Whether you're a gym newbie or fitness connoisseur, it never hurts to relearn the fundamentals of the gym and overall exercise.
I asked Roo Cotter, NASM Certified Personal Trainer, a few questions you might have if you're just starting a workout regimen, or if you just need a refresher.
Q: What is your advice to someone just starting to work out or lift? How can they remain confident in the gym?
A: Start simple. Learn the basic strength movements and how to execute them using free weights. If you are unfamiliar, ask a trainer for guidance and/or attend a couple group classes to learn the basics and meet others at the facility. Be sure you are seeking advice from an accredited source whether it’s an individual, online source, or social media. There is a lot of content that makes for great entertainment, but unsafe training. Be smart and start simple.
Q: How do the benefits differ between cardio and weight lifting? In other words, are they different? Can you have one without the other?
A: Yes, weight lifting and cardio are different in nature and also yield different benefits; however, you do not have to pick one or the other. In fact, for well-rounded fitness, it is best to strive for a mix of both. Strength training positively impacts our hormones, metabolism, lean muscle mass, and joints (plus many more). Cardio, whether in the form of steady state activity or high intensity intervals, is important for heart and lung health. Your muscles need oxygen when working hard, and conditioned lungs provide that supply. As with anything, we get into trouble when channeling the “if some is good, then more is better” mindset. Overdoing one or the other will hinder progress, so first establish your specific fitness goals and adjust the dosage of strength training and cardio accordingly.
Q: Women tend to believe weight lifting makes them "big". Is this true?
A: Let’s first establish that “big” is a relative term. What one-person thinks is an ideal amount of muscle mass, the next may say it looks “big” or “bulky.” Yes, there are females that some may consider “big,” but this takes an incredible amount of training in addition to meticulous and structured nutrition. Introducing weight lifting to your regimen a couple days a week will not make you resemble a linebacker. Strength training will increase your lean muscle mass, which does a significantly better job burning calories than fat. Not to mention, muscle is denser than fat; therefore, it takes up less space. You may weigh the exact same or even more after introducing strength training to your regimen, but find that those snug jeans now fit just right and more importantly, you just feel better.
Q: What are the workouts/exercises/movements you believe never get old or that you tend to work into your routine regularly?
A: Squats, push-ups, pull-ups, deadlifts, and kettlebell swings. The preceding 5 movements are basic, compound movements, meaning they work multiple joints and muscle groups; therefore, you will get the best “bang for your buck” integrating them in your everyday training. There are countless ways to vary each of these exercises, so you can continue to challenge yourself without boredom striking.
Q: Should you stretch before or after a workout? Why?
A: Before a workout, it is best to perform at least 5 – 10 minutes of mobility and later conclude your training session with static stretching. Mobility involves mimicking the movement patterns that make up your training session. For instance, if I plan to squat heavy, some things I would mobilize with are light goblet squats, a half-kneeling hip flexor stretch, and bird dogs. Mobility helps increase your range of motion and prepare your muscles and joints for the activity on that day’s agenda. Hit the static stretching at the end of a training session, which is when we hold stretches for a longer duration (~:30).
Q: What is the number one thing you try to express to your new clients?
A: Take numbers and looks out of the equation. Focus primarily on training your body to feel better when you wake up each day. It’s okay to have a goal weight or pant size, but if you keep the bigger picture in mind, you will you enjoy and appreciate training significantly more.