You’re joining the gym to get in shape because you’re sick of the way you look and the way it makes you feel.
I get that.
I made the same decision once upon a time.
Now that we’ve got the flirting out of the way, let me tell you a little about gyms in January.
Obviously, it is busiest time of the year for gyms across the world. Most fitness professionals get a ‘boom’ in business for a couple of weeks and, generally, there are a lot of people who know they should be in the gym but really don’t know what to do once they’re there.
As a result, my job becomes way more difficult because there’s hardly room to breathe in the gym, let alone train clients.
So the purpose of this post is to help out the January gym newbie, and also to make life easier for myself whilst I’m busy changing lives.
With that said, lemme fire some pieces of advice at you that’ll aid you on your journey to physical greatness; or even just less-shittyness, if that’s what you’re looking for:
1) Do not do 60mins of different cardio machines and then leave
…and, for the love of all things Holy, do not EVER queue for use of treadmills, EVER!
Doing 20mins on a treadmill, 15mins on a bike and some ‘ab work’ will lead to infinite boredom, will not have the desired affect you want it to have on your body and will increase your chances of ‘throwing the towel in’ before February rolls around by 93.67%. (See point 3 for a ‘what to do’.)
I totally understand that you’re out of your element in the gym, ‘don’t know what to do’ and are pretty intimidated by baby oiled up, g-string t-shirt wearing, fake tanned muscle heads who seem to do nothing but admire themselves and grunt. (Those guys are actually really cool once you get to know them, by the way. After all, they’re there for the same reason you are – to get better!)
But you can run on the roads for free, and it’ll stimulate you way more than staring at a wall or a mirror whilst you run.
Gyms are for lifting heavy things, increasing strength and increasing confidence.
Treadmills are a waste of space.
2) Don’t overdo it.
Just because you have your New Year’s resolutions and all the desire in the world to achieve them, doesn’t mean you have to be in the gym every day.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint and the sooner you come to terms with this, and accept it, the better your chances of success are.
Start off working out 2-3 times a week, then build it up to 4 or 5 if you feel you can. If not, cool. I’ve trained people to sick results with only 3 hours of exercise per week.
Incidentally, this’ll also make ‘the gym’ less daunting. If you get it in your head that you’ve got to workout every single day, and twice on your days off, you’re gonna burn out real fast.
If you make it to the end of the first week you’ll hate the gym and the feeling of trepidation you have when you’re en route to it.
The gym is a place to escape. It’s a place you should look forward to going because you know you’re going to achieve something when you’re in there.
And, hey, three hours a week isn’t too much to ask, given there’s 24 of them in a day.
3) Have structure in your workouts, and make ‘em progressive.
I appreciate that that’s exactly why the whole ’20mins run, 20mins bike, 10mins ab work’ thing is popular. I mean, how wrong can one go?
But, I’m talking about a structured resistance workout.
If you’re totally new to working out, aim for full body workouts to begin with.
An example workout along these lines would be 3 sets of 12 reps, with 60seconds rest, of goblet squats, incline push ups, rack pulls, seated row and step ups. (If you’re not familiar with those exercises, which you’re probably not, YouTube is your new best friend.)
Ask yourself at the end of every set: “How hard was that on a scale of 1-10; with 1 being a piece of piss and 10 being impossible?” The answer should always be around 7, at the start. If it’s a 5, increase the weight. If it’s an 8, decrease the weight. Shimples!
As you get fitter 9s and 10s will start to appear but don’t go too hard too soon!
Finish off with 4-5mins of ‘balls-to-the-wall’ 30second intervals on the rowing machine or spin bike and you’ll have had a great workout.
Once your fitness levels increase you can increase the intensity of your workouts by decreasing your rest period, increasing the weight you’re lifting or switching your routine to maybe a lower body workout, an upper body workout and a full body circuit-style workout.
If you’re unsure of what exercises and workouts to do, you could either ask an instructor at your gym for a program, buy a fitness magazine and do the workouts in it, sign up to my 6 week Online Coaching program* or hire a trainer.
*Sign-up closes next week, see ___ for more details.
4) Do not follow a low fat diet, count calories or starve yourself.
Just to make sure you understand, I’m going to state those three instructions again:
Do not follow a low fat diet, count calories or starve yourself.
I have trained hundreds and hundreds of people on both sides of the world and I have never asked one client to eat less food.
Of course, I ask them to cut down on processed foods, take-aways, crisps, chocolate, alcohol and all the other things we all know aren’t going to get us in the swimwear section of a Matalan catalogue anytime soon.
But I’ve never said: “eat less food”.
Quite the contrary, I always ask people to eat more food, to consume more dietary fat and to avoid any ‘diet’ foods.
My advice to you, and it is general advice, is to obtain the majority of your calories from animal products, vegetables and fats, such as grass-fed butter, coconut oil and nuts.
These foods will leave you feeling satiated, full of energy and are the keys to a lean physique.
5) Accept that changes do not happen overnight.
Everyone who joins a gym, hires a trainer, starts a diet or whatever other positive steps they take, wants results and they want them yesterday.
One of the lines I say to people who ask me “how long will it take?” is “how long did it take you to get in the shape you’re currently in?”
I usually get answers of multiple years, if not decades. And my rebuttal is always: “So, do you think it’s realistic to undo a decades worth of damage in a month?”
Obviously, the answer is always: “No”.
However, that’s not to say you can’t achieve goals quickly.
Over the first few weeks (if you do things properly) you will sleep better, have more energy, experience increased concentration levels and, generally, feel like a boss.
As the weeks and months pass by, these small factors will build up and before you know it you’ll be a totally different person than you were when you started.
During these said weeks and months, your commitment levels are going to be the biggest contributing factor to your success, or your failure.
If you’re out drinking every weekend, you’re probably not going to get to where you want to go very quickly. If you talk yourself out of 2 of your 3 weekly workouts, guess what? You’re not going anywhere fast.
However, if you wholly commit to your health-kick, and accept that it’s going to take you months and months and months of unrelenting, hard graft, you will – 100% – get to where you want to be.
6) Do not avoid machines, weights or benches because someone else is using them and do not hog equipment.
Here’s the situation:
You’re new to the gym. You walk in and the place is bouncing. There is someone on every piece of equipment in the place. You have two options:
Option 1: You find a corner, grab a mat and do some stretches for a few minutes before deciding the place is too busy and you leave.
Option 2: You know the exercises you’re supposed to do and so you go over to the piece of equipment (be it a resistance machine, a bench or the squat rack) and ask the person on it if you can ‘work in’ with them*. This is gym speak for sharing the piece of equipment.
You see, most people will do an exercise for 30secs-1min and rest for between 1 and 3 minutes – that’s more than enough time for you to get your set done and get back out of the way for your new buddy to complete his/her next set.
Obviously, the same goes for you. If you’re resting, let someone else use your piece of equipment for a set and alternate until you’ve completed your required sets.
*The exception to the rule here is when the person is on the bench or the rack and has hundreds of kilos on the bar that they’ll have to take off for you to do your set and then put back on again for their set. In this situation, go to your next exercise and return later.
The Wrap Up
So, there you have it.
Six pieces of advice that’ll ensure your health kick is enjoyable, rewarding and hiccup free.
I wish you all the very best on your quest to greatness and look forward to seeing the world become a fitter, healthier and leaner place in 2014.
PS. Sign-ups for my Online Coaching block close next week. Click the link for more deets and get involved, if you’re serious about changing your lifestyle.