Basic Fitness Advice For Newbies

We often get contacted by email with the basic question being from individuals who have never been fit wanting to know where they should begin. So, I am going to address a few points every newbie to fitness should know and understand. Here goes:

You do not know how much you do not know.

While most types of exercise on the surface are not rocket science to figure out, there are many things you should know in order to not hurt yourself and to not burn out before you begin.


  • First off, buy yourself a pair of shoes that are proper for your type of foot. Cheap shoes that do not fit well all over, especially the insole to the arch of your feet are going to cause you painful problems such as plantar fasciitis and or shin splints. Either condition is going to stop you in your tracks before you get very far into a routine.
  • Begin slow and build up your pace and distance over time. It is expected that you should push a little harder each outing, but you need to know when to stop. If you always train to failure, you will soon fail.
  • Before you begin your run, simply warm up a little bit by getting your blood flowing and your heart rate a little elevated. Stretching cold muscles is not necessary and really does little to nothing for you In fact, people who do not know what they are doing can hurt themselves when stretching their muscles while still cold.
  • Once you have reached your desired distance or time running, take the time to walk it out as a cool down and stretch your muscles while they are still warm. Perfect your stride and breathing before trying to go all out when running.
  • Fitness trackers such as Fitbit are nice, but not anywhere near necessary for good running, nor are heart rate monitors. If you are running for general fitness and in order to burn fat, then you want to ensure your heart is beating in the aerobic fat burning zone. Without any types of monitors, here is how to know if you are in your individual target zone. If you can speak easy, you need to quicken your pace as your heart rate is not in the aerobic zone yet. If you cannot speak at all, you need to slow down as your heart rate has now surpassed the aerobic zone and is now in the anaerobic zone where your muscle tissues have become too depleted of oxygen for you to continue at this pace. The perfect aerobic, fat burning, heart rate zone for you to be at is your breathing is just heavy enough that you can still have a labored conversation.


  • Warm up a bit before swimming laps the same as you would before a run with a few simple calisthenics.
  • Know your capabilities and do not exceed them while in water that is over your head.
  • Push yourself, but do not train to failure.
  • Concentrate on perfecting your stroke and breathing before pushing yourself too hard.

Resistance training.

  • Whether using your body weight, machines or free weights, you need to find exercise which will make the most efficient use of your time. You can do this by performing exercises that work multiple muscle groups at a time instead of single muscle groups.
  • By doing compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups, you will prevent the occurance of muscular and strength imbalances. Not only will this make you feel better and stronger, your body will look better and stronger too.
  • You need to work different body sections on different days. You can alternate upper body one session, lower body the next. Chest and arms one day, back and shoulders the next session and legs on the next. And always ensure that for every pushing exercise you do, you also complete a complimentary pulling exercise.
  • Start much lighter and easier than you might feel you need to, then increase your weight or intensity over time. You might begin by going all out, and then find yourself with a case of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) that will hurt so badly, you will not want to even think of working out.
  • Do not try to write or create your own programming to workout by when you first begin. You do not know what you are doing and have no clue about proper programming with zero experience. Seek out a beginning program established by someone with a solid reputation in the field. A good example for weight training is Mark Rippetoe from Coach Rippetoe has one of the most solid beginning weight training programs I have ever used myself.
  • Keep a training log where you write down each exercise, weight used and number of sets and reps performed, as well as your daily caloric intake and your mood before, during and after your weight training session. Keeping a log is a form of measurement. What gets measured usually gets done. If you have a particularly off day, then you can go back over your logs and quite possibly find the reason whether it be from not enough rest or insufficient food intake.
  • Ladies, never fear getting huge muscles from resistance training, your body does not produce the testosterone for you to get big. Getting large muscles, even for men, requires a lot of time and hard work in the gym. Getting huge does not come natural or by accident. If you are female and get big muscles from working out, then it will have been with very direct intention and most likely through the use of performance enhancing drugs.

