If you’re just jumping back into a fitness schedule (or getting started for t he very first time), a feeling of discouragement is natural. You’re trying something you’re just not used to, and you might be scared that you might not be in good enough shape to make it to the end of the workout.
There’s no shame in toning down the intensity, however. Doing something is better than nothing, and you simply won’t get any stronger or leaner by working out too hard or too fast.
Plus, working out “the wrong way” (ie, heaving weights around with improper form) reduces the efficacy of your workouts and the muscles you’re trying to target won’t get stronger. Not to mention your risk of injury skyrockets.
Instead of getting demoralized, blaming yourself, or just throwing in the towel altogether when having difficulties with a workout, here are some tips to tone the intensity down to a manageable level.
What if I …
Can’t lift that much weight?
“Go for lighter weights” is the easy answer, but beyond that, don’t be afraid to rely on bodyweight alone when just starting out. Mastering good form is the most important part of any exercise. When you learn an exercise without your arms being loaded down with weights, you also minimize your chance of injury as well – dropping a chunk of iron on your toe never feels good.
Can’t keep my breath for the whole workout?
For most workouts, you should be breathing at about the “orange” zone – that is, you’re definitely exerting yourself, but not so intensely that you start to lose vision or get dizzy. If you start feeling either of these, STOP working out immediately.
By the same token, don’t try to sprint through your workout. Go for full extension. Feel the burn, as they say, and don’t rush it.
Am not that flexible?
Flexibility is amazing because you can see yourself improve a tiny bit every time you stretch. Seeing these incremental improvements is incredibly motivating. However, you can easily create an incredibly painful, debilitating tear if you go too deep into a stretch, or stretch too quickly.
DON’T “bounce” your stretch to use the weight of your body to go deeper. Breathe into your stretch; go into it and out of it slowly. Realize your boundaries and listen to your body. Never push past “pressure” and into the “pain” zone, even if you’re not as flexible in that moment as you would like. Flexibility comes through stretching regularly, not forcefully.
Can’t do a push-up?
Pushups are painted as one of the most fundamental exercises around. Because doing a good pushup relies on having a high ratio of upper body strength to overall body weight, some people are just naturally better at pushups.
I’ve seen 14-year-olds bang out 40 pushups like it was nothing… but because they weigh so little, they’re basically cheating. Even if you can’t do a single pushup, don’t fret.
There are two ways to make pushups easier. First, try distancing your hands more. A wider spacing works your pectoral muscles more versus your triceps, equating to an easier rep.
Second, try planting your hands higher, like on top of a bench or box. The lower your feet are compared to your hands for a push-up, the easier the rep will be. Try starting almost vertical and working our way down until you find your “sweet spot” where you can comfortably do 10 to 20 reps.
It’s always better to do a toned-down workout fit to your skill level than over-exert yourself in the first 15 minutes then collapse into a quivering pool of sweat and lactic acid.
Also be sure not to “lift with your ego.” Trying to impress yourself or others with how much strength or endurance you have is NOT why you are working out. Even if you feel timid or embarrassed with your current state, realize that you’ll never improve if you try to do an exercise too hard, too fast, or too heavy. It’s simply dangerous and counterproductive.
What are some good “beginner” tips you’ve found that keep you on track when a workout is too tough? Share your advice in the comment section below.