You're ready to get fit. How do you begin?
This time of year, many folks spend time reflecting on self-improvement and ways they can better the world around them. Beginning a training program and getting fit is a common thought people have as a great way to improve one's self. The downside is that data does not support these newly adopted behaviors sticking over time. In no way does that mean we shouldn't do a new years resolution or try to adopt a fitness regime, it means we simply need to be mindful of a long term approach to doing so, setting ourselves up for success.
Anything that provokes feelings and actions towards self-improvement are admirable and necessary for living a complete life. New years resolutions are included in these. I never understood the "anti-new years resolution" crowd. For a brief time, this was trendy in the commercial gym scene too. You'd see ads like "new years resolutions fail, try our NON-new years resolution program, starting January 1st!" Seriously, that was a thing. Not only is it simply manipulative marketing, but the very establishment one is seeking with their resolution is the place telling them they will fail. That's unfortunate and any motivation anyone has to improve themselves should be applauded, encouraged, catered, as it takes courage for one to step outside of their comfort zone. Instead of being negative towards a new years resolutioner, how about we HELP them!
Look, data shows 90% of small businesses fail in their first 5 years. That greatly shows the problem with how our big business dominated system operates, which I wish our leaders would truly look at, but that's another story for another day. The point is, that doesn't mean I shouldn't have started DS because of that data. Yes, I had critics telling me I'd fail and yes a gym owner in DS's neighborhood told me that when he set up a meeting to meet me shortly after I opened DS. Yep, that totally happened. This doesn't mean I shouldn't try. This means I block the noise of the critics and focus on a way to make things work with long-term sustainability as the priority.
Develop a well-orchestrated gameplan and focus on it. Seek help, ask questions, understand life will get in the way from time to time, know you may have to adapt and deviate from that gameplan from time to time. When the long-term is the focus, there is a time and place for everything. Simply be prepared for the roadblocks, don't let them catch you off guard, and your long-term success plan is still going.
In developing a gameplan to adopt a training regime, here are a few pointers that can help you set yourself up for a successful tomorrow.
1 Hire a professional coach!
2 Be realistic!
3 Always keep learning!
4 Do not compare yourself to anyone but you.
1) Hire a professional coach! Having a guide is crucial for not only getting started, but for continuing improvements over time. A good coach will be educated, certified, and experienced. The top qualifications of a coach should never be what their body looks like (we have to get over judging trainers on what they look like), how much weight they move, how many Instagram followers/likes they get, or how many products they are selling being an ambassador/sponsor, etc. All of these things can be slapped onto an Instagram account overnight making a coach look like the greatest sensation that you've never heard of. I'm not knocking these things, to each their own, but these things should not be one's main credentials. Good trainers train with their brains, and just because a trainer may be flaunting their good looking, flat stomach and their own natural athleticism, in no way does that translate to them being able to relate to you with totally different genetics, a totally different lifestyle of stress and time constraints, hereditary conditions, and you may not even like exercising, as they've been obsessed with that their whole lives. Everyone is different and as you wouldn't judge anyone by their looks for any other job, don't do it for fitness coaches. The majority of things that make fitness coaches marketable are not the things that make coaches good. Your coach doesn't have to be a rocket scientist, but they need to reputable and understand they are training you, and you have specific needs that are different from their own needs of how they train themselves.
In terms of formal education, some coaches will have degrees in the field, but most still do not. This is improving greatly as the field continues to grow as a primary form of organic healthcare and degreed coaches will be the norm over time, but there is still very large gap in this. Sure, like an level of formal education, there will be things learned in a degree program that a coach won't typically use day to day, but the aspect of having a knowledge base, being a trusted source of that knowledge, and understanding the application of that knowledge base is something that degreed coaches tend to have over those who did not study human movement formally. There is so much info floating around in fitness and nutrition, and you want your sources to be established folks who have actually studied the craft. You want a coach who is a trusted source. There are definitely great coaches without degrees too, I have learned from many over the years myself, this is simply a variable that ups the credibility of the general search for coaches out there. The more educated a coach is, generally the more reputable they are. Accredited certifications and experience are both quite valuable as well.
