Happy new year, everyone! Now is the time of year when gyms make all their money from people signing 1 and 2 year contracts and only showing up for the first 2 or 3 weeks. Don’t become a statistic! I’m here to help you avoid this fate and to help share some ideas on how to be successful in the gym in the long-term. Let’s get our swoll on!
Obviously the first thing you want to do is spend a wack o’ cash on new gym gear to show everyone how serious you are, as mostly to prove it to yourself. I kid! I kid! Don’t do that. Next, you want to sit on your couch and focus your energy on thoughts of you getting in shape. If you do this you can manifest a perfect body simply by willing the universe to conspire to make it so. I kid! I kid! Don’t do that.
Ok, lets get serious. Some of the things I’m about to say I’ve said elsewhere in my blog, but because most of y’all either haven’t read or haven’t applied my patented perfect positive quantum energy fitness system yet, I will repeat it.
Let’s Get It Stahted in Hah!
Gear. Don’t spend any money on new gym gear unless you really don’t have any.
Supplements: Buy 1 month’s supply of protein powder and a shaker cup. It doesn’t have to be the top of the line stuff. I suggest whey protein. If you have a sensitive stomach (awww, are you sensitive?) you might want to avoid the cheaper whey protein concentrates and go for an isolate and/or micro-filtered.
Do not buy any other supplements regardless of what you hear. The ones for which there is more than industry hype will be a waste of money for a beginner/amateurs and most supplements are 99.9999% industry hype to begin with (except for Andean Dandelion capsules, that shit will get you ripped in 2 days and cure cancer).
As long as your are following a decent meal plan (which I’ll outline) you won’t need anything thing else to “boost your immune system” or “promote/support” a healthy fill-in-the-blank. Big Alt-med is out to get you! Don’t be fooled by their conspiracy to sell you shit you don’t need and that has no proven efficacy!
Pick a Physical Activity: Ok, er’body thinks they have to go to the gym to get in shape. This is obviously not true. You can pick just about anything that you will enjoy doing 3 times a week as long as it makes you sweat. Are you moved by dance? Learn to prance! Do you want to be Bruce Lee? Learn marital arts like me! (Editors note: “marital arts” is a typo but it’s funny, so I’ll leave it.) Do you like Zumba? Play a tuba! Were you born under Aquarius? Swimming lessons are hilarious! Are your legs feeling dead? Try running instead!
Folks, the important thing is that you choose an activity that you will enjoy and look forward to; do not choose something you will dread attending/doing. For people who haven’t grown up with an active lifestyle I suggest something social because being part of a group requires less discipline than an individual activity (I’m not judging…just an observation: that’s science!). To that I should add that it helps to have a training partner, someone who will motivate you to go on days you aren’t as motivated and you can do the same for them.
Choosing a Facility/Gym: Depending on your chosen activity you will have a choice of different types of facilities. The good thing about gyms/community centers now-a-days is that the myriad fitness classes (notice it’s just “myriad”–please don’t ever use “myriad of” or I will have to hurt you) are often included in the price of your membership.
This is advantageous for several obvious reasons, most of which is that you have a choice of many activities with only one membership fee. Don’t feel like doing spinning class today? Hit the weights, I say! Don’t feel like doing a boot camp? Swim in the pool, it’s damp! Don’t feel like doing Zumba? Play the tuba!
The lesson here is that, unless you are an absolute die-hard about one particular fitness activity you should choose a facility that offers options that are included in the membership.
Choosing a Trainer: For those of you who are either completely new to fitness, want to learn/improve more than what you’ll get in a group setting, want to feel comfortable in the weight room I highly recommend investing in a personal trainer.
If you haven’t used weights before or haven’t used them very much you should spring for at least 3-5 training sessions to get you started then once every 2 weeks or so until you’re sure you’ve got down. Why?
1. 90% of people in the gym use incorrect technique. This is not an exaggeration. I trained for years using incorrect technique. Weight lifting at its finest is an art and is similar to ballet in that you can spend a lifetime perfecting fundamentals. If you don’t understand what I’m talking about then you are one of the 90% (no shame in it, everyone starts there).
2. Incorrect technique means injuries–especially if you’re over 35.
3. Incorrect technique means your gym time is inefficient–you are not getting the benefits you came for.
Hiring a personal trainer needn’t only be for weight training. Often a (good) trainer will design a program that incorporates weights, plyometrics, stretching, aerobic exercise, and Zumba to help you meet your personal fitness goals in a way best suited you your dispositions and strengths.
Choosing a trainer isn’t easy if you are new to the activity because you have no way of gauging their quality or knowledge. The personal training industry isn’t very regulated so there is an incredibly wide spectrum of quality and expertise. Some certifications can be done in a weekend, and some require months, or even a university degree. In the gym, I am very often awestruck by the poor technique or useless exercises I see “professional” trainers teaching. I don’t mean to scare you away from the idea but it is worth doing some research or trying out a few before settling on a trainer.
For those of you in Vancouver who live near the Drive I put my seal of approval on Roy Duquette from Duquette Fitness (working out of Spartacus). I have trained with him and he is extremely knowledgeable and professional. (This isn’t meant to be a plug for a friend–he is legitimate and well-respected in the industry).
