How can I get fit properly?
December 26, 2008 3:51 PM   Subscribe

How can I get fit properly?

I am a 21 year old male who has never exercised before. I want to get into a proper routine but I don't have enough money to go to the gym. I'm not overweight but would like to exercise in order to improve my health, strength and stamina.

Does anybody know of any good free resources that could help me? I specifically need information on routines without equipment (keep in mind they must be understandable to someone with no experience) and also on how to eat properly considering I will be burning more calories.

I am also a vegetarian.
posted by Fluffy654 to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
For beginners' weight training, I think Stumptuous can't be beat--it does focus on women but most of the recommendations are completely applicable to men too. It's also got good info on making the most of working out without a gym.
posted by phoenixy at 4:04 PM on December 26, 2008

Simplefit is a good place to start. (They list some pull-up substitutions here. You can also substitute two burpees for everyone one pull-up.)
posted by ignignokt at 4:10 PM on December 26, 2008

Obligatoire C25K link.
posted by fire&wings at 4:11 PM on December 26, 2008

Best answer: Yeah, Stumptuous's weight training section is really great for beginners, men or women. Added bonus for vegheads: it has a page on the wonders of cottage cheese as a muscle-building food.

I've got a lot of friends who use SparkPeople for workout routines that require little or no equipment, plus food recommendations and daily food tracking. It's free.

A lot of rookies make the mistake of focusing solely on cardio or solely on weight training, depending on their eventual goals (losing weight or getting ripped). It's also common to begin too hard, too fast, too often because you're feeling ambitious at first, and then you may well end up excessively sore or injured, get discouraged, and eventually give up. You don't want to make any of those mistakes. Start with realistic, small goals, even if they seem ridiculously small at first, and try to seek a balance of cardio, strength training, and flexibility work by the end of your first month.

A good idea is to try assessing yourself with a short fitness test, like the President's Challenge Adult Fitness Test or the Discovery Health Fitness Test. I've heard complaints about the accuracy of the "percentiles" the President's Challenge test places you in, so you might want to ignore your rankings compared to other adults at first. Instead, use the results to get a baseline for yourself, and try to improve your numbers week by week. Maybe you start out only being able to do 7 push-ups at a time and your goal after two weeks is to be able to do 10-13, e.g.

Consider buying some cheap equipment like a fitness ball ($30), or a jump rope, or a few sets of hand weights, and an exercise mat especially if you don't have a nice carpeted floor at home. None of these things cost all that much and you can potentially get tons of use out of them. If you don't have any cash to spare at all, no worries for now; look for "calisthenics"-type exercises or exercises designed to use your own body weight as resistance.

As far as eating goes, you can start out by Googling "vegetarian athletes" / "vegetarian strength training" / "vegetarian runners" or something like that. The Runner's World Vegetarian Diet page has a bunch of articles and I think some book recommendations somewhere. Strictly speaking, people who are just looking to get into acceptable shape don't usually need to make huge diet modifications, but it often happens that beginning an exercise plan motivates you to keep feeling better and improving your health or performance by eating better, too.

You don't say what your current diet is like, but if you eat like the average young vegetarian guy I know, you're going to want to do five things:
  1. increase the proportion of protein foods in your diet; quite easy to do as a vegetarian, a bit more challenging as a vegan; whey and egg proteins, as well as whole food sources like yogurt, milk, lower-fat cheeses, egg whites, etc. are excellent in this role; beans can also serve as a combined protein-carb source
  2. decrease the proportion of highly refined carbohydrates like white breads, chips, cookies, juice, and either cut out the soda or drink as little as you can stand;
  3. replace at least half of your starch intake with whole grain breads/pastas, beans, lower-glycemic root vegetables like sweet potatoes, whole starches on their own like oatmeal, quinoa, etc.;
  4. increase the number of different vegetables and fruits you eat every day, especially darkly-colored ones; you should be eating at least 2.5 to 5 cups of fruit and vegetables each day, and french fries don't really count;
  5. use nuts, avocadoes, olive oil or canola oil, maybe some flaxseed oil as your sources of fat instead of regular margarine, or shortening, and avoid foods containing "hydrogenated oils" (aka trans fats or trans-fatty acids) on their ingredients lists; butter is okay sometimes, but don't make it your primary fat source
  6. if you're a pescetarian instead of an ovo-lacto vegetarian, choose cold-water fatty fish like wild salmon, mackerel, sardines, and eat some shellfish like oysters and clams for zinc (vegetarians are sometimes deficient)
This is kind of gimmicky, but plenty of people buy themselves a few copies of magazines like Men's Health, Runner's World, etc. to provide food/workout ideas or just offer motivation. It can keep you going if you see that there are other people out there focusing on this stuff.

I think if there's two major tips that make a difference for a lot of people who are starting out, one is to find a workout buddy whom you can commit to meet somewhere to go walking/running, and the other is to start slow even if you feel completely absurd forcing yourself to jog and do push-ups and ab bicycles for only ten or twenty minutes, three times a week at first (adjust as needed to your current abilities). You will get there eventually, I promise, and it's far better to take an extra two or four weeks to get things up to speed than it is to push yourself to the wall during the first two weeks and burn yourself out on boredom or pain.
posted by jeeves at 5:12 PM on December 26, 2008 [8 favorites]

It's going to be hard to get fit and spend NO money. Bare minimum, you're going to need a new pair of shoes, a jump rope, and a pullup bar.

Can definitely be done on a budget, though. I would focus on running, jump roping, and bodyweight strength training. Check out the couch to 5 k linked above. Here are some links for bodyweight strength stuff: BeastSkills, DragonDoor, Gymnastic Bodies, Ross Training.

That should be a start.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 5:25 PM on December 26, 2008

Sign up for SparkPeople. It will design an exercise program for you that varies depending on what equipment you have available. You can also track your calories through the site.
posted by PueExMachina at 5:35 PM on December 26, 2008

You say you have no money for the gym, but you might find that the equipment you need is available for free/very little cost. Ignore the big gyms with tons of cardio equipment, LCD screens and personal trainers - maybe look into getting permission to work out in a local college gym, or perhaps there's a sports hall with some limited equipment that you can use for a much lower fee, or in exchange for some kind of labour etc.
posted by djgh at 6:00 PM on December 26, 2008

Don't discount kids' jungle gyms (that the kids aren't using) for pullup bars as well, so long as you can deal with the occasional "what's this guy doing" stare. Also don't forget to have some energy (read: carbs) in you before you start your workouts, lest you get the shakes halfway through and have to stop.
posted by squorch at 7:28 PM on December 26, 2008

I am a male nearly twice your age and I strongly recommend yoga. It doesn't require props, you can rent mats at nearly all studios, there's a cornucopia of methods to choose from, it's considered one of the best "lifetime" sports/activities/exercises, the mostly female clientele can be motivating (or possibly embarrassing, or intimidating), instruction for beginners is often excellent, classes can be had for as little as $10/per (even in NYC) and/or often workstudy exchange is available, there is a wealth of philosophy on so many things (including diet), it is very difficult to eat within 2 hours of a class (particularly in advanced practice), contrary to mainstream perspective it is not "just stretching" it can be very physically demanding involving a great deal of sweat, cardio, even tears, instruction ranges from very gentle to near militant (depending on the teacher/ method), hydration, breath, diet will take on new meaning if practiced regularly, etc. and so on.

Please MeFiMail me for further details.
posted by ezekieldas at 5:00 PM on December 27, 2008

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