8 Thing I Wish I Knew before Starting My Fitness Journey

This is another guest post from our fabulous intern, Nicki. While she is currently a certified personal trainer, she had to start somewhere, too, and she knows what it’s like that first time you step into the gym and contemplate picking up a pair of weights. Here is some of the advice she wishes had been shared with her back then.

I started seriously lifting when I was just a sophomore in high school, which puts me at about 6 years now. When I started, I had no idea what the heck I was doing. I’ve been through many phases in my endeavors: sport-specific training, powerlifting, body-building, swimming, physical therapy, and more.

Now, I am a Certified Personal Trainer and an (almost) graduate with a degree in Exercise Science. Through my education and a lot of trial and error, I have learned a lot, and there’s still plenty more to learn. I want to pass along some information to the beginners out there who are just now starting their fitness journey. Here are a few bits of advice that I wish I had been given when I first started. 

1. No one is looking at or judging you

I know one of the main concerns that most people have when starting to go to the gym is that they are afraid of being judged. As an anxious person, I 100% understand this fear. But take it from a veteran lifter, we all know that everyone starts somewhere. Most of the individuals you encounter in the gym are too focused on their own goals to worry about yours. Take your time, challenge yourself, educate yourself. It gets easier!

2. Not every exercise has to be 3×10 or 4×12 to be effective

I feel like the most common training parameters I hear about are 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps. Those are fine, don’t get me wrong. Those are the parameters that are typically used to achieve gains in muscle size. If those are your goals, then great! But I often see people who are training for strength using these parameters and seeing little results. So if your goals are more strength oriented, I would recommend switching it up every now and then. The parameters for strength are sets of 2-6 of 6 or fewer reps. Keep in mind, you should be using a weight that challenges you, so you should be using a heavier weight for 6 reps than you do for 12.

3. Start at a light weight while learning proper form

This kind of coincides with number 1: no one cares what weight you are using. It’s much more important to be using proper form than using heavier weights. If you cannot perform the weight with proper form, reduce the weight. Once you get the hang of the form, then definitely challenge yourself. But don’t hurt yourself trying to look like the strongest person in the gym. It’s not worth it. It can be helpful to watch YouTube videos or talk to a trainer if you are unsure about the form. If you are comfortable with it, try filming yourself as you perform the exercise so you can watch it back and see what you need to work on. 

4. You will notice things getting easier before you notice your muscles growing

In the first couple of weeks of training, you will notice that you are moving weights easier, without noticing a huge difference in your body composition. This is because your muscles “learn” to move heavier things faster than they can grow in size. Be patient, it takes several weeks to notice serious changes in muscular hypertrophy.

5. You will most likely see a lot of change right away, and then not so much.

If you are a real beginner to the gym and getting proper nutrition, you are probably suddenly burning a lot more calories than you used to. If one of your goals is weight loss, you will probably experience a lot of success in your first few weeks. Eventually, your body will adapt, and it will be more challenging to continue seeing big results. Continue to challenge yourself by gradually increasing the load and/or repetitions.

6. No amount of donkey kicks or bodyweight squats will get you a bigger butt. I’m sorry.

I know I’m spilling some major tea here on some popular fitness accounts, but the best way to grow your glutes is by resistance training and eating plenty of protein and carbs. So don’t waste your time doing a million of the exercises that are actually made to be warm-ups. Some of the best exercises for growing your glutes are compound movements, such as hip thrusts and split squats. If you perform these at a weight that will safely challenge you and fuel your body properly, you should see some changes.

7. You cannot get bulky by accident

I hear a lot of people ask how they can get in good shape without getting “too bulky”. They see pictures of bodybuilders and are afraid that by following a standard training program, they will look like that too. I’m here to tell you that getting ripped biceps and shoulders takes some serious hard work, is not sustainable for a normal lifestyle, and certainly doesn’t happen by accident. Please, train your upper bodies, it is super important for functional fitness, injury prevention, and posture. 

8. You CANNOT spot reduce fat 

More tea to be spilt here. I don’t care how many fitness influencers try to sell their “arm fat burning” or “stomach toning” exercise programs. Say it with me: you cannot spot reduce fat. Which means, no matter how many curls you do, you cannot train away the adipose tissue in your upper arms. No matter how many crunches you do, you cannot immediately get abs. Only by training under a caloric deficit (eating fewer calories than you burn) can you lose fat. And when you do lose fat, you cannot pick and choose where it goes first. 

