Exercise Basics

We know you’re busy. That’s when it’s even more important to find time and energy to care for yourself. Sticking with an exercise plan will help! Your Fitness Coaches want to help you start exercising today. We’ll support you and celebrate your progress along the way. Here we are going to introduce some of the basic terms and ideas that you’ll hear. They will help you understand and succeed in your fitness plan. If you have any questions or need more help, just reach out to us!


Learn. You’ll find lots of info on fitness, exercise, and your health.


Practice. Follow the tips and advice from our fitness experts.


Let us help. Track your goals together with a Fitness Coach.

Expert Guidance Along the Way

  • Brendon Rearick, CFSC
    Fitness Program Manager
    Brendon is the Fitness Program Manager at Crossover. His drive to be the best version of himself led him to co-found Certified Functional Strength Coach, a fitness education company to certify trainers, for which he travels and coaches for often. Brendon holds a degree in Kinesiology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
  • Emily Jennings, CFSC, FST
    Fitness Coach
    Emily is a Certified Strength Coach and earned her Bachelor's degree in Exercise Science from LIndenwood University, where she played volleyball on scholarship. Always curious and wanting to learn more, she attended a Fascial Stretch Therapy course and many other courses that enabled her to help people move even better and feel great.
  • Jonathan Polidoro, CFSC, CSCS
    Fitness Coach
    Jon is a Fitness Coach at Crossover who earned his Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education from West Chester University of Pennsylvania. He has extensive experience helping workers balance their hectic and stressful schedules with fitness and biometric testing. Jon believes fitness should enrich someone’s life, not consume it.
Basic Exercise Explained

What does it mean to be ‘fit’? If you’re fit, it means you are flexible and strong. Strength comes both from your muscles and your cardiovascular system. When you’re fit, your heart and lungs are healthier. It doesn’t mean you don’t get out of breath when you’re working hard! It just means your body can work hard and recover afterward. 

Being fit allows your body to focus less on moving and breathing, and more on managing disease, fatigue, and stress. And when you’re getting fit, you don’t have time to sit still! For most of us, this does not come naturally. It does take work to become fit—but it is worth it!

Exercise is how we work on our fitness. Keep reading to find out how.

Exercise Basics – True or False

Find Your Starting Point

Things to Consider Before Starting

Answer these few questions to see if you are ready to start an exercise program. If you answer ‘yes’ to any question, consult with a Crossover physician before starting physical activity.

Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire

  • Has your doctor ever said that you have a heart condition and that you should only perform physical activity recommended by a doctor?
  • Do you feel pain in your chest when you perform physical activity?
  • In the past month, have you had chest pain when you were not performing any physical activity?
  • Do you lose your balance because of dizziness or do you ever lose consciousness?
  • Do you have a bone or joint problem that could be made worse by a change in your physical activity?
  • Is your doctor currently prescribing any medication for your blood pressure or for a heart condition?
  • Do you know of any other reason why you should not engage in physical activity?

Get an online Fitness Assessment with one of our Fitness Coaches. Here are some of the benefits to doing an assessment and working with a coach:

  • Your Crossover coach is connected to your healthcare team and medical goals
  • You’ll learn how to use exercise to prevent or manage health conditions
  • Your coach will talk about your exercise history and experience level before starting
  • You’ll test your flexibility, endurance, strength, and balance
  • You’ll get a customized plan to fit your needs and goals
  • Your coach will support and guide you as you make progress and enjoy successes

Before Starting a Plan

Write down the reasons why you want to start exercising. Make it personal and important to you. Put your list in a place where you will see it every day. Your “why” list will help keep you focused. When you feel tired, unmotivated, or need to remember what all of your hard work is for, read your list!

Decide how much time you can consistently dedicate to exercising. You might be surprised to learn that even just 10 minutes of exercise can be your starting point. Even short bursts of activity have been proven to provide some health benefits. As you look at your schedule, think about where you can multitask. Do some countertop push ups while you’re waiting for coffee to brew. Get a couple sets of squats or lunges in during a commercial. You can even set a reminder in your phone and do a 30- or 60-second plank hold during lunch—those seconds add up over time!

