, a certified personal trainer is the best resource to help design a custom fitness program that will get you the results for which you are looking. If you are a beginner, then plan on progressing exercises slowly and realize that change takes time. This will help avoid injury and encourage patience. Also, schedule the times you will exercise and treat these times as appointments to help ensure program compliance. Be sure to include different types of activity to avoid boredom. Most importantly, plan time in between your exercise sessions to allow your body to recover. Next, make sure you have all the necessary equipment for your program. Do need a new pair of athletic shoes? Do you need to invest in exercise equipment? Do you need a gym membership? Finally, schedule a date within the next three to six weeks to repeat your assessments and decide at that point whether or not you need to modify your program.

Simply start stretching before you engage in a new fitness program.

    I want you to picture a muscle stretching from one bone to the next crossing a joint. If the muscle becomes either tight or weak, it will cause a muscle imbalance around the joint. This increases the injury probability at one of the joints – that is, unless the muscle itself decides to tear. The joint with the least muscular support is usually the one injured. For example, if you have an overly tight calf muscle, an injury will probably occur either to the ankle, knee or both. Say you have developed strong supporting muscles surrounding the knee, then it is your foot/ankle complex that will more likely suffer an injury.

    Now I want you to picture pulling on the ends of a rubber band. Watch it stretch and then return to its original shape. Tie a few knots in the rubber band and then try pulling on the ends. You will notice that the knots continue to tighten while the areas closest to the knots weaken. Eventually, the rubber band will break next to a knot where the section can no longer take the pressure. Your muscles act in a similar manner. If you keep the muscles stretched they will not develop knots and render themselves useless to perform their necessary function and become prone to injury. Instead, the muscle will stretch at both ends and return to its original shape. If you continue to boast that you don’t need to stretch, at least research and find a good physical therapist in your area.  Thus, it is not a matter of if, but when an injury will occur. When you don’t stretch, more knots continue to form in the muscle, getting tighter with each use. The muscle will eventually tear or cause a joint injury. For a while you may continue to run, jump, play tennis and otherwise function normally. But one day, the muscle that is too tight will let you know that it has had enough of your mistreatment. If you think you are too busy now to make time for stretching, consider working a two-hour physical therapy appointment three times a week into your schedule.

The first step in preparing to engage in a new fitness program is to ensure your medical doctor has given you clearance. Once that has been accomplished sitting down and assessing what your fitness goals are is the next step. After you have a clear picture of what your goals are, I would advise seeking the help of a coach to match your fitness goals with your needs. If your goal is to run a marathon, but your muscular-skeletal structure is not optimal for running this would be an example of goals not matching your bodies needs. A professional coach would be able to assess and guide your program properly to match your goals and needs. In the above example your coach may have you participate in a reconditioning program that after a month prepares you for a running program. You and your coach will also be able to set up litmus tests that will give you a starting point and show progress as you work towards your goals.

For best results in starting a new fitness program consider some of the psychological factors behind working out. Psychologically the best time to exercise is in the morning. The reason that most people feel that exercising in the morning is the best time is because people tend to find they feel better throughout the day if they've started their day with exercise.  Feeling better can be interpreted as feeling more productive and able to think more clearly. Many people also find that the morning is easier because they tend to have less obstacles. After an entire day has happened there are many obstacles that can get in the way of an evening workout. In the evening it can be difficult to get away from work and (after a long day) motivation and energy for exercise is less because people are tired. The evening usually spent having dinner with family. 

Working out with friends can be beneficial because it provides accountability, a sense of support and a social outlet. All of these things lends themselves to higher exercise adherence. However, make sure your friends are aware of your fitness goals and share the same desires as you.  While it's great to hit the gym floor with a friend, if your friend want to spend time conversing, it may deter you from reaching yoru goals.  Communicate what you want to accomplish from your workout sessions so that you both can get the most out of your exercise session.

People set short and long term goals to build motivation and increase confidence. Long term goals are the end goals you hope to achieve: looking better, feeling better, feeling stronger, losing weight, etc. Short term goals help you achieve the long term goals and are the most important goals to focus on. Short term goals are the confidence building goals. They are the building blocks for getting you to were you want to go. For example, if you have a long term goal of wanting to lose 20 pounds in 6 months a short term goal might be 2 pounds a month or a half pound a week with some other goals to help you get there: walk twice a week for 15 minutes and garden twice a week. Reaching short term goals usually depends on when you want to reach the end/long term goal. Goals should be re-evaluated and revisited once a week. They can be changed and re-arranged as often as you'd like. The time allotted to reaching a goal depends on what the goal is and how much time you need to invest versus the amount of time you are currently putting in. 


Something that can help you prepare to get started on a new fitness program is to tell people! Mention it to your friends and maybe you can find a workout buddy. Let your family know that you will be making some time in your schedule for a fitness program and that they can help with freeing up time for you. Plan out how you’re going to fit exercise into your day, and let those around you know they will want to help, and involving them will be motivating to you. Good luck as you start your new program!

To prepare for a new fitness program, see your health care provider to get a medical clearance and/or physical and an understanding of your current health and general fitness.

Set yourself goals in a reasonable time frame to attain to your desire results. Usually a twelve weeks time frame is a reliable measurement.

Most importantly before starting your new fitness program, have a NASM personal trainer perform for you a dynamic postural assessment.  A dynamic postural assessment observe your basic body movements, how you muscles and joints work together, and to look for any imbalances in your posture alignment. An optimal posture alignment lets your body produce at a high level of functional strength, movement and range of motion.

Also prepare for the effort necessary to achieve your goals and to enjoy results of your goals.

In preparation for a new fitness program, you will want to first seek medical advice. Be sure that you are physically sound before starting. You might want to get a physical just to be sure that everything is intact.

Once you know that all is well medically, you will want to start slow with your new fitness program. Speak with a personal trainer and let them know what your goals are and from there he or she will assess your strengths and weaknesses and design a program that fits your needs.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.