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Thursday, January 22, 2015

5 Benefits of Starting a New Exercise Program

What to expect when you're just starting out
“Beach body, here I come!” one newbie client proudly proclaimed last January as she pulled out an US Weekly and showed me a particularly lanky actress sunning on a Maui beach. My client wanted a similar body before her mid-March Cape Town vacation. I wanted to reply that I was a personal trainer, not an alchemist, but I thought better and bit my tongue.

I get this this often, usually around the New Year, as people – admittedly, usually females – appear in droves determined to become lean and sexy for summer. Inevitably they become disappointed when fat loss doesn’t just magically occur after their second session.

After training thousands of clients, I can say one definite thing about working out:
you will lose fat when you train, but without putting your ducks in order (see strategy #4) that transformation will never occur at the miraculous pace you desire.

I’ve discovered a predictable pattern training gym newbies. They arrive full of anticipation, determination, and nervousness. They usually slog through their first few workouts before they see improvements.

Yet after a few sessions, they feel better, radiate a newfound confidence, sleep better, have better sex, and can probably get away with eating a little bit more hedonistically than their gym-shy best friend. Note I said a little bit. I’m talking about a few squares of dark chocolate, not half a dozen Dunkin Donuts.

Physiological changes also occur. I want to be clear here: when I say exercise program, I’m talking about an intelligently designed plan that combines weight resistance with burst training. Leisurely pacing on an elliptical machine or dreamily staring at that hot spin-class instructor will not create strength, fat loss, muscle gain, or any other benefits I discuss here.

Don’t become discouraged that your first change isn’t fat loss. That might be why you started training, but your body isn’t a vending machine. You can’t just push whatever button you want and get a particular outcome.

At the same time, you expect effort equals results. When you bust your ass training four times each week, what benefits can you expect? In my two decades as a personal trainer, I’ve discovered these five sequential changes occur.

1.      Neurological. When you first start exercising, repetition helps your body learns to connect your brain to working muscles. Exercise stimulates neuro-pathways where muscles learn to understand what your brain directs them to do, allowing you to then repeat the “skill” at will without over-thinking it. Your brain develops efficiency adapting to your body’s changes over time, which explains why those first few sessions might become a challenge. Proper form becomes critical here, which is why I absolutely recommend newbies work with an experienced personal trainer.

2.     Strength. Simply put, a new exercise program helps your body become capable of lifting a heavier weight than you could previously lift doing the same exercise. Strength isn’t just about lifting heavier though; it translates quickly into real life. You feel more confident. You’re able to lift a heavy bag of dog food. You no longer need help putting that 50-pound carry-on in the plane’s overhead department. Being strong is sexy. My mentor JJ Virgin calls muscle the metabolic Spanx that holds everything together and leaves you looking tight and toned.  

3.     Overall fitness improvement. I’m talking about strength, of course, but also improved stamina, muscular endurance, and cardiovascular strength. You can do more reps without becoming fatigued, burst up that hill without getting winded, and – considering you’re following the right recovery strategies – feel less sore after a particularly grueling workout. 

4.     Fat loss. Before you lose fat, your body must adapt. Only then does your metabolism kick up and fat loss begins to occur. An intelligently designed diet coupled with the right exercise creates a caloric deficit that leads to fat loss. As the saying goes, you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. Unfortunately, for some people fat loss becomes the most complicated benefit to develop when they begin a fitness program. Numerous obstacles including hormonal imbalance, food allergies, mile-high stress levels, and repeatedly crappy sleep can stall fat loss. For those tough-hurdle clients, I take these five sequential strategies to address weight loss resistance. 

5.     Muscle gain. Despite what the latest fitness guru promises, losing fat without also losing some muscle becomes almost impossible. Your goal to become lean and muscular, then, is to minimize this effect. As you become more fit, you discover what works best for muscle development and subsequently apply those techniques to maximize your efforts in the gym. This leads to an understanding of how to preserve as much muscle as possible, pursuing a diet that maintains muscle mass while allowing for maximum fat loss.

What physiological or pragmatic benefit have you experienced starting a new exercise program? Share yours below or on my Facebook fan page.

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Fitness expert and strength coach Jini Cicero, CSCS, teaches intermediate exercisers how to blast through plateaus to create incredible transformations. Are you ready to take your fitness to a whole new level?  Find out now!  Take Jini's "Are you Ready?" Quiz at© 2014 Jinifit, Inc.

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