It doesn’t matter whether you’re a beginner or giving experts a run for their money, there are some rules of fitness that apply to everyone, and there are no exceptions.

Rule 1: Start at the bottom

Few things affect your workout as deeply as your shoes and the first rule of fitness is getting the right support. Their job is to absorb the shocks imposed upon your body caused by running, jumping, or even walking. If done right, a well-chosen shoe can even better your workout. They don’t have to be expensive, but they do have to suit the purpose of your workout. A few things to keep in mind:

1. Decide what you want to use the shoe for.

Medicine is no longer the domain of the super specialists; sports shoes have also become a lot more targeted. Runners and walkers need to find shoes with good cushioning to absorb the shocks that are an inevitable part of movement. For gym training, cushioning may interfere with the stability of your workout, so shoes designed for weight training are preferred. For aerobic dance or workouts like Zumba, there are dance sneakers. And the list goes on. But if all of this is giving you a headache, a sturdy pair of multipurpose shoes is also a good way to start. You can use these to begin with, and then get more activity-specific footwear when the commitment to your workout deepens.

2. Do your homework.

Shoe stores have trained and knowledgeable salespeople who are equipped to help you, and chances are that irrespective of the brand, they will tell you similar things. Of course, the job of a salesperson is to make a sale, so you may want to check out reviews online or ask your friends.

3. Try not to buy shoes without trying them on first.

Yes, that online deal is tempting but find ways to try before you buy. There is absolutely no point in getting a good price if you’re trying them on for the first time after you’ve bought them. Forcing an active lifestyle on shoes that fit but aren’t quite right is one of the quickest ways to injure yourself.

When it is time to let go:

I was in the middle of instructing a class once when I saw something black whizz past the corner of my eye. I thought it was a mouse. Naturally, I started screaming because that is what you do when you see a mouse. The class came to a stop, and so did the black thing. It was not a mouse. It was a part of the sole of someone’s shoe that had disengaged itself from the mothership and escaped to freedom. If there ever was a time to let go of your old gym shoes, might I suggest it be before it lets go of you?

It is time to take special care when:

1. You wear them almost daily to work out or walk.

If your shoes absorb shock from high-impact movements on a regular basis, you will need to change them every six months. As your shoe ages, so does its ability to absorb shocks. Gym shoes, however, can last far longer than the pair you use to walk or run as they do not encounter as much impact.

2. When you get too comfortable.

Comfort in the shoe does not translate to comfort in the body. No matter how comfortable they feel, they can only absorb shocks for so long.

3. If you have new and inexplicable pain in your body.

Scaring a group class aside, disintegrating shoes can adversely affect your alignment, knees, feet, back and body.

Rule 2: Know thyself

Blindly following fitness influencers or your friends is a great way to keep doctors, painkillers, and ice packs close. Believe in yourself but always underestimate yourself at the start of something unfamiliar. One way of starting slow is with the programme you choose. For example, if you’re searching for a YouTube workout and you haven’t exercised much or with a particular trainer, always type “beginner”, and even then be careful – one trainer’s “beginner” workout is sometimes another trainer’s “intermediate”. Only graduate to the next level if you have “passed” the beginner level. The same goes for offline workouts, although many gyms or trainers put you through a fitness test or at the very least consult with you before they design your programme. Knowing thyself also extends to the choice of weight.

When is a weight too heavy? A weight is too heavy when your form goes out of sync. Or when you’re compensating the load by lifting with body parts other than the ones you’re supposed to be working out with. It could also be too light when you can do more repetitions than what is required of you. Selecting the right weight is a process of trial and error. If it’s too light, you won’t get strength gains, and if it’s heavy, you risk injury. It has to be a little difficult but not too difficult.

Rule 3: Stick to the rules

Running is not bad for you if you have the right technique and if you don’t have an underlying knee condition. Strength training can make you your leanest, toned self if you follow the rules. You can get fantastic results out of Pilates or yoga if you exercise with intent and pay attention to the form. You can get the best out of the 10-minute stacks in this book if you follow the instructions carefully. Most exercise programmes work if you stick to the rules because the rules have been designed keeping you in mind.

Rule 4: Back-up your fitness

A rainy day, an instructor on leave, the inability to leave the house and a shuttered gym are some of the reasons people tend not to show up for their workouts. If you are doing workouts other than those in this book, it doesn’t hurt to have a back-up option or checking an online class or investing in some low-cost equipment. After checking with a fitness instructor or a medical professional, you could also enhance (where not mentioned) the workouts in this book using:

1. Resistance bands
2. Dumbbells/travel weights
3. Skipping rope
4. Aerobic step
5. Ankle weights

Rule 5: You don’t have to break your body to achieve results

Work out at your own pace. Setting time aside to work out is not always easy to do, and you have the right to enjoy it. You can exercise twice a day, but you shouldn’t exercise for more than an hour at a time. Stay in your own lane and compete only against yourself.

The only clock you should be running on is yours.

Excerpted with permission from The Perfect 10: 10-Minute Workouts You Can Do Anywhere, Yasmin Karachiwala, Penguin India.