As a rule of thumb, if the person doesn’t have the kind of body you’d expect from someone who makes their living in the fitness industry, try someone else.
Some Comments on Weight Training:
1. Myth: if women do weight training they will get too muscular. Not true–unless you inject yourself full of steroids and kill yourself in the gym 6 days a week this isn’t going to happen.
2. Myth: Weights are too heavy. Use less weight.
3. Not myth: weight lifting is an excellent complimentary exercise for other fitness activities. Your fitness plan isn’t an either/or proposition. Weights make an excellent compliment to a different primary activity, or a different activity can compliment a fitness plan that focuses on weight training.
4. Not myth: There is a growing body of evidence suggesting weight training retards (hehe! he said “retards”) aging more than any other activity and it also increases bone mass (hehe! he said “increases bone mass”).
What exercises should I do? Unless you are planning on entering a bodybuilding competition you should incorporate as many compound movements as possible and limit isolation movements.
A compound movement is one that uses more than one muscles group. Some of the best are: Deadlift, Squat, Military Press, Clean, Clean and Jerk, Bench Press, Bent-over Rows, Dips, Chin/pull ups.
Unless you have been instructed in doing these lifts you should not attempt them (with the exception of the last two) even if you have experience with other lifts.
Doing them incorrectly can result in serious injury but doing them correctly will reap enormous benefits and will maximize your time in the gym.
My advice in choosing a trainer for these lifts would be (best choice) to choose someone who has competed or coached power/olympic lifting. If you can’t find someone who meets these qualifications then a personal trainer with a good reputation will do.
Many of these lifts are either power or olympic lifts and while they look simple are very complex and difficult to do correctly. To return to the ballet analogy, anyone can teach you how to bend your knees–it looks simple enough–but a correct plie takes years of practice and a good teacher.
Meals/Nutrition: Ok, this could be a book but instead I’m just going to tell you what I do. It works, and that’s science! Feel free to substitute other items of comparable nutritional value.
Note and Update: The amount of protein you need varies depending on your bodyweight. There is NO good data suggesting you need more than 0.7g of protein/lb of bodyweight/day. Also, about a year after writing this I went pescatarian and 2 years after that vegetarian. To learn how to easily ensure protein requirements on a vegetarian or vegan diet read these two articles:
1) You CAN Make Friends with Salad without Losing Gainz
2) The Myth of Incomplete Plant Protein
Breakfast: tea, 1 or 2 pieces of wholegrain toast; 20-30 grams of protein (egg whites/sandwich meat/peanut butter).
Lunch: Large salad/serving of vegetables (enough to fill a family sized salad bowl); 20-30grams of protein (chicken/beef/fish); small bowl of grains/1 piece of wholegrain toast/bread.
Go to Gym
After workout: Protein shake (mixed with water) with a banana/berries.
90min after workout: Large salad/serving of vegetables; 20-30 grams of protein (chicken/beef/fish); 1 piece of wholegrain toast/bread/small bowl of grains.
If you’re still hungry later: protein shake or 20-30 grams of protein (chicken/beef/fish).
1. If you go to the gym in the morning then go after breakfast and your 90min after workout meal will be your lunch, and lunch will be moved to dinner.
2. Eat things in the order I listed them. Eat the salad veggies first to fill your stomach (I usually eat them while my protein is cooking) then when you eat your protein you won’t overeat. Finally, when you get to the carbs you’ll be full so you may not finish them. The point is to fill your stomach with vegetables before you eat the higher calorie foods.
3. If your days are long and you work out a lot you will need to adjust to carb intake to a level low enough to make you lean but not so low where you feel sluggish in your workouts. Generally, consume your carbs early in the day and as the day progresses, consume fewer.
4. Drink sufficient water throughout the day. No need to drown yourself, but make sure you’re getting some!
5. When you go shopping DO NOT BUY JUNK FOOD! Once it’s in your house you will eat it. It’s easier to say no once in the supermarket than it is to say no every time you walk by the cookie jar! Eventually the cookie jar wins! If you want junk food, make yourself wait for your cheat day, and only buy what you will consume on your cheat day! I like exclamation marks! Yes, I do! I ALSO LIKE CAPS-LOCK SOMETIMES!!!
6. Buy some protein bars–nothing over 300 calories. Protein bars these days taste just as good as any chocolate bar. These are good to have around if you a get a craving for junk food. They taste the same but aren’t going to do the damage. I recommend Cliff Builders and Atkins bars for calorie count and flavour. But experiment and see what you like.
7. Eat your calories, don’t drink them. Avoid high-sugar drinks (obviously) and limit fruit juice to 1x a day max, preferably early in the day.
Well, I could spend days writing about this stuff but I just wanted to offer a little overview. I know for many people it isn’t in their nature to exercise regularly so hopefully this will help those of you who fall into this category get (re)started on this path. In the Ayurvedic tradition (argument from ancient wisdom) they say “The body is the outer-most layer of the mind”; so lets hit the gym and make that outer layer SHREDDED! 🙂
If you have any questions or comments please post them and I’ll to my best to respond. If you want to share some inspirational stories, keep them to yerself! (I kid! I kid!)