Starting An Exercise Program And You Want To Do It Right? Eleven Valuable Exercise Tips.


Joe Friel said“Successful endurance training is exactly like turning a Styrofoam cup inside out. So long as you take it slowly, you’ll be able to do it. Try to rush things and—rip!—you’ll tear the cup. You are the cup.”

Hi folks,

When you start an exercise program you have to remember that there are two aspects to the human body, one of them is the perfectly designed machine, the other is the fragility of its component parts.

flower, next to building site, FitOldDog photo of flower

Delicate flower next to construction site. Scooter just had to be in the picture, too! Photo by FitOldDog.

Unlike the mechanical excavator, which is made almost entirely of steel, the human body is more like the delicate flower that I saw on the ground adjacent to this work site, being composed of trillions of delicate little bags of water and protein, called cells. We are strong, but we come with severe mechanical limitations (as does steel), but unlike the mechanical man-made machine our bodies don’t come with an instruction manual. Here are some pieces of advice from FitOldDog on how to approach a new exercise program through the application of a system of safe exercise for better health. But before you start, I strongly recommend that you carry out the ‘Joe Friel Styrofoam Cup Exercise.’ This will provide you with the humility needed to train safely and within your limits.

Left cup is a control, and the right one is completely 'prolapsed (turned inside out) but you can see stress lines at the junction of the base with the side. Took me about 10 minutes!

Left cup is a control, while the right one was turned inside out, very carefully, by FitOldDog. Took about 10 minutes!

Click on the figure of the two Styrofoam cups to read a blog post about this fascinating metaphor for the human body. These cups are not great for the environment, and whilst being delicate they are strong in certain ways, just like us. In the case of the cup the weak point is the base, so take care when you do the exercise. In the case of your body you will have to determine where your weak points lie, which might include your knees or your heart or who knows what, maybe even your aorta? (Hope not – been there done that). This is why you should start your exercise program with a medical exam and include a good history of your family – I never knew my Dad or whether he had an abdominal aortic aneurysm, but if he did that information could have saved me a lot of risk. OK! Onto the list of advice on your new exercise program.

I’ll tell you where NOT to start: don’t start somewhere crazy.

  1. The FitOldDog Safe Exercise Wheel runs clockwise, starting at the top, with reward or celebration as a critical final component of each cycle.

    Click on image for Podcast.

    Sit down and think about it for a while, and even make some notes about where you were before you stopped exercising, what injuries you suffered (want to go there again?), what you enjoyed about training, at what level of intensity or volume you were working out at back then, and so forth. Then go for a nice long walk, and see how you feel the next day.

  2. Write out a list of the injuries and health problems that you have suffered in the intervening period, and consider their potential impact on your planned exercise. For this issue, Feldenkrais is well worth considering.
  3. Write out your goals for this intended training, and consider preparing a plan of exercise. Once you have a goal, say a 5k run, downgrade it to a 3k run! You’re out of shape, right? Think about it.
  4. Before you start out on your training program from Runners WorldLiveStrong.Com, or wherever, make a plan to incorporate the following issues into your program: core strength (try PilatesContinuum, Yoga or Gyrotonic, they really work), flexibilitybalance, and specific skills needed for your chosen sport in a form that minimizes risk of bodily damage.
  5. Before you start, talk to your physician, but please select one who knows something about exercise and training, especially in your chosen activity. I won’t go to a physician who is seriously out of shape, myself! Actually, a trip to a good physical therapist is another good idea. He/she will find your weak spots (did for me).
  6. If you have a health challenge, such as I have with my abdominal aortic aneurysm, talk to other people in the same position as you who have successfully mastered a healthy training program. You can also find chat rooms or forums where your issue is discussed (see the useful links tab on this site for examples), such as Cardiac Athletes or NATA for Training with Diabetes.
  7. Make sure that you have the right gear for the sport, such as well-fitting running shoes, bike, racket, whatever.
  8. Don’t forget your nutrition and hydration, as they are critical for the enjoyment of any sport. This is a subject worthy of study once you increase the duration of your exercise, especially if you are outside in the elements.
  9. Consider some coaching if you are returning to a sport, as a good coach will assess your level of strength and competence and help you to set your training and other goals realistically. For instance, you might have been a great tennis player twenty years ago, you hit the courts remembering what you were like, and two days later you have severe wrist pain due to tendonitis. Who you were and who you are today are not necessarily the same thing. A good coach will protect you from this counterproductive behavior by slowly scaling up your training, and recommending some simple strength exercises to undertake before you even picked up a racket. Just bending down to retrieve a ball a few hundred times during a game, done incorrectly, can have you crippled with a bad back for days. Something that never happened when you were a youngster.
  10. Reassess your progress and setbacks on a regular basis and modify your goals accordingly.
  11. MOST IMPORTANT – don’t give up, your life may depend upon it.

Exercise can be a journey of self-discovery, so have fun, and don’t forget that while the 10% rule is just a rule of thumb, it does reflect a critical attitude or state of mind.


-k @FitOldDog


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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.