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How to Start a Fitness Plan From Scratch
by Justin Leonard
Written on December 1, 2000

Question: I'm 21, and a total newbie at fitness. I haven't the slightest clue about what to do. I was always more of the nerd in school, than doing any sport. Recently though, I want to work on getting in better shape. However, I'm at a loss at where to start and somewhat intimidated by Fitness Centers (though I plan on getting a membership at one). This seems like a really broad question, but where the heck do I start? How often should I workout and for how long? Any suggestions would be helpful.

There are several people who I'm sure are thanking you for asking this question. If you're starting out with completely no clue, you should first ensure that working out is okay with your doctor. Second, try to come up with a game plan. For example, ask yourself, "What is my goal?" "Do I want to lose weight? Gain weight? Tighten the abs? Increase my endurance?" Then formulate a quality game plan to reach your goal.

Next, if you plan on getting a gym membership, ask yourself these questions: Are the gym hours are flexible? For example, are they open when it's convenient for you? What are the slowest and busiest gym times? In addition, find out if the gym staff or personal trainers give you a tour and demonstration of the equipment so that you can familiarize yourself and get comfortable with what you'll be paying big bucks for.

If they do, will they provide a "basic" beginners' workout routine on paper? Not all gyms will voluntarily show you around their gym. It may not be part of their program or policy. You may have to ask for a tour and demonstration of some basic exercises. Tell them where you're at as far as fitness level. If they can't meet your requirements, you may want to see about getting a training partner for additional support or moving to a different gym.

Starting out, the basic workout schedule is Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The average duration is just over 1 hour, although I would keep my workouts closer to 45 minutes. For someone who is new to working out, it may take a while to familiarize yourself and with different pieces of equipment. Working out longer than an hour may not be such a bad idea. Take your time while you work out.

Once you have determined how long you're going to spend in the gym, you can begin to focus on training. For example, how many repetitions are you going to do, and for what bodyparts? How many sets for each bodypart? What pieces of equipment will be utilized? How much weight will be used?

The standard repetition range is about 8 - 12. The sets per bodypart can vary, but is about 3 - 5. When determining how much weight you're going to use, start with the lightest possible weight, then gradually work your way up. If you decide to use a barbell, start with only the bar. For example, don't try to put 100 pounds on the bar because you heard it was average. You may not be there yet. The idea is to gradually increase the weight.

As far as being intimidated, try to remember that most of the people at the gym are there for the same reason you are . . . and that is to better their health.

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