How to Choose a Workout That’s Right for You

A fitness expert explains how to find an exercise regimen that best fits your needs

Sure, if you’re thinking of starting a new workout routine, there’s certainly no shortage of activities to choose from.

In fact, there’s so much variety that figuring out where you might want to start may even feel overwhelming.

Maybe your friend is trying to convince you to give indoor cycling a go, or maybe you think CrossFit looks like fun. There are so many options, but no way to tell which might be a good fit.

Of course, as long as you exercise safely, there’s no harm in giving any new exercise a test ride. But if you truly want to get the most out of your workouts, there are a few important factors you should consider before committing to a plan.

Below, Dean Maddalone, P.T.A., C.S.C.S., U.S.A.-W., professional athletic performance director at Professional Physical Therapy, explains everything you need to know about getting started.

The Active Times: What’s the first thing people should consider when setting out to start a new workout routine?
Maddalone: When looking to start a workout routine, one needs to ask oneself, ‘What are my goals, and what am I looking for?’ If you are not familiar with working out, find a gym that offers instructions and demonstrations on how to use the machines. If you need guidance, look into working with a qualified personal trainer to set up a program for you.

What types of popular workouts are best for people who want to lose fat?
There are many 30-minute workout routines to lose weight and get in shape. High-intensity training is another type of workout that will help lose fat. It is important to remember that it is not just exercise that may help someone lose fat. Proper nutrition is key, and an appropriate diet may help speed up the process. It often is worthwhile to speak with a qualified nutritionist or dietitian to help set up a proper diet — customized for your body type, medical conditions and goals.

What types of popular workouts are best for people who want to gain strength and/or build muscle?
Any type of strength training will build muscle. There is no one perfect workout. It all depends on your goals and experience lifting weights. Beginning with simple bodyweight exercises will give a beginner a good start to develop strength and muscle. As one becomes stronger, one needs to apply a load — weights — to help muscle grow.

What are some things people should avoid or be cautious of when deciding what new workouts to try?
Avoid rushing into high intensity or cross training too soon, especially if you have never trained before or have not trained in a long time. It is better to go back gradually and build a good foundation of strength and endurance, before rushing into more intense types of training.

Why should people be concerned alert about injuries, and what are some tips for preventing and recognizing them?
Some people may not know the difference between muscle soreness from exercise and pain from exercises. Muscle soreness usually lasts 48 to 72 hours after exercise. Soreness lasting longer than 72 hours may be an indication that either the exercise was performed incorrectly or for too long. If you experience pain ‘deep in the joints’ stop the exercise and review how you are performing it. If you attempt it again and it hurts, stop that exercise. If you continue feeling discomfort or pain, see a qualified healthcare professional.

What are some tips people can follow to help make sure that they’ll stick with their new workout routine?
Have a plan of what exercises, sets and reps you are going to do for a specific day. Don’t just show up at the gym and randomly use machines or weights. Set goals for yourself, and make them realistic. Set goals like: "X" amount of weight you would like to lose and "Y" amount of weight you want to squat. Give yourself realistic goals, and try to set timelines when you want to reach those goals. In addition, write down your workouts in a book and bring it with you each time you go to the gym. This will show how you are progressing and also gives you accountability to help you reach you goal.

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