Respect Your Starting Point

Whatever exercise program you are about to start, keep in mind that progress takes time. The most common mistake is working out too hard, too soon. Change will not happen overnight. Gradually introduce movements and exercises to reduce your risk of injury and burn out. 

Goal #1 should be to develop a habit through consistency. If you have not exercised in a while, start slowly and build a routine you can commit to. Try to maintain a moderate level of effort (you should still be able to hold a conversation while working out). Always stop before you are exhausted. If you’re experiencing slight soreness after your workouts, that is normal. No single formula works for everyone. As your exercise and amount of activity becomes more familiar, you can gradually increase intensity.

Set A SMART Goal

Types of Goals

There are different types of goals to consider when starting an exercise routine.

  • Long-Term Goals: These are the goals you hope to reach after by exercising regularly for an extended amount of time. Picture your long-term goals as the top of the mountain. What is it that motivates you? 
  • Short-Term Goals: These are goals that you meet on the way to your long-term goal. What are good indicators that you’re on the right path?
  • Process Goals: These are things you can do immediately to help clear the path to success. What can you do that will help you stop making excuses? (No time to work out in the morning? Lay out your gear the night before!) What can you do to help you stick to your plan? (Bored with one workout? Try a new class or instructor!)

Writing SMART Goals

Defining your goal in a specific way is very important. Goals like “I want to look better” or “I need to exercise more” are too broad. Getting more specific about what you want to achieve will help you focus on not just your goal, but how to reach it. One helpful tool is to make goals using something called SMART goals. SMART stands for: 

  • Specific: Be as clear as possible. Do you want to lose weight? If so, how much?
  • Measurable: Make sure your goal can be tracked and measured with numbers.
  • Achievable: Set a goal that is challenging but possible for you to reach.
  • Relevant: Your goals should be meaningful to you and your health needs.
  • Timebound: Figure out how much time you need and set a realistic deadline. 

Examples of SMART Goals

  • Long-Term SMART Goals 
    • I will reduce my fasting blood glucose to < 130 mg/dL within five months.
    • I will be able to exercise moderately hard at least 150 minutes per week within four months.
    • I will build up to being able to strength train with resistance at least two days per week within three months.
  • Short-Term SMART Goals
    • I will walk on my lunch break four days of the week for the next six weeks.
    • I will attend four fitness classes a week for the next five weeks.
    • I will schedule a fitness assessment and three personal training sessions this month.
  • Process SMART Goals
    • I will tell myself each morning that I am a person who values exercise.
    • I will schedule 30 minutes of time to exercise after my work day.
    • I will get at least seven hours of sleep each night.

Want to talk with someone about your goals? Reach out to our Fitness Coaches for help!

Set A SMART Goal

Design A Complete Workout

Warm Up Properly

Warming up, even a little bit, is very important before a workout. Adding a warmup to your routine will reduce risk of injury and ensure you get the most out of your workout. When you have been sitting, laying down, or standing still for a long period of time, your body is not prepared to exercise. As you begin moving, it takes time for your body to react and to prepare your heart, lungs, joints, and muscles for increased activity.

During a warmup, circulation to these areas increases. That brings oxygen and energy into your body, and sends carbon dioxide out. A warmup also increases your body temperature, heart rate, and breathing rate. All of this helps your body get ready for the exercise to come. 

So, before you work out, spend about 5–10 minutes warming up. Some good warmup ideas are listed below. You can do anything that you enjoy that will help get your body ready to exercise. The goal is to feel your body get warmer and for you to sweat lightly:

  • Walk briskly
  • Spin on a stationary bike
  • Use an elliptical machine
  • Move your arms (arm circles, wall pushups, jumping jacks)
  • Move your legs (air squats, half lunges, heel raises)
  • Stretch specific muscles

Here is a great six-minute, dynamic warmup to try!