General Tips:

  1. Wear comfortable workout clothing that you can easily afford. Expensive workout clothes do not help you to run extra steps nor do they help you lift more weight for more reps. You are working out, not working a fashion show runway.
  2. Wear proper fitting shoes designed for the exercise activity you are going to do. If you run, buy shoes that are going to provide proper support to your instep and that will hold up to regular running. Cheap shoes for running can actually cost you more money over time than a more expensive pair.
  3. If you weight train, an inexpensive pair of Chuck Taylor flat soled shoes are great. For overhead pressing, dead lifts and squats, you want a shoe with a sole that does not compress. There are specialty shoes available for weight training that have stiff soles and a gentle rise in the heel which helps you to get to proper depth when squatting if you have mobility issues which preclude you from doing so.
  4. Do not be self conscious of your level of fitness when joining a gym, rather, do not put off getting into shape in front of others solely because you are not in the physical condition they might be in. With very rare exception, nobody in the gym is going to be rudely watching and laughing at you. Most people in the gym are entirely focused on their own workouts.
  5. Getting proper rest is essential for good recovery between workouts, no matter what you are doing. Without good recovery, your body will soon burn out and your progress might not just stall, it can even go backwards.
  6. Proper nutrition and caloric intake is necessary in order to progress with your workouts. While you do not want to over eat your caloric needs, you have to eat enough in order to fuel your activity. If you are not consuming enough calories, you are obviously going to lose weight. The problem is, too large a caloric deficit will also have you burning off lean muscle tissue along with your unwanted body fat. This is not helpful when trying to get lean and fit. You can go to our Calorie Counter Pro in the main menu to figure out your daily needs based on your age, gender and activity level.
  7. Consuming an adequate amount of protein is a must if you are going to exercise vigorously. Protein is the building block of life which helps us to build, or at least, to maintain our lean muscle mass. The more lean muscle mass you build, or maintain, the more efficient your body’s metabolism is going to be at burning off fat. Women who exercise regular should consume at least .6 grams of protein per pound of body weight, men should consume at least .8 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
  8. At David’s Way, we strongly advocate concentrating on bringing your body to a healthy body fat level instead of concentrating on a random scale number you think you might want to weigh. You can drop body fat and lean muscle tissue and still be what is termed skinny fat despite reaching the goal weight you set for yourself. Skinny fat is no healthier than just being fat. And being as you can have a false sense of security about your health based solely on your weight, you stand a greater risk of health issues that will take you down because of lack of awareness.
  9. You cannot out exercise a bad diet. Abs are made by proper diet. All the abdominal work in the world will not give you a 6 pack if you still eat poorly.
  10. You cannot spot reduce fat on your body. Think about this and re-read number 9.

Find an exercise activity that you enjoy. Make it fun and you are going to stick with it much longer.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Brenda Sue says:

    This is necessary reading for everyone!

  2. lunchbox270 says:

    Unfortunately, a lot of gyms in my area do have people that make rude comments and/or laugh at overweight people that are working out. It’s terrible, because a person is doing something to improve their life and make themself healthier, and they’re made to feel self conscious.

    1. David Yochim says:

      Thank you for commenting. This is most unfortunate to hear that others would make fun of anyone trying to get into shape. May I ask where you are from?

    2. Brenda Sue says:

      That sounds like high school. Overweight patrons should just keep pushing until they make them eat their words. “He who laughs last, laughs best.” Mature gym goers know better than this.

  3. Matthew Gilmore says:

    I wish I’ve read a post like this a few years back when I was just getting into running. I basically did everything wrong haha. Great article, David. What do you think about this hip flexor program by the way? I keep reading about it but I can’t make up my mind if it’s worth the effort or not. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

    1. David Yochim says:

      Hip flexors can cause serious issues for a lot of folks. For $10 it might be worth it for you to look into, it’s not a bad price for advice and instruction. However there is a lot available for free on the internet you can access.

      Thank you for reading and commenting.

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