Being a newbie in the gym can definitely be intimidating. Just remember that everyone is there to better themselves, and they were all beginners once, too. You may be surprised that most people in the gym are actually very respectful and supportive. 

If you are unsure how to start, talk to a professional. A CPT can help you to shape your workouts to best achieve your goals. A health/nutrition coach can work with you on your dietary habits to best fuel your body for energy and recovery. Take your own experience and learn what works for you, and soon you will be an seasoned gym-goer too!

 

 

What to do when you don’t have time to workout

Even the most dedicated gym junkies can have days where they are just flat out and can’t make it to the gym. That’s OK! No one is ever going to get their routine perfect 100% of the time. Period. However, even on those days where you’re stuck in the car or in back-to-back meetings, there is a lot to be said for getting a little movement in. So what can you do on those days where your calendar simply doesn’t allow for your 3 mile run?

1. Stretch it out

If you’re spending a lot of time behind the wheel or at your desk, some stretching will go a long way to help you feel better, keep your muscles limber, and get you a little more energized. Try opening up your chest to counter hunching by clasping your hands behind your back and pressing them away from you. Stretch out those hamstrings by extending your legs and reaching for your toes (you’ll get a little lower back release as well!). Or try a seated twist to give your spine some lovin’. Here are a few more examples of exercises you can do at your desk. 

2. Find the opportunities for movement that you can

Every little bit helps, so find those opportunities to get your blood flowing when you can, even if it’s just little things. Try taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Try parking a little further than usual to get a little bit of a walk in. Or set a reminder to get up and take a quick spin around your office every hour or so. This will give you a few extra moments to recharge and re-energize.

3. Work your legs

If you have a little bit of time for a workout but aren’t sure what to do, working your legs will help you get maximum burn for what little time you have. Your legs contain one of the biggest muscle groups in your body and bigger muscles mean more calories burned because it takes more to move them. Working some squats, lunges, and resistance band exercises will get those legs moving and those calories burning.

Getting even a little bit of movement in will help you de-stress, feel better, and have better energy. It will also help counteract some of what sitting all day can do to our bodies. So move when you can and don’t stress about your missed workout.

Don’t Do These Things

Don’t – Try to compensate by eating too little

Skipping a meal or two to compensate for a missed workout is not going to achieve any good. If anything, it will leave you cranky, tired, and less able to recover from your regular workouts. Yes, you do not need to consume as many calories on days when you’re not working out. So be mindful and pay attention to your hunger cues instead of trying to overcompensate. Eat healthful foods when you’re hungry and stop eating when you’re satisfied. I can promise you that the impact of one skipped workout is not as drastic as you may worry it is.

Don’t – Try to make up for it with an excessive workout the next day

This just isn’t how our bodies work. You can’t make up for a missed workout by pushing yourself too hard the next day. All that’s likely to get you is injured or too sore to workout the next time. Just pick back up where you left off.

Don’t – Beat yourself up about it

Like I said before, no one will ever get their routine perfect 100% of the time. We are human and life happens. Be gentle with yourself and don’t let this missed workout derail your efforts. Just assure yourself that you’re getting a break today and you will get back into your routine tomorrow. The wonderful thing is, you can always start back on your routine. 

10 Tips for Keeping Yourself Motivated to Work Out

We all lead very busy lives and it can be all too easy to find a reason to skip the gym for the day. I think we have all been in the place, though, where one excuse becomes many and before you know it, you haven’t exercised in weeks and have 0 motivation to get back into it. Taking that first step to get to the gym or hit the road for a run can be the hardest part, but if you can get that momentum started and keep it going, it gets loads easier from there. So how can you get yourself started and keep yourself motivated? Here are some tips that have worked for me and for my clients.