Sample Dynamic Warmup

Leg Lower
Sidelying Open Door
Bridge Marching
Arm Circles
Wall Slides
Cross Connect March



Work Out Properly

The type of exercise you perform should be related to your goals. For example, if you want to tone certain muscles, you should do strength training. To keep it simple, follow this guide:

Flexibility Training

These workouts help reduce stiffness and muscle tension, and promote recovery after more intense workouts. Working on flexibility will help you feel loose and move more freely during your day. Specific flexibility workouts include yoga, pilates, and gentle stretching. Flexibility training usually includes breathing through longer stretches to give your muscles a chance to release. Be patient with yourself, especially if you aren’t normally flexible. You’ll get there! Here are some good flexibility workouts to try:

Cardio Training

Cardio training works to strengthen your cardiovascular system. That’s the system in your body that uses your heart to pump blood all through your body. Cardio workouts help strengthen your heart, control blood sugar, and burn fat as fuel. Working on your cardio will help you catch your breath and stay energized throughout your day. Specific cardio workouts include walking, aerobic circuits, and running. These are usually moderately hard, but you can start slow and ramp up as you feel stronger. Here is a good cardio circuit to try:

Strength Training

These workouts help build muscle, which you can see after doing it for a while. Some benefits you can’t see are increased bone density and a faster metabolism. Strength training will help you move heavy things and decrease the risk of repetitive stress injuries. Specific strength workouts include weight-lifting, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), and resistance training. If you haven’t done strength training before, you can just begin by using your body weight. You don’t have to buy any special equipment to get started! Here is a good strength circuit to try:


Cooldown Properly

Just like a warmup, cooling down properly is also an important part of any workout. Adding a cool down to your workout lets your body know the hard work is over and it’s time to focus on recovery. Cooling down after working out also gives your body a chance to gradually bring your heart rate,  breathing rate, and circulation back to normal.

Going for a short, slow walk or doing simple stretches for 5–10 minutes after your workout is great. By the time you are done, you should feel like your heart rate is much lower than it was while you were exercising.

Finalize Your Plan

Once you find your starting point, set a SMART goal, and design a complete workout, you’re ready to make a plan. Each week, no matter what your goals are, your workout schedule should include a bit of everything. Include some flexibility training, cardio training, strength training, and rest days. Sleep and good nutrition can also impact your plan.

Build In Rest Days

Each time you exercise, you’re challenging your body to improve in a specific way. In order to get the full benefits of that workout, your body also needs time to recover and heal properly. More rest days are needed when you exercise at a high intensity. And if your workouts are less intense, your body needs less time to rest. When you’re building your plan, always remember to make time for rest days. They will help you reach your goals.

Workout Duration

When you’re trying to figure out how long to work out, you have to think about your starting point. The length of time you exercise depends on your fitness level. The more fit you get, the longer workout you’ll be able to handle. If you’re just starting your fitness journey, you’ll want to start small and build slowly. And of course, always include time for a warmup and time to cool down. The ACSM and CDC recommends all healthy adults aged 18–65 years old should:

  • Exercise at a moderate intensity for a minimum of 150 min per week, or at a high intensity for a minimum of 75 minutes per week.
  • Include strength training a minimum of two days each week. 

You might not be able to start there, and that’s okay. There’s no pressure to. You can build up to that point over time, or keep it in mind as a long-term goal.

Workout Intensity

The intensity of your workout should also depend on the type of exercise and your goals. Here is a guide:

Staying Dedicated

Everyone feels unmotivated sometimes. Motivation to start and complete your workout can be different each day. People are good at coming up with a lot of excuses for not exercising! When motivation is low, discipline can kick in to help. That is why we like to focus on staying dedicated to the plan you set. There are a few tips and tricks to help you stick with it even on the days you are running low on motivation.

