As a trainer, I’ve seen multiple instances where individuals perform exercises in a less than safe manner. Many people walk through our doors that have never been a member of a gym and do not have the background knowledge as to how to construct a workout regimen that meets their needs.
Many first time members mimic others, which is a recipe for disaster considering that the “others” may be at a more advanced fitness level, do not have any physical limitations, or are doing the exercises incorrectly.
Let’s start with some basic safety rules for cardiovascular activity. First, it takes approximately six to eight weeks of basic conditioning for most people to implement a relatively aggressive cardio program.
Our bodies must be given adequate time to adapt to the activity, meaning the rate of progression should be no more than five percent a week to limit the chance of injury. Always start with building a strong foundation.
I have seen many individuals include interval training in their first workout, when in fact they should focus on steady state training.
A good rule of thumb is keeping your heart rate between 60 percent and 75 percent of your maximum heart rate.
Resistance training can become more complicated. A simple rule of thumb for most individuals is to focus on about six to eight exercises that use the major muscle groups of the body. Again, focus on building a good foundation.
Complete the exercises using a full range of motion. The use of machines can be useful at times but beginners are often better off incorporating functional and bodyweight exercises. To help alleviate the initial soreness that comes with working out, start by completing only one set the first week and then adding a second set the next week and a third set the following week.
Most trainers will be more than willing to answer your questions and point you in the right direction.
If you want to give yourself the best chance of success and prevent injuries, it is always in your best interest to consult an expert.
Jon Greene is the wellness director for the Downtown Wellness Center YMCA. Reach him at