Before you start exercising
Move - Article 07
You’ve read all the Basics articles and are raring to go with your new exercise plan? Fantastic news! This is the exciting part when you start your journey to improved health and wellbeing.
If you’re anything like us, you’ll know that final preparation is key. So here are a few important things to be aware of just before you jump in:
Firstly, we need to discuss the importance of hydration. The average human body consists of approximately 60% water, so it’s really no surprise that good hydration is one of the most fundamental health practices you simply can’t afford to forget.
When we exercise, our fluid levels decrease more quickly through sweat and breath which can be dangerous and will cause cramps and fatigue as well as increasing the time it takes to recover from exercise.
Top tip: One of the most obvious signs of dehydration is actually the colour of your urine. Ideally, your urine should be clear or pale and odourless. If you notice an obvious yellow tint, this indicates you are in a state of dehydration and you should drink fluids as soon as possible.
Ensuring you’re hydrated before exercise can also play a role on how the activity feels. When you’re dehydrated, your core temperature will rise quicker and your heart will have to work more – let’s not make it any harder for ourselves!
It’s also important to bear in mind that it takes time for your body to absorb water and balance your fluid levels so be sure to drink regularly throughout the day in the lead up to exercise. It’s a good idea to take on a larger amount of water 15 minutes before your session.
During your workout it’s just as important to stay hydrated as your body will quickly feel the strain. Having a bottle in hand or nearby is an excellent idea and trying to drink little and often will mean you can continue working hard without feeling sick.
The exact amount of water you need is unique to you but will be dependent on your environment, chosen mode of exercise, body weight and overall fitness level. One way of working out how much water you require for exercise is to weigh yourself before exercise and again after exercise – every pound of weight loss is equivalent to around 750ml of fluids, so you should try and balance this out.
Recovery from exercise is also directly linked to how well you rehydrate – so make sure you have a good drink immediately after! While it can be tempting sometimes to reach for an alcoholic drink or caffeinated beverage, try to avoid these directly after as they can act as a diuretic – meaning your body will lose even more fluids.
2. The Warm-Up
The second thing to consider is how we’re going to prime ourselves for exercise; this is where the “warm-up” comes in. Warming up is essential before the main set of your workout.
We need to gradually elevate our heart rate to around 75% of its maximum. This is something your fitness trainer can discuss with you but a simple equation to work out that figure is:
220 minus your age = your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR);
Multiply your MHR by 75% or 0.75 to give you your ideal warm-up heart rate.
You’re now really becoming a pro!
A steady increase to that level will minimise stress on your heart; get blood pumping so oxygen can be delivered to the necessary muscles; and raise the temperature of the muscles to ensure optimum flexibility and efficiency.
Ideally, the warm-up will also involve you moving the muscles you plan to exercise, without resistance, in the same motion as your main exercises. Think of it like the engine of a car turning-over for a while before you drive it in order to prevent any damage.
3. Check your Space
Before you exercise, check that the space in which you plan to exercise is as prepared as you are. Take note of any obstructions, sharp edges and loose items underfoot and move them if you can.
4. Choice of clothing
The same careful consideration should be taken for your exercise clothes. They should be comfortable, light and allow for complete range of motion. Many people opt for tight fitting garments to avoid clothes snagging and pulling during exercise. You’ll want to consider how breathable the clothes are too as your body will want to release a lot of heat during your workout to avoid your core temperature rising too high.
5. The correct footwear
There’s no need to spend a fortune on fitness clothing but special attention should always be given to footwear. Running trainers are designed for just that so be careful about choosing them if you only plan on making running a part of your exercise routine. A comfortable, light trainer with a relatively flat sole will suffice for most home and gym workouts.
Although, if you’re exercising at home, you may want to exercise barefoot to ensure your body moves in a natural way and all the joints and muscles of the legs work to their fullest potential.