There are also tons of certifications out there, and one can easily get caught up seeing some letters behind a coach's name and assume that is good. There are specialty certifications for specific crafts only (yoga, pilates, indoor cycling, powerlifting, just to name a few) and these credentials are great to have for teaching these specific crafts, but as a consumer, know these certifications are solely aimed at these crafts alone and they are not stand alone certifications to coach general fitness. The primary personal trainer certifications go over all aspects of fitness training, so a more comprehensive understanding of craft is obtained with these certification programs. Some of the standard NCCA accredited personal trainer/strength coach certifications are the following: ACSM, ACE, AFAA, NSCA, CSCCa, NASM, ISSA, Cooper Institute, to name a few. To search for more accredited certs, you can always Google them. And for the record, most fitness liability insurances require an accredited certification for coverage, regardless if a coach has a degree or not. In a way, a coach maintaining a certification is like them maintaining their license to practice.
Along with certs, experience is always important. Experience can mean so many different things, each providing their own value, and coaches obtain experience from a variety of sources. Experience can from training themselves, watching videos, attending seminars and conferences, getting degrees, competing, working in the field, etc. Experience is gained from everywhere and its extremely important for a reputable coach to have, and the education and knowledge behind the experience is what enables a coach to apply the right concepts with the right people. Great coaches are out there to be found and in my personal opinion, the combination of education, certification, and experience is what tends to present the best coaches.
2) Be realistic! This is extremely important. Over the years I have seen many new exercisers be so motivated to get started and they come to me proudly saying "I am going to workout 6 days a week, I am cutting out all sweets, and I'm ready to work hard every single day." While the motivation here is great, you have to consider 5 months from now when you have work deadlines, unexpected family drama, you're tired of how slowly results actually come because they will be slower than you want them to be, and you ultimately find this all-in mentality will not be sustainable. This is about self improvement, it should not become a heavy bourdon. You have to morph your training regime around your life and assuming some changes your life may undergo, whether they're predictable or not, or in your control or not. You cannot morph your life around your training regime. Chances are, you are not a celebrity who literally has all day to get in shape for a role, with endless time, resources, finances, etc. You have obligations and filling your plate too full can malfunction things from the very start.
Keep your motivation high, but here's my advice that may sound a little different and its an analogy I have used many times with my lifters:
Think of training and nutrition like a drug or a medicine. The MINIMUM dosage necessary to yield the effect we want, the better. Its less overall stress, it allows your body to adapt to what is happening, its less draining psychologically, and it can be more time and financially friendly. All of those things lead to you continuing to do it. Again, its about the long haul. Exercising with higher quality with less of a dosage can make this a lot more sustainable. When I say higher quality, it does not mean do 10 things at once, 90 miles an hour either because it seems "hard" and you know hard work gets the results. Hard vs easy are merely variables, an intelligent program will involve both aspects. There remains a trend in the boutique HIIT/Boot Camp studios where the shock value of "how hard" the workout is becomes their selling point. As hard work is assumed to be needed, its not about simply doing what's perceived as "being hard" its about doing the right amount for you as an individual to improve over time. Don't get tricked into thinking the point of exercising is to do something hard. It's not. Anyone can mindlessly exhaust somebody, that proves nothing. It's about doing something that is the optimal for you to progress. Regarding nutrition for example, if you can eat sweets once or twice a week instead of cutting them out completely, and still make progress over the long haul, wouldn't we all choose that option when comparing the two? Again, its the minimum dosage necessary to spark the change. Make sense? No matter how Type A one feels they are, an all or nothing mentality can sabotage everything. Extremes are bad and overly demanding yourself on exercise and diet can be just as harmful as the opposite extreme of doing absolutely nothing. Only difference is, you wasted ample amounts of time, stress, energy and money doing it. Everything good comes from some type of balance in the middle of this spectrum. Instead of diving all in from the start, slowly adopt something small and see how little you can get away with to still get to where you want to be. This idea is easier when you accept that long-term sustainable progress is the key to success.
