The Top Five Things to Consider When Starting a Workout Program

It never ceases to intrigue me when some clients come to me and tell me their stories about going straight from being a couch potato to joining an intensive boot camp.

Amazed, I listen to their stories and wonder what has happened to common sense.

If you have never done a proper push-up or a squat, how do you think you can manage boot camp? Has it occurred to some of us that boot camp is to push already in-shape individuals to the next level?

With this in mind, the proper question for people just starting an exercise program is: What makes sense to do when you are just starting out, and what can you do on your own to structure a personalized workout that is safe?

This is easier asked than answered, as there are so many factors that play a role. Here are factors that you should think about:

Goal: What is your goal? Now don't be too broad; tell me your goal exactly, in numbers, and in what time frame.

For example: "I want to improve my overall muscle tone by losing 2 percent body fat by Nov. 2, 2007."

Leave it too broad, and you won't be able to measure your progress in the future. An example to avoid would be: "I would like to lose weight." Yes, this is great, but tell me exactly how much and in what time frame.

Also keep in mind that weight loss in and of itself does not always have to be the goal. For many it is to finish a triathlon, hike Mount Everest, complete a marathon, improve their running style or learn about proper lifting techniques. Whatever it might be, each of those goals will have a different time frame -- and therefore, a different training schedule.

Solutions: Now you have your goal. But how are you going to get there? Come up with solutions that you can execute. No, not just five or 10. Come up with at least 20 possible solutions. Most of the time, solutions 17 through 20 are the most valuable solutions for you to implement.

Capabilities: If you have been inactive and your goal is to run a marathon in two months, you might be facing an uphill battle. I am not saying you can't do it, but be smart and build your body up to the challenge.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you might have injuries that need to be taken care off first before you start proper training. Muscular imbalances can be another issue. You can do anything you want if you but your mind to it. But be smart about how you approach it.

Time: How much time do you have available to train, and how much time can you really commit to? Those are important questions, and both have a different meaning. Commitment means that you are actually doing what you set out to do. So think about it first: How much time can you reasonably commit to?

Structure: How do you build your workout program? This is one of the questions that I have received many times from individuals that I have met who could not afford personal training sessions, and it is not that easy to answer. But let me give it a try.

Understand that all of our bodies are different. We all have different activities we have experienced in the past, and therefore different central nervous conditioning.

Think about it. Some of us competed in track and field in college, while some played football or basketball and some took dance classes. Each of those requires a different skill set and different strengths. Hence, how can you explain to somebody what to do if you have not met that person? Without knowing the strengths and weaknesses of their muscular system and the short and long muscle groups that need to be corrected for the system to work efficiently, it is an extremely difficult task.

Getting Started

One of the best approaches is to look into your posture first. What is posture, many of you wonder? Ideal posture is the best possible body position to execute movements most efficiently. By accomplishing a correct body posture you prevent yourself from getting injured.

If you are really want to learn more about your ideal posture I highly recommend to pick up the book "Muscle Testing and Function" by Kendall, McCreary and Provacne, fourth edition. Educate yourself and find a personal trainer who can analyze your body as mentioned in the book.

As soon as you have corrected muscular imbalance, you can move further into the strengthening section of your program. Keep in mind there are many different ways to strengthen your body. But one of the easier that you can do is to use your own body's resistance -- and you don't even need a gym.

Such exercises are a good start, and you can do them anywhere. Additional resistance can be added on through weights or rubber bands. Your goal is to build up lean muscle weight to burn more fat tissue on your body.

Set Your Goal -- and Go for It

Keep in mind that it is important for you to know what you would like to accomplish. A program designed for a bodybuilder is different compared to that of a person who competes in track and field, or who wants to do gymnastics, or who is injured.

But no matter what you decide on, the most important thing is to get started and do it step by step. Don't rush into it. Enjoy the process, plan it out and stick to your commitments to improve your body. Most importantly, keep in mind your goals, your solutions, your capabilities and your time availabilities.

To help you get started, please go to and download the free goal and solution sheet, which you can find in the Mental Detox box under the link "forms."

Fill it out and stick to it. Do it again after four weeks and see how your goals and your solutions might have changed by comparing it to your first document.

Stefan Aschan is the owner and founder of, a New York City-based enterprise that provides nutrition advice and exercise programs.