Yoga reduces stress, improves strength, and increases flexibility. Don't let fear or uncertainty discourage you from giving it a try. Knowing how to prepare and what to expect at your first class will ease your mind and increase the enjoyment of adding something new to your routine.
A welcoming environment
Select a beginner class and take comfort in the accepting and non-judgemental environment. Yoga requires internal mental and physical focus. No one is watching or judging you. Everyone is working to improve their own practice. Leave any self-conscious thoughts behind and enjoy your session.
Activity tailored to your fitness level
Yoga is about easing yourself into poses without stressing the muscles and joints. Poses can be modified to meet your strength and flexibility level, and the benefit of attending a studio class is that the instructor can help you do this. You should feel a small amount of tension as you challenge your flexibility, but this should never be confused with pain. If any pose is too much for you, follow the instructor’s direction to relax in child’s pose or a similar position.
Peace and quiet
Yoga classes provide a break from the radio, televisions, and sounds of cardio machines and clanging dumbbells. Don’t let the silence stress you out. Enjoy the break from conversation and constant noise. While yoga is quiet, remember that smiles, giggles, and even applause are welcome in most classes. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Equipment you will need
Many studios provide yoga mats to first time attendees, but there may be a fee. Considering that yoga mats cost about $15, having one of your own is worth the investment. If you don’t turn out to be a long-term yoga fan, they can be used for all kinds of floor exercises at home. You might also want to take along a bottle of water and a hand towel to wipe your face or to use as extra support under your knees.
Dress for comfort and movement
Baggy clothes aren’t ideal for yoga because they slide, shift and get in the way. Wear the most form fitting and flexible clothing you feel comfortable in whether it is a tee, tank, shorts, or pants. You will heat up quickly so if you start with long sleeves wear a layer underneath so you can remove the outer layer once you warm up. No socks are needed as they will prevent your feet from gripping the mat. Wear slip-on shoes that are easy to remove.
Up close and personal
Classes can get crowded so be prepared to line up next to your fellow classmate. If this makes you uncomfortable, choose a class that has a cap on attendance or one provided at a less popular time. Also, expect the instructor to touch you and help move your body into the proper position. Always speak up if you are uncomfortable or if they are asking you to reach beyond your limits of flexibility. If an instructor does correct your form, resist the urge to feel criticized. You are not being judged. He or she is helping you to practice safely.
No pressure to participate
Don’t let common yoga practices like chants and audible heavy breathing surprise you. It can take some getting used to when you are new to yoga. You shouldn’t feel pressured to participate, but consider stepping out of your comfort zone and join in. If you decide it’s not a good fit for you, simply perform the pose quietly.
Mindful exercise helps you remove your focus from negative thoughts and distractions, and apply it to your body and breathing for improved exercise performance. Practice more mindful exercise with these tips.
Target your training
When strength training, focus all of your attention on the muscle group you are working. Keep your eyes on the muscle when possible. When performing a single bicep curl or a leg extension exercise, place your free hand on the muscle being worked and feel it contract and relax. This increase in focus can help you push harder during your workout.
Your body’s demand for oxygen increases during exercise. Research shows that a greater supply of oxygen leads to improvements in exercise performance. The more oxygen, the longer and harder you can exercise. Focus on taking slower, deeper breaths to improve your respiratory fitness and to supply the body with more oxygen.
Mind over matter
During challenging exercise, your attitude and mental focus are just as important as physical strength and endurance. Sometimes increasing your running distance from 1.5 miles to 2, or staying in the plank position for 30 more seconds takes all you have. Cue the positive self talk, focus on the working muscles, and visualize yourself reaching your goal. All of these steps will carry you through the physical challenge of a tough workout.
Listening to music or watching a movie can help you through a workout, but their true role is to provide distraction. Break out of your distracted state, get outside, and pay attention to your environment. Outdoor exercise lifts the spirits and helps clear the mind. Concentrate on your movement, breathing, and the sights around you for a more rewarding workout and refreshing break from the daily grind.
Safe strength training
Distractions during exercise cause you to lose focus on the most important part of a workout - safety. Proper form, selecting a weight that is right for your fitness level, and mental focus ensure you execute each move correctly reducing your risk for injury.
Whether it’s groceries or a goal weight, putting it down on paper helps you stay focused. Lists serve as guides and reminders, and they can be effective tools to help you reach your fitness goals.
Menus to map out your week
A weekly menu is one type of list that will help you stick to healthy eating. Planning your meals for the week keeps you on track and helps you identify gaps in nutrition. This gives you a chance to revise your plan so you don’t end your week with too few vegetables or too much added sugar.
Shop for healthy foods
If you go to the supermarket without a well thought out list, you may leave with a cart full of unhealthy foods meant to satisfy a short-term craving. Create a list of the foods you need to make healthy meals throughout the week. Take the list with you and stick to it at the store. With a kitchen full of nutritious foods, you will be prepared to eat better and resist tempting, high-calorie treats.
Make exercise a priority
When you put your to-do list in writing, those tasks become a priority. Whether you jot down a 5-minute break to walk the stairs or block out 30 minutes to go for a run, write down your workouts on the same list you use to record errands and tasks.
