A question came from a gentleman who was once fairly active, former military, but had not done anything in about five years other than an occasional weight lifting session at his gym.
The question was:
"How do I get back into working out again without killing myself after a five year hiatus?"
What I recommend for situations like this is to start off easy. So many times I have seen people start off Day One with a 3-4 mile run because "that is what they used to do." This philosophy can also be seen in the weight room with people lifting heavier weights than they should at first. Depending on your goals and your chosen method of exercise, I would start off doing the following:
Add ONLY stretching to your fitness routine. Walking and biking is fine too, but do not run or lift weights during Week 1. Stretching should be done twice daily for about 10-15 minutes each session. Warm up your body and joints with a fast walk, jumping jacks, and jump rope for about 2-3 minutes. Once warm and just about to break a sweat, start stretching your arms, legs, lower back and abdominal region.
Add water to your diet - this week of hydrating will help you prepare for a week of additional caloric burning and keep you cooler during your first exercise day in Week 2. For every 100 lbs of body weight drink 1/2 gallon of water a day. I weigh 200 lbs roughly and I drink at least a gallon a day. This helps the body burn fat more efficiently. In fact it takes two things to burn fat as your energy source: WATER OXYGEN = FAT BURNING. The oxygen comes from either the aerobic exercise of walking or running or anaerobic exercise of calisthenics and weight lifting.
If running is your ultimate goal try a safe running program as written in my Military.com article "Running Plan for Marathons."
This is a safe way to build up from not running in a while. In fact, it may even be wiser to run a few minutes and walk a few minutes until you get accustomed to the demands on your heart, lungs, and legs.
If you choose weightlifting, I would recommend using Week 2 as a calisthenics base week. Do pushups, crunches, lower back exercises, or try some pullups or assisted pullups. You can add lightweight dumbbells of bicep curls, triceps extensions, and military press with repetitions up to 10-15 times. For your legs, do not do weight squats or 1/2 squats if your knees are previously injured. This easy-paced week will help alleviate the pain of working joints and large muscle groups for the first time in several years. These exercises are all pictured in the above free eBook and will help you go from zero to sixty in a easy pace that will more than likely keep you free from injury.
Good luck and keep the questions coming. Hope the ideas come in handy. For a great reference, check out the Stew Smith article guide.
Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Military.com Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at Military.com. To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.