How to get started on an exercise regime?

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Brian Lund Larsen is a former chain smoking overweight guy, now 3 times marathon runner, including the high altitude Swiss Alpine K42, regular gym guest and here to tell you that if he could do it, so can you.

Why torture yourself with exercise?

Now you are probably thinking: “why would I do this? It’s not even January when you normally decide to make big lifestyle changes and then promptly forget about again before the New Year’s hangover is fully gone”.

There is tons of science documenting all the great things about exercise and I’m sure you know most of it already. It’s essential to a long healthy life, to staying mobile and self sufficient as you age and and since this is – let’s not forget that it makes your stylish new wardrobe fit better.

The bottom line is that exercise is needed to feel and be the best you can be. Socrates said “No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable” and this goes equally so for women.

If I can do it, so can you

My own story starts in 2008, at the time I smoked a pack of cigarettes a day, weighed in at close to 220 pounds which is a lot for a 5”9’ guy and had generally accepted that I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without being severely out of breath. It actually didn’t really cross my mind to stop smoking or lose weight, sure I was unhappy about the way I looked, but I had gotten used to it and the lifestyle I lived.

Two things changed this. One was that I bought a rather expensive set of motorcycle leathers, only to find that I couldn’t fit into them. I tried anyway and actually got so stuck that it took what felt like forever to wiggle my way out of them again. The second thing was that someone bet me that I couldn’t run a local 5K race in 30 minutes. Together this was enough for me to make up my mind. I had to stop smoking so I could win the bet and I had to lose enough weight that I could fit the motorcycle leathers. I stumbled upon a program on the Internet that promised to take me from 0 to 5K in 2 months, just enough time to allow me to compete in the race. The first week of the program had me running for 60 seconds at at time, followed by 1.5 minutes of walking and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but perhaps quitting smoking at the same time gave me the anger needed to complete it.


The relationship between exercise and weight loss

Let me tell you right now: exercise, even regular strenuous exercise does not mean you will lose weight, if you don’t adjust your diet. You simply can’t outrun an unhealthy diet. Take a good size pizza for example: one large pizza pie can easily contain 2100 kcal of energy and if you’re 130 pounds you probably burn about 100 kilocalories per mile run, that means you need to run 21 miles to burn that pizza – that is the distance of a marathon.

So why exercise at all if you are just interested in weight loss? For me it was motivation. Exercise and especially running, motivated me to eat healthier. It didn’t take long to notice I ran better, felt better and was happier when I ate right. Seeing my legs getting more toned and my core stronger also motivated me to be more serious about my diet and really kick off the weight loss.     

Ok, you convinced me, how do I get started?

First you need to figure out what sport or exercise suits you. I’ll be honest and say you might find any type of of exercise hard in the beginning, but find something that at least catches your interest and you might love it in the long term. Is there something you’ve been wanting to do for years but never gotten started with? Think about it, this is your opportunity. For me it was running, I love nature and I had dreamed about running on small paths through fields and forests around where I lived. As a plus, running is light on equipment, you pretty much just need a pair of shoes.

The next thing is to find a program, a plan if you will. Some people might find this bothersome and just want to go exercise when they want and for how long they want, but I believe this is essential in the beginning.  Especially if you have a tendency to start something and then kind of let it fade after a while. You need a plan that tells you what to do, when to do it, for how long and it needs to have build in progression so you can see you’re getting better.

For running, this is the Couch to 5K plan that I personally used when I started running. For weightlifting, it’s a program called stronglifts 5×5. Neither of these are optimal programs. If you want to compete in the olympics, pick something else, but for a beginner, they lay out clear instructions for what to do and when and they have build in progression. Each week you will see that you run longer or you can lift more weight than you could last.       

The Couch to 5K (C25K) program will take you from running 60 seconds to running 3.1 miles (5K) or 30 minutes straight in just two months. If you’re not exactly in shape at the moment, it might sound unrealistic, but I’ve seen severely obese people complete this program. The key is running slowly, if you can’t breathe slow down. If you like the social aspect, join a beginner running forum or club at the same time. Share your experience and join in celebrating each other’s victories. Search your phones app store for C25K or find the plan in text here:

Stronglifts 5×5 follows the same basic principle, it takes you from lifting an empty olympic bar and adds weight each time to progress. You can also find the app for this in your phone’s app store.

It’s not just running or lifting, swimming has “zero to 1650 in six weeks” and if you search around you’ll find something similar for most sports.

By the way, don’t disregards lifting weights if you are female, I promise you won’t accidentally bulk up and look like Arnold no matter how heavy you lift, but it’s the number one way to a build a great toned body.

Remember to take care of yourself

Don’t get injured. If your program tells you to do the exercise every other day, don’t do it every day. There is a reason you need to start gently and build up from there, it protects you from injury and allows your body to heal after each session. It’s very easy to get caught up in this new and exciting thing, but don’t over do it. I have a weak left knee and even after many years of running I need to remind myself that I must take the time to rest after a run.

If you do pick up running, get some real running shoes also, I personally think the running shoe business exaggerates the need for shoes specifically for your style of running. I run in as neutral a running shoe I can find, but there are many that swear to having a running test performed and buying shoes that fit the results. You don’t need $200 shoes but don’t run in tennis trainers or shoes with stiff hard soles. For running there are also many that will tell you to adopt a specific running style, for example barefoot running, forefoot striking or pose-running. I am of the belief that your body knows how best to do it and you shouldn’t force any specific way of running.  

What is next?

Set goals! This is what keeps it interesting.

For me it was running my first 5K race, then my first 10K, my first half marathon and finally my first marathon and the ones that came after that. For each step I found plans that would take me from my current level of fitness and build me up to the next goal. Miha has a great article about setting goals  if you need a bit of help with that.

Find others to exercise with: the gym is more fun with a friend and a long run is often better with a buddy.  

Don’t wait for New Years. As the saying goes: the best time to plan a tree is 20 years ago and the second best time is now. Get some hot new exercise clothes or some cute new runnings shoes and get out there and make yourself better.

By the way: two months after I started, I completed that 5K in 29 minutes and 30 seconds and best of all, 18 pounds lighter.

As you can see from the introduction, this post was written by Brian who also happens to be my boyfriend. I myself have struggled, weight gain, running and motivation to even try to start running because honestly exercise isn’t my favorite. And no, I didn’t featured his post because we are a couple but because I was really inspired by his story, his positivity and the fact that he managed to change from a really unhealthy lifestyle to a very energetic and healthy one.

I hope you find this post useful and maybe it can help you find pleasure in exercise or the motivation to get started.

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I hope you find this post useful and maybe it can help you find pleasure in exercise or the motivation to get started.

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