Work with your schedule
A to-do list is a revealing indicator of your eating and exercise patterns for the week. As you make a list of tasks for the week, complement it with a list of where and what you plan to eat and when you will workout. You will be prepared to pack a healthy lunch on the day with back-to-back meetings, and you can plan to wake up early for exercise when you have a nighttime obligation.
Visualize your goals
What would you like to accomplish in one month? What about in six? Goals like losing inches or running more miles are accomplishments you build up to. You go down one pant size and then two, and you run two miles before you can run six. Writing down your short term goals helps you visualize your long term goals. Making a list of what you want to accomplish is the first step in creating a plan to get there.
There is not a one-size-fits-all solution to getting more exercise. Daily schedules and specific goals influence exercise time and intensity. These three scenarios will help you determine what types of workouts are best for you whether you have only a few minutes or several hours a week to commit to your plan.
You exercise three to four days per week.
A recent survey conducted at a UK-based fitness center found that only 39 minutes of every hour at the gym is spent exercising. The rest is taken up by chatting, adjusting gear and clothing, and searching for the right workout song. If you only have three to four days to exercise, you can’t afford to waste this valuable time. Fewer days to workout means you need a more focused commitment.
If going to the gym distracts you, consider doing your workouts at home or go during slower times when you won’t be tempted to chat away half of your workout.
Make your session 45 to 60 minutes and increase the intensity. Vigorous exercise for 20 to 60 minutes, three times per week meets recommendations from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). But if weight loss is your goal, more significant loss is seen with more minutes of exercise per week.
While vigorous exercise is ideal for this schedule, check with your doctor for clearance before jumping into intense exercise.
You exercise five or more days per week.
When you have more days to commit to your workouts, you have more flexibility in the time and intensity of your exercise. Use this time to experiment with new activities and to gradually increase your fitness level. If you are new to exercise, it may be safer to squeeze in extra days of shorter, moderate-intensity workouts versus exercising fewer days at a higher intensity.
To improve health, the ACSM recommends five 30 to 60 minute, moderate-intensity exercise sessions each week.
Combining strength and cardio in circuit training can blast calories, but with five or more days to exercise, you can also take a more traditional approach to strength training. Work in a full body strength session three days a week, or train upper and lower body on alternating days.
More days spent exercising can help you reach your goals faster, but it can also lead to a higher risk of burnout. Try different cardio activities such as cycling, walking and dance classes. Vary your strength training with muscle conditioning classes, plyometrics, free weights, or machines.
Change your exercise environment by taking your workout outside. Longer, lower intensity sessions allow you to work in hikes in the woods, water sports, and games in the park with your family. Get creative with your activity to reduce boredom.
You only have a few minutes to exercise most days.
Research continues to support that 10-minute exercise sessions spread throughout the day can improve health. This is a great way to get in exercise if your schedule is swamped or during especially busy times of the year.
Try to scrape together three 10-minute breaks so that your exercise time totals 30 minutes at least five days per week. This allows you to reach the goal of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity for health.
Choose activities that elevate your heart rate such as walking with slow and fast intervals, climbing the stairs, or alternating between strength moves and cardio exercises.
The sessions don’t have to all be 10 minutes, they just need to be at least 10 minutes. You can squeeze in 20 minutes and then 10, or 15 and 15.
A certified personal trainer may be just what you need to kickstart your exercise program. Not only can he or she offer guidance on proper form and safe exercise, personal trainers can motivate you to reach your fitness goals. Your first visit with a trainer may feel intimidating. Knowing what to expect and making the right preparations will ease your nerves and help you get the most out of your sessions.
Know your history.
Health and exercise history are important for determining what type of exercise is safe for you and what barriers you may encounter. Make notes about any history of disease, medications, past injuries, and your activity level throughout the years. Your trainer may ask you these questions or you may be asked to fill out a questionnaire. Having your notes on hand will ensure you provide accurate information.
Set your goals.
A trainer can help you develop your goals, but go into your first meeting with some focus. Weight loss, muscle gain, and improved health are all possible with exercise, but knowing which is most important to you will help your trainer tailor your program for success.
Determine your exercise tastes.
Be open to trying new activities, but also be honest about the types of exercise that you dislike. If you are more comfortable with machines than free weights, or you can’t stand the stair climber, let your trainer know. There are multiple exercise options and part of your trainer’s job is to help you find those exercises that will get you results, but that you also enjoy.
Hydrate and dress comfortably.
Your first session will likely involve fitness testing (weight, body mass index, body fat, endurance, and strength) so wear your workout gear. For more accurate test results, focus on hydration the day before. Drink plenty of water and avoid alcoholic beverages. Avoid putting on any body lotions or oils prior to your session. If your trainer uses calipers to test your body fat percentage, lotions and oils prevent a good grip and accurate reading.
Your trainer will ask you a lot of questions, but be sure to prepare some of your own. You are hiring this person to help you reach your goals. This individual needs to have the experience, training style, and schedule availability that works for you. Ask about education and certifications, how he or she would describe their training style, and some recent accomplishments they’ve had in their work. If you plan to meet with the trainer on a regular basis, ask what times and session types they have available.