How to Transition from Beginner to Intermediate Exercises
This entry was posted on September 1, 2018.
Congratulations! If you’re reading this, you’ve stayed committed to a health and fitness program long enough to be leveling up. You’re improving; you’re investing in yourself; you’re creating a better life for yourself. Don’t forget to celebrate that landmark.
Challenging Yourself for More Demanding Workouts
If you want to challenge yourself, you’re in the right place. Below, we’ve included five ways to increase the difficulty of your workout program gradually and safely over time, helping you to effectively build strength and endurance with every workout!
Increase the time you spend in your workout
The first step when moving to intermediate exercises is to increase your endurance. How you feel at the end of 30 minutes of running at an “easy” pace now could be how you feel at the end of 8 minutes of running at a “hard” pace. How you feel after 30 reps with light weights on your weight equipment might be similar to how you feel after 3 reps with heavy weights. By increasing your endurance you can prepare your body to take on more challenging exercises.
You may wonder if it’s alright to simply move to the harder settings on your exercise equipment before building up your fitness level. While this is possible, it isn’t the wisest choice, and may lead to injuries, strains or overuse of muscles and joints prematurely. Our bodies benefit from two separate elements of exercise: time spent and difficulty (either expressed as weight or resistance).
A well-planned incremental increase in time is the first ingredient in the recipe for successfully moving from beginner to intermediate exercises from a physiological standpoint.
Increase the resistance, incline, or weight on your machine
The next step in moving toward more challenging exercises is to increase the resistance or incline of your cardio fitness equipment (or the weight of your resistance machines or free weights).
Don’t increase this suddenly though – you’ll risk injury, muscle strain, ligament tears, and other problems. Start gradually, with one or two level increases or 5-10 pounds of extra weight, and pay attention to how you feel during the workout. Don’t try to complete your usual time or reps, especially for the first few rounds until you’re confident as to what you can handle.
Each week aim to increase the weight by 5-10 lbs or the level of resistance by 1-2 levels. If you are struggling to complete the same routine at that level, consider backing off in either reps, time or resistance to a challenging but doable level. Listen to your body. You want to struggle, but not to the point of risking improper form or injury.
Start a workout program that alternates low and high resistance
Our hearts work harder than we realize, and cardio isn’t the only routine that will work your heart hard. Exercises that engage large muscle groups, such as back and legs for example, force the heart to pump just as intensely as sprinting.
One way to strengthen your heart with your fitness exercise equipment, whether you’re doing weight training or cardio, is to alternate the resistance you’re working with. Start with a low-resistance warm-up, then alternate longer periods of low resistance with shorter intervals of high-resistance.
If you don’t have any machines, now is a great time to start looking into places to buy home gym fitness equipment. For example, if you’ve just been working with weights, we recommend beginning by adding a basic cardio machine like the Octane XT-One Standard Elliptical from Fitness Expo. This will give you variety in your routine and support even the most challenging workouts later down the road.
Studies show that your body can get used to doing a certain exercise at a specific resistance over long periods of time, and lower the amount of calories burned and work put into those exercises. Don’t let yourself fall into that rut – instead, vary the intensity of your workout to keep your heart pumping the whole time.
Create a stretching routine
This one may come as a surprise. What? Stretching? How does this help with moving from beginner to intermediate exercises?
To understand why stretching is helpful for challenging yourself in your workout time, you have to start with an idea of why stretching is useful at all. Stretching doesn’t just mean “doing the splits” or being super-flexible to show off.
Muscles, in many natural day-to-day activities, shrink to a shortened version of themselves. You don’t NEED to extend your leg very far when you’re walking from your desk to reception for example. But if you’re trying a strenuous stair-stepping exercise, or moving from a jog to a run, you’ll suddenly need to be able to extend your leg farther.
If your muscles aren’t regularly stretched, it can take a lot of warming up and effort to establish the range of motion necessary to complete challenging exercises (regardless of your strength). You can even damage your muscles if you neglect to stretch before moving to strenuous activity.
If you want to increase the challenge of your exercises, make sure your range of motion increases accordingly with routine stretching. We highly recommend the Precor 240i Stretch Trainer if you’re new to stretching – it’ll gently introduce you to some of the most important lower and upper body stretches.
Watch Your Diet
Finally, if you’re trying to increase your muscle mass or cardio health, and looking to kick things up a notch, make sure you’re feeding your body the fuel it needs to make the progress you desire.
Look up your daily calorie, protein, and carbohydrate needs using an online calculator (you’ll need to enter your height, weight, age, gender, and frequency of workout) and log your foods in a journal for a couple days to see if you’re getting everything you need.
Protein shakes come in many amazing flavors now – like chocolate mint – and even microwave meals are coming out with healthier options for lunch in a pinch (like quinoa bowls).
If you struggle with your nutritional needs, talk with a Registered Dietitian here in Metairie about how to get on track with healthy eating within your current lifestyle. Without the right fuel, your body won’t be going anywhere. But with the right nutrients, you’ll be summiting mountains in no time!
Heading to the Next Level
You’re moving forward – that’s fantastic!
You’ve already shown your commitment to health, and with a little dedication, intermediate exercises will start to feel like a piece of cake. A really, really healthy piece of cake.