1. Find a workout you enjoy.

When it comes to fitness and weight loss, everyone has an opinion or story to tell. “Oh well, I ran 5 mi a day 5 days a week and I lost 30 lbs without changing how I ate!” “My cousin started doing Zumba twice a week and she has had amazing results.” It’s wonderful to try to share your success tips with others, but, here’s the thing, every body is different so what works for one person may not work for another. This isn’t just a physiological fact – it’s a psychological fact as well. If you hate running, then you are not going to get the same results as your friend who loves running and does it religiously. Why? Because you’re going to be miserable doing it, you’re unlikely to push yourself as much through it, and, chances are, you’re going to find any excuse not to do it because you hate it. If you find a workout that you have fun doing, then you are far more likely to stick to it and you’ll see better results.

2. Like your fitness clothes.

Fact: if you are uncomfortable with your body, you are not going to want to work out. Period. However, if you can invest in fitness clothing that you are comfortable in – that cover the spots you want covered, that fit the way you like, that breathe and allow flexibility – then you will be much more comfortable working out. Plus, I don’t know about you, but, if I have a fun new workout outfit I just bought, I’m way more excited to workout in it.

3. Track your progress and praise yourself.

It can be really easy to get discouraged and want to give up for a number of reasons. My advice, then, is find something about your workout that you can be proud of or makes you feel good and focus on that. For example, maybe you didn’t run as far as you wanted to or you struggled through your workout the whole time. Instead of focusing on the things you wish were different, high five yourself for getting out there when you weren’t even feeling it in the first place or for sticking it out even though you were struggling. Hold onto that self-praise and set a new goal for you to meet the next time.

4. Reward yourself.

Now, I don’t mean go out for a burger or ice cream here – not only will that defeat the purpose of your workout, it will also start you on a very unhealthy cycle. What I mean here is set a goal for yourself that you will continuously be working towards – maybe it’s running 5 miles or dropping a pant size – and pick something that you will reward yourself with once you reach that goal. It can be a pair of shoes you’ve been wanting or a new Fit Bit or a massage. Having something that you are working towards will help keep you motivated. The trick here, though, is that you can’t give in to the temptation to say “good enough” and treat yourself before you reach your goal.

5. Once you get that momentum going, don’t stop.

I think we can all agree that once you take a couple days off from working out, it is really hard to get back into it. To make sure that doesn’t happen, try to stay active regularly to keep that momentum going. You don’t have to keep at your regular workout routine every day, but commit to taking a 30-minute walk or doing some yoga while you watch TV. The goal is just to have something that keeps you moving so you don’t lose that momentum.

6. Find a workout buddy.

Accountability makes a huge difference when it comes to motivation. Find a reliable workout buddy and set a regular schedule to work out together. Make sure they are reliable though! I often see people declare themselves gym buddies and they just make excuses for each other to skip the workout.

7. Don’t make it a project.

If you have to drive 30 minutes to your gym or rush to and from commitments to get your workout in, you aren’t going to do it. Maybe you’ll do it a couple times, but it will fall off. Your workout doesn’t have to be a huge to-do. Take a run around your neighborhood or do a fitness video in your living room. Working out doesn’t have to include a gym membership and a commute.

8. Don’t compare yourself to others.

Comparison isn’t just the thief of joy; it can also be the thief of motivation. Constantly comparing yourself to others can make you feel self-conscious and defeated. Too much of those comparisons and negative self-talk can quickly slide into thoughts of “I will never be like that so why should I bother trying?”. Who are you exercising for? Yourself or them? I hope the answer is for yourself so you can live longer and healthier. If that’s the case, then who cares about anyone else at the gym or on Instagram? You’re in this for you, so focus on you. Confession: I get really self-conscious when I’m out running. My solution is to wear my sunglasses and listen to good music so I can drown out the rest of the world (but still hear traffic. safety first, after all) and focus on myself.

9. Find some music you like.

Music is an amazing motivator. It shifts your energy and affects your mood. Put on some music that makes you feel happy and energized and get out there!

10. Change it up.

If you do the same workout or run the same route every day, not only will you stop getting the same benefits from it, you’ll get really bored with it, too. Keep yourself interested in your workouts by switching it up and trying something new every once in a while, whether it’s running somewhere new or trying out a new fitness class like Zumba or kickboxing.

Your health is simply too important to let excuses get in your way. Follow these tips and get yourself moving so you can feel your best and live your best life!