When you know your body is ready

One of the best things about exercise is the power it gives to create changes. With time differences in physique, stamina, muscle tone, even sleep quality and mood become evident. Exercise is also a great way to consistently challenge ourselves. We can set goals or shatter our personal best. These gains are realized by starting, of course. But also we must step up our efforts over time because the body quickly adapts. How do you know when your body is ready? Here are some tips.

Man Exercising DumbbellsYou feel yourself gaining strength and stamina – maybe when you started you could walk or run a mile in 20 minutes. In a few weeks you may notice that you are able to travel the distance with a bit more ease. If so, consider challenging yourself to run or jog more, finish in 19 minutes or extend the distance by a quarter or half mile.

You are able to maintain proper form – good form is critical for most kinds of exercise including weight lifting, running and yoga. Poor form can lead to injury and may even reduce the effectiveness of your routine. When you are a beginner, much of your focus will be on noticing your form. Part of the challenge will be learning the form and the other part will be maintaining it even when your muscles are fatigued. When you get the hang of it and form feels like second nature, even with tired muscles, your body is probably ready to step it up.

You are better able to control your breathing – breath management is important for exercise. For example, when lifting it is generally recommended that you exhale for the lift or during exertion and inhale as you lower the weight. Give yourself time to get the hang of this rhythm. Likewise, newbies to cardio may feel like their lungs are on fire in the first several weeks. They may also find it difficult to carry on even short conversations. Be patient and keep heading out. With time you will notice that your breathing is less labored.  Consider working out a little harder then.

men exercising on gym machineYou notice that your heart rate is lower after moderate to intense exercise – to get a good gauge by which to measure, take your heart rate after a hard workout at least once each week. As you gain strength and stamina you will notice that your heart rate is reduced. That’s because as you become conditioned your heart will not have to work as hard. Here is how to get your heart rate: Place two fingers on your wrist, just below the base of the thumb. Count the number of beats for 15 seconds. Take this number and multiply by 4 to find your heart rate in beats per minute.

Ultimately, the best way to know when you are ready to advance is just by paying attention to how you feel. For example, you may notice that you recover more quickly or you feel less tired during reps or between sets. The key is just to keep getting out there. You will improve with time but consistency is key. Don’t make the most common mistake of beginners – push too hard too fast. You’ll risk a sidelining injury that keeps you out of the fitness game and stops progress.