This article is broken down into 3 sections:
1) The Workout.
2) Mobility and Flexibility.
If you are new to training or returning after some time away, the first 2-3 weeks of training are critical to get right. You must strategically increase both the volume and intensity and in doing so you will set yourself up for long-term success. I am guilty of overdoing it myself and have learned the hard way. There have definitely been times after an exercise hiatus where I try to make up for lost time by doing an exceptionally hard workout. All this does is result in unnecessary soreness and the inability to train effectively the next time. Basically, you take one step forward and then two steps back. There is no benefit to this sort of self-flagellation and monkiis are better than that. During the first 2-3 weeks finish each workout feeling like you have one-half to one-third left in the tank. Stop the workout well before you feel like you must.
Your First Workout
Have fun and do not get hurt. Notice that even though there may be some discomfort, it will feel good to move and exert effort. Take note of this feeling and train yourself to crave the sensation. You do not need to crush yourself and you certainly should not try and do too much too soon. Make sure that you do not force yourself through too much range-of-motion either. The mobility and flexibility will return with time. Strive to move through a comfortable movement pattern and concentrate on perfect form. If you are not sure where to begin, the 21 Day Habit Program in the monkii App is a great place to start.
The First Week Do 3 Workouts
Give yourself at least one day between each workout and consider allowing for two days of recovery between the first and second workout. Since your body is in a relatively deconditioned state, you can expect to see results quite quickly and with relatively little effort. This is one of the benefits of being a beginner; you will see rapid and noticeable improvement. After each workout, you should be a little sweaty and maybe even a bit out of breath, but you should not feel destroyed or like your day is ruined. A great first workout could be 10 reps each of Rows, Pushups, and Squats. Keep your workouts simple and quick. Ideally, do them first thing in the morning so that you start off the day as a success. Even if you only do a handful of reps in the morning, at least you did something. The recurring theme will be something is ALWAYS better than nothing (at least when it comes to fitness).
The second week do 3 workouts, but slightly increase the length, intensity, and volume. By slightly I mean additions such as adding 1-3 reps to each exercise performed or including an additional 1-3 minutes of workout length. Remember, we are looking for long-term improvement. Sure, you are capable of during more, but you must have the discipline to train wisely at the beginning. Give yourself plenty of room to grow.
MOBILITY AND FLEXIBILITY
From this day onward, take the time to stretch and mobilize as part of the cool down process after each workout. There are several reasons to do this at the end of a training session. 1) Your body temperature is increased which allows the muscles to stretch a bit farther and thus this is an especially effective time to increase flexibility. 2) The body tends to recover better with light activity. The small movements you make while stretching and foam rolling will help ‘flush’ out metabolic waste from the muscles and deliver more fresh blood with oxygen and nutrients. 3) The more mobile and flexible you become, the less likely you will get injured. 4) The more mobile and flexible you become, the more exercises you will be able to do and because of this you will become more fit. 5) You most likely sit way too much. Because of this, you need to pay extra attention to combat any tightness that has developed over time which may be impeding your ability to train and move through your natural range of motion.
The first thing in the morning. Do a few squats as well as hold the bottom of a squat for a few seconds up to few minutes. Up until approximately 100 years or so ago, 99.9% of humans would squat first thing in the morning. This simple movement is the best mobility exercise there is and should be done regularly throughout the day. I also find it helpful to put my arms over my head and do a few arm circles. Shoulder pain is major problem and when you put a joint through range of motion, you are literally feeding that joint. You do not have to do a full-on workout, but make sure you give yourself a minute or two to move through big range of motion. You will feel better all day and you will be able to train better as well. I’ve noticed this since I was a kid, that doing a light workout or stretch first thing in the day always made me feel better during a practice, game, or workout that occurred later in the day.
At night before bed. Take the time to do one last little flexibility and mobility session. I like to go into the bottom of a squat and hold the position as well as do a few deep lunges to loosen my hips. Then, it is hands overhead to loosen up the shoulders and a few standing hamstring stretches before hopping in bed. I also do 3-5 Jefferson Curls* for my back. That movement is medicine for your spine. You will not believe how much of an impact one minute can have if you do it consistently.
Fuel your body like a Ferarri. No self-respecting exotic car owner puts regular, cheap gas in their vehicle. Do the same for your hard-working body. You do not have to empty your bank account buying expensive food, but you should definitely buy the highest quality food that is within reason. The best advice I can give is to focus on whole foods (not the store, but the idea). Avoid anything that comes in a package and focus on vegetables, meats, organic dairy products (if you can tolerate dairy), nuts, fish, eggs, and fruits. One trick I use is to keep some fruits around as my dessert. There is nothing like a cold, juicy orange to help satisfy that desire for something sweet. Fresh foods have way more nutrients and lack added sugars, industrial oils, and other nonsense that is a consequence of the industrial food industry. Eat as many vegetables of as many different colors as you can find and do not be afraid of fat either. You are not dieting. Rater, you are adopting an eating lifestyle. Just like crushing yourself with a workout on day one will do you no good, neither will trying to adopt an ascetic diet plan that will not last more than a few days. Remember, we’re playing the long game here. Eat as best as you can 80% of the time at a minimum and if there are some less than ideal meals mixed in do not worry about it. In fact, enjoy the indulgence!
Your muscles will get strong quickly. It’s awesome. This is exactly what we want and it feels quite good. However, you also need to give your connective tissue the runway to catch up to the rapid strength increase. Just be cognizant of any low-level joint pain and take additional rest or avoid the movement that is causing the pain.
If you have started, the hardest part is over. Keep yourself in the monkii mindset and train hard, but more importantly, train smart. Let us know how we can help and monkii on!
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*It is imperative that you perform this exercise correctly. Stop the movement immediately if you feel any pain and make sure that your back is healthy before attempting this exercise.