Tips to safely start a workout routine

Jan 7, 2021

St. Joseph’s/Candler exercise physiologist discusses best practices for aerobic and strength exercises

It’s that time of year again when many of us get back in the gym after a hiatus – whether that’s a couple of months, a couple of years or maybe never.

If it’s your goal to routinely work out this year, either in a gym like the St. Joseph’s/Candler Wellness Center or at home, being smart and safe with weights is important to any workout. Common weightlifting mistakes can hinder your fitness goals and could even cause injury.

John Babos, St. Joseph's/Candler Wellness Center

“At the Wellness Center, we are definitely in an environment where it’s safety first,” says John Babos, exercise physiologist at the Wellness Center. “Knowing how to properly perform an exercise and that you are comfortable doing it either on your own or with a trainer is important.”

So to help you get started and stay safe working out in 2021, Babos offers these tips.

Do an assessment first

At the Wellness Center, our exercise physiologists do a beginning assessment with each client. This is an opportunity to discuss goals, medical history and level of fitness/functionality. During his assessments, Babos also demonstrates how to use cardio and weight machines before putting a client to work.

If you are working out from home, understandably so during a pandemic, you can call the Wellness Center with questions or do a self-assessment in which you also consider your goals and fitness capabilities. Remember to think S.M.A.R.T. when setting fitness goals.

Related Article: Think S.M.A.R.T. when setting your New Year’s resolutions

Begin with aerobic exercises

Especially if you are getting back into the gym or are new to working out, you may want to begin with cardio machines – or walking at home – first, Babos suggests. This will help get your heart rate up and shed some pounds. Who couldn’t use that following the holidays?

Don’t overdo it with cardio in the beginning. You’re not expected to run a marathon or even a mile. Start at a slow, reasonable pace and incline and then add a bit of speed or duration each work out.

Related Article: Need help deciding which cardio workout is right for you?

Adding strength training with weight machines

After a few workouts of just cardio, Babos recommends incorporating strength training. He starts clients out on weight machines rather than free weights.

“I like to start people out on machines because the movement on a machine is going to help do the right technique for you,” Babos says.

Just like with cardio, Babos recommends progressing with your strength training workout. Start out with high reps and low weight and then move into lower reps and heavier weight as you progress.

Babos also likes to incorporate aerobic exercise with strength training. A workout doesn’t have to be 30 minutes on a treadmill or bike and then weights. With many of his clients, he does five or 10 minutes of warm up cardio and then moves to weight machines. In between reps, he adds in jumping jacks, a medicine ball or battle ropes. This keeps your heart rate up while still getting in a muscle building workout.

When to add free weights

Besides our theme of safety, you may be picking up that progression is key to a successful workout routine. Babos suggests moving ahead to free weights – dumb bells, bench press – three to even six months into your new fitness plan. For many, this is about the time of the dreaded plateau or when you feel ‘bored’ with your workout.

There is an exception. For those working out at home, you probably want to consider free weights first, Babos says. They are much cheaper and easier to come by. Babos also recommends fitness apps and YouTube videos for guidance.

Just like in the gym, when working out with free weights, safety should come first.

  • Don’t overdo it on weight.
  • Technique is more important.
  • Always use a spotter when using a bar bell.
  • Always make sure you have clips on the bar.
  • Remember, strain doesn’t always mean gain.

“You certainly want to be challenged when you work out, but you can go too far, weight-wise,” Babos says. “When you work out, your goal is to burn calories and get your heart rate up.”

About the St. Joseph’s/Candler Wellness Center

Whether working out in a gym or at home, we hope all have a successful – and most importantly safe – fitness routine this year and many to come.

If you are looking for a place to work out, consider the Wellness Center at Candler Hospital. We offer all the amenities you’d expect from a gym, plus personal training, group fitness classes, nutritional counseling and classes, as well as massage therapy. Call 912-819-8800 to join or visit our website for more information.


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