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Need to Know: Pro’s tips for the fitness novice

I love it when my friends and Fit CT readers make suggestions for articles.  My most recent request:  What if you are new to exercise or are looking to get back into a workout regime after a lengthy hiatus?  I asked four local fitness gurus for their tips and advice for those who are looking to start a workout program…

a year from now

Rachel Darden, head trainer at Fairfield’s Orange Theory Fitness, recommends that you take advantage of the introductory sessions offered by most gyms. Have a staff member walk you through the different pieces of equipment and show you how to use them. Most clubs include at least one free personal training session when you become a member. Take advantage! A Personal Trainer can give you guidance on how to structure a program that will best meet your personal goals and fit with your lifestyle. A Personal Trainer will also help you with proper form which is crucial for reducing your risk of injury.

OTF's Rachel Darden, left

Rachel Darden, left

Start slow! If you haven’t been working out, then jumping right in to 5 times per week is too much too soon. Your body needs time to adjust to the new demands your are placing on it, and recovery/rest days are important for muscle repair/growth. Begin with 3 days per week and after about 3-4 weeks, consider adding in an additional day.

Have a plan! Don’t walk into the gym without a clear idea of what you want to work that day. You will end up wandering about and wasting time. The single biggest reason people give for not exercising is lack of time! You need to get in, do your work, and get out! Writing out your workouts is a good way to keep you on track.

Once you feel a bit more comfortable, consider making the leap to the Group Exercise room. Not only are classes often included in your monthly membership, they are a great way to add variety (and fun) to your workouts! Just be sure to introduce yourself to the instructor and let them know you are new to class. That way they can keep an eye on you and monitor your form and intensity.

Andrew Kindt, co-owner of Achieve Fitness in Norwalk recommends the following:

andrew achieve

Andrew Kindt

1. Find out the name of a local fitness pro that your friends or family use and comes highly recommended. Your friends and family know you best so take their advice.  Call the fitness pro and express your concerns. They should be should be more than happy to answer any questions or concerns you might have. They should also give you a run down of the kinds of drills you would be doing and the level of fitness of other people in the class. Only take this route if working out in a group setting is really what you want to do.
2. After completing the above, find a class that is for beginners, isn’t full of super fit people, and bring a friend that is in similar shape to you.  This might give you the confidence you need by seeing your friend do it too.
3. Find a class that isn’t too large so the instructor can modify the drills for you and tailor it to your personal fitness level. (I personally cap my group classes at 5 to be able to do this exact thing, and it works great.)
4. Ask the fitness pro to do an “in-home” workout or private session at the gym first. This will build confidence in yourself joining a group. I almost always require a private session to analyze what a new clients fitness level is before I recommend to them a class. This will also help me modify for the beginners in the group.
5. Remind yourself that everybody has to start somewhere. Everyone is intimidated before their first class whatever their level of fitness. The reason why us instructors do what we do, is to change lives, whether it be the advanced athlete or the beginner in which it took every ounce of strength just to walk in the door.  We are here for YOU!
So pick up the phone and call. I guarantee you it will be one of the best things you can do for yourself, physically and mentally.

Julie Migliaccio of Westport’s Evolution Fitness (soon to be Revelution in Norwalk)

Revelution's, Julie Migliaccio

Revelution’s, Julie Migliaccio

One of my favorite approaches for a beginner which also translates beautifully to being super fit is to get very efficient at moving your own body weight.  I do workouts for beginner to advanced people using 10 basic moves.  It’s also a great way to assess imbalances in someone’s posture or weakness and tightness that may need to be addressed.  I usually begin asking someone to just squat.  Show me how you sit down and stand up.  Once that’s established I move on to
lunges, planks, push ups, pull ups or body weight ring or bar rows, abdominal stabilizers like hollow holds or boat poses, hand or headstand and single leg balance or step ups.  (Yours truly can attest that Julie offers modifications because I for one cannot do all of these exercises!  She modifies for beginners, no problem, but will push you to get stronger and perform the exercise more efficiently and thoroughly while keeping good form.)  It’s a proven way to get a person of even the most basic starting point to quickly progress into more complex movements and strength and conditioning is a great by product!

Megan Hoffman from Oxygen Fitness in New Canaan has the following advice:

megan headshot

Megan Hoffman

It’s totally normal to feel intimidated by a roomful of ‘super fit’ people, but at one time they were all in exactly the same place as you. Your gym can become a community of supportive and like-minded individuals who can help you be accountable to your new fitness goals. So introduce yourself first to the instructor-tell them you are new & scared even! Most likely they will give you modifications, address you by name, and be encouraging and enthusiastic about your new commitment to fitness! Now introduce yourself to a few other gym go-ers, guaranteed they will be able to give you the ‘skinny’ on instructors, classes, and their favorite smoothie from the juicebar! They can become an extension of support, aside from your instructor, trainer, or spouse. Start slow, use the light weights (or none at all), take the jump out of any plyometric exercise, don’t crank that tension at Spin just yet, but most importantly have fun!! And in a few weeks,it will be You who is dishing to a new member what class she can’t miss & what juice to grab post-yoga!

Thank you Rachel, Andrew, Julie & Megan.  This is all wonderful advice.  Bottom line:  There is no shortage of full service gyms or boutique fitness studios in Fairfield County.  All are more than thrilled to welcome new guests or members and most offer a free session or a complimentary day (or even a week in some cases) for you to try them out.  My personal advice?  You can find the right workout for you whether it be indoor cycling, yoga, Pilates, Megaformer, boxing, Cross Fit, boot camp, tennis, etc.  We have everything in Fairfield County so try it all!


One Comment Post a comment
  1. Megan Hoffman #

    Love this post!!! So helpful hopefully for so many!!! Thank you for thinking of me!! Best, Meg

    Typos are my fault, not my iPhone


    July 22, 2015

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