3) Always keep learning. This one is pretty self-explanatory, but I want to touch upon a few things here. Training is an ongoing process and there will come a time where you need to alter what you are doing to continue to promote progress. Again, this is where a good coach comes into play, but also on your end, understand you may need to tweak/refine things from time to time. Training has a stimulus/response effect. This means even when things are going great, your body will change, your movements will change, and therefore your needs to continue improving can change. Do not think "once I learn form, I forever know how to do it" trust me, it will change over time. This doesn't mean you had bad form etc, it just means you will be very different 10 years from now and like everything else, we have to keep adapting to those changes. Seems obvious, but I do need to point this out as an unforeseen barrier that can hinder motivation and progress and chain react to bad things down the road.
Learning from reputable sources and tools can be helpful, but again with the abundance of internet knowledge, YouTube videos, Instagram posts, its so easy to get caught up in either information that's just flat out wrong, or ultra sciencey sounding information that has merit, but is hard to truly translate on how that actually applies to you. I can dazzle you with how much I know about movements, anatomy, etc, but will that really translate to you, or will it cause you to focus on a bunch of tiny details that are so splitting hairs, they leave you overlooking the major basic things that you should be focusing on? Simple and practical is always good. I personally don't care about sounding smart, I care about you improving.
Knowledge gained from your own research is good, keep learning, but be careful to not overly complicate everything to where it becomes confusing and you find yourself trying something different every time you read something new, not letting any of those things you read actually take shape to see if they help you or not. Just because a world famous coach, PT, or doctor says something, it does not mean its exactly what you need to start doing. The individual variable remains supreme here as you're unique and that's the way it has to be for you to continue to improve. These sources don't know you, so yes, they can give some good general advice, but be mindful its not advice specifically for you. Nobody knows yourself more than you and your coach. This connection should be your primary information source and outside info can supplement that.
4) Do not compare yourself to anyone but you. Seriously. We as people are taught to be comparing of all things. Comparing athletes of the past and present, comparing films, comparing everything. When comparing our lifts to other people's lifts, our bodies to other people's bodies, our progress to other people's progress.... its toxic. Don't waste your time on that. Everyone will respond differently to exercises, nutritional habits, etc, so there really is no scientific comparison of how all this will work. Just because "Program A" shows someone lost 30 pounds doing this workout, it in no way means that will happen to you. You're different genetically, your lifestyle demands are different, you may have kids, your environmental factors are different; so much goes into all of this. Bottom line, the only comparison you can accurately make is you to you. Compare if you have gotten stronger over time, compare if you are moving better over time, compare if you eating more nutritiously over time, compare if you are doing more healthy habits consistently than you previously were, compare if you are sticking to an exercise regime longer than you previously have. Any progress, no matter how big or small is good progress. Its a long term game and as long as you are doing better and adhering to things more than you were, that's a victory.
The internet is fake, people manipulate photos, videos, strong lifters only show their best training days, some strong internet lifters are abusing steroids, some trainers even show false or forged "before and after" pictures of their clients, you name it, its out there. You never know what's actually happening on the internet, all you know is comparing yourself to these things can bring you down. Its all an illusion and it can all get the best of you and take you down if you let it. Focus on you, and work on being a little bit better each week. Block the noise and focus on your long-term gameplan that you have worked to establish.
In summary, always pursue self improvement. It's the key to living a full life and know you will have critics and barriers that will try to get in your way. Know there are risks in doing this, but life is about stepping outside of your comfort zone and taking these risks. Know the key to risk taking is taking calculated risks and going into them as prepared for anything as possible. Establish what you are trying to achieve, identify potential things can hinder that, and have a plan. Hopefully this is helpful, as typical, I freely wrote this straight through, and I could have gone on, but 4 points seems to be a good place to stop, so I am going to take my own advice and not go all-in here. :)
Happy New Year everyone and may the best of health, success, strength, and unity be the theme for 2021.