The anxiety rises. You have come to fear your morning ritual. Stepping onto the clear glass scale on your bathroom floor. “Something must be wrong with this thing” you say outloud, as the digital numbers jump past last week’s number, finally settling in at a nice round 250. “how did I let this happen?” The regretful and shameful question familiar to us all. Followed by “Never again!” the determined proclamation of change.
You are not alone and your strife is not unique. Many before you have made this proclamation and failed, for whatever reason. That doesn’t matter, this is your own personal battle, and many before you have succeeded. It will not be easy, nothing worthwhile ever is. I can assure you that getting fit and healthy is a worthwhile endeavor, it is worth the effort and the struggle. The rewards will far outweigh the sacrifices.
I will spare you the lecture on why it is important to get fit. At this point, this is common knowledge. We know about the risk for disease, not to mention the psychological toll of low self-esteem and lack of confidence.
You have many reasons to take on this challenge, and it is important for you to identify and remember them, as they will help motivate you on those cold winter days when you don’t have the will power to exercise or when you lose focus on your diet. This is a common problem, and it is always followed by an even more common question……
Let’s round this out to a complete health and fitness goal. We want to lose weight, gain strength, improve health markers, and damn it, look good naked. We need to approach this on three fronts.
#1. Exercise – we need to plan (and actually participate in) a safe, effective , and let’s not forget ENJOYABLE fitness program.
#2. Nutrition – I don’t like the word diet. When used in the traditional sense, diet implies a temporary fix, whether it calorie reduction or any other change. Instead, we need a plan for longevity. Chronic changes to our eating habits that are aimed at helping us achieve our goals.
#3. Rest and Recovery – this is often overlooked and abused principle of training. Too often, people get the fitness bug, go 100mph out of that gate, and get burned out. If we truly want to change our bodies, we need to learn to listen to our bodies and know how to maintain the machine. This means regular and ample sleep patterns. This means low-level fitness and flexibility work. This means showing dedication to our goals at all times, and not just the 60 minutes we are at the gym.
For now, let’s start at square one. I want to outline a basic, beginner, fitness program, with a few helpful hints, that should get us started on our journey.
- A few quick notes:
- If you are an absolute beginner, it may be worth your while to either schedule a few sessions with a good trainer or coach, or join a group class with instruction, so that you can learn the proper way to do the exercises you should be doing.
- Find exercises and activities that you enjoy doing. One of the biggest reasons programs fail is, you’re not having fun. If you don’t enjoy it, it is much easier to hit the snooze button or to drive past the gym on the way home each day.
- Develop a routine and stick to it. Don’t just go to the gym when you feel like it. Often times, you are not going to feel like it initially, but once you get inside and get warmed up, you may find reserves of energy you didn’t even know existed.
- For everything holy. Learn to warm up. Learn to cool down. And stay committed to your fitness work.
In the coming weeks, I will outline a complete program for you, but let’s run through a few guidelines for setting up a beginners program. Again, if you feel clueless and lost, find a recommended and qualified coach, and learn to get this done the right way.
Warm up – Do it. No compromise. Commit the 10 minutes to getting your heart rate up, getting your body primed up for harder work, maintaining flexibility, and practicing good patterns. There are a lot of options here, but make sure we are actually WORKING. Don’t just mindlessly walk on a treadmill for 5 minutes. My personal preference is to jump rope. I do sets of 30-60 seconds and then do some BW squats/lunges/push ups and continue repeating and raising the intensity level until I feel ready to get to the meat and potatoes of my work.
- Strength Training – If you are a true beginner, then it is important that you start with very basic stuff. We need to make sure we are developing flexibility and strength through a full range of motion, so that a foundation is being laid that we can build on. If you truly want to make progress and you don’t like wasting time, then invest the time now in mastering this stuff. Don’t just hit the gym and mimic what you see other people doing. A true beginners program is 2-3 days/week of full body work. Something along the lines of this:
- 5-6 Total Exercises.
- 2-4 sets of each exercise
- 10-15 reps each set
- Minimal rest in-between sets
- 1 bi-lateral (2 legged) squatting pattern
- 1 uni-lateral (1 legged) lunging/hinging/squatting pattern
- 1 upper body pressing pattern either machine, BB, DB, cable. Ect.
- 2 upper body pulling patterns (rowing/pullups) either machine, BB, DB, cable, ect.
- Some sort of core/upperback/shoulder work. Lots of variety here
Fitness – This is the most important, yet overlooked and poorly executed parts of a successful program. You need to be doing your fitness work at least 3-4 days/week. And most of this should be some sort of higher intensity interval type work. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to be out running 300 yard shuttles and sprints every day. It means you are going to pick a modality like TM, Bike, Swimming, ropes, sleds, jump rope, BW work, or literally any other way to move the body physically and you are going to do short intervals of tough work. Maybe its 60 seconds of running and 60 seconds of walking. It doesn’t matter, just work hard and commit the time and energy to this. DO NOT just casually walk on the treadmill and call it a day, you have just wasted your time and you will not see the results you want to see.
There are lots of ideas on this website already on how to make your fitness work more enjoyable and more effective, look around a little bit, find something new, and try it out. There is not perfect plan, but always remember, consistency and effort are your two biggest obstacles. It’s going to just happen on it’s own.
I would say good luck, but it is not about luck. It is about the decisions you make every day. So instead, I will leave you with this. WORK HARD.