  • Keep it social: Not only is it great to see friends but having a workout buddy can help you stay accountable.
  • Mark your calendar: Having a goal to look forward to on the calendar like a race or event can help you stay focused on your training schedule.
  • Try a new place: Include time in your workout plan to try out a new park, gym, or class. We highly recommend taking our free Fitness Classes as well.
  • Track your progress: It is always great to see how your body and mood change for the better when you’re exercising regularly. 

Change your perspective: Sometimes people think of exercise as something you “have to do” or as punishment. Instead, challenge yourself to think of it as something you’re lucky to be able to do. Consider movement a gift you give your body to thank it for everything it does for you each and every day!

Sample Workout Week – Moderate Level

Expect A Little Soreness

Soreness As A Sign

Muscle soreness can indicate different things depending on when you are feeling it. And soreness is different from pain. Pain should never be part of a workout (even a difficult one). 

  • Soreness during a workout: If you begin experiencing some low-level soreness in your muscles while exercising, it is probably still okay to keep going.  However, sharp pains or significant discomfort is a sign that you must stop and rest for the day. 
  • Soreness after a workout: Some soreness is normal. It can actually be a good sign that your body is changing and healing. It is also a sign that you are working out at the right level and do not need to push harder to have results. 
  • Too much soreness: If you are exhausted for days after a workout, or have sharp pain, those could be signs that you’re training too hard. Pain is different from “normal” workout soreness. Some fatigue after a workout is expected, but you want to feel energized from your exercise, not worn down.

Being A Little Sore Is Safe

The general rule is that you should feel little or no soreness after each workout. A small amount lasting only a few days is okay. It should never be so much that you can’t do your daily activities. And it shouldn’t force you to stop a workout before it’s done. 

Currently having some aches and pains that are stopping you? Schedule an appointment with one of our Physical Therapists or Chiropractors to help you overcome it.

Play the Long Game

It is possible to start seeing the benefits of your workout plan in just a few days. But remember, changes to your overall health and physical fitness take time. It takes many rounds of exercise and recovery to create lasting changes. Stay consistent and dedicated to the process, and to your SMART goals.  This is more important than any one workout or hard effort. 

Staying consistent also helps prevent injuries and burnout. If you miss a workout, do not try to ‘make up for it’ by making the next one twice as hard or twice as long. This is a common mistake that can quickly cause you to get off track. Simply start again with whatever is next on your schedule. If you miss a number of workouts in a row, think about why. Maybe it’s time to reduce how hard or how long you’re working out for a while. There are a lot of reasons why your body may need a break. Slowly build back up until you are at a point where you were before.

Occasionally, vigorous workouts are okay to do. Pushing to the point of exhaustion does have its benefits. However, like with any skill you’re learning, you want to ramp up to the harder levels gradually. For example, if you’ve never done more than walk on a treadmill, don’t expect to be able to sprint on it for 45 minutes out of the blue. When leveling up, always choose a workout type that you’ve done before at an easier effort level. Also, make sure that you support the increased effort with better sleep, nutrition, and other recovery strategies.

Remember, your body will adapt over time. But everyone is different. Try to compare your progress to where you were before, rather than to where someone else might be. Listen to your body, too. If your workout doesn’t feel great on a certain day, think about why. Have you been traveling, fighting a cold, or not sleeping well? All kinds of factors can affect how you feel when you exercise.There is not much that will speed up this process without risking injury or burnout. Be patient, stick to your plan, and play the long game. If you do, you will be able to accomplish your goals!

How Crossover Can Help

We know that change is hard but we also know it is worth it. Now you have the information to get started. If you want a partner alongside you, please contact a Fitness Coach for help. We would be happy to schedule a time to talk about your goals and how to achieve them.

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Our website(s) uses cookies to distinguish you from other users of our website. This helps us to provide you with an exceptional experience when you browse our website(s) and also allows us to improve our site and serve personalized advertisements regarding services that may be of interest to you. By continuing to use the site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.