It’s very discouraging trying to lose weight, tone up, or make any kind of change to your body when you don’t know how to get started. It certainly was for me. It took me a couple of years full of starting, giving up, and restarting before I figured it out.
So let’s make it easy. Here are a few tips I’d like to share that helped me stick to my goals and get to where I am now:
1. Ask Yourself Questions
What are your goals? How important are they to you? Are they realistic? Do you want to exercise more? Eat better? Lose weight? Gain weight? Just be more active in general?
2. Write Things Down
Once you’ve asked yourself these questions, write them down! Write them on sticky notes and post them around your house. Write them in a personal journal. Write down your answers to your questions too. Make sure they’re in a place you can see them every day.
3. Get a Dedicated Journal
There are plenty of journals out there where you can easily record your workouts and foods for the day. You can get a blank one and fill it out yourself, or get one that’s already got stuff in it to help you keep track. Don’t like writing? Get an app! There are several that accomplish the same thing as a fitness journal.
4. Take Measurements
It’s always nice to have numbers to refer to. Take some measurements. Whether you’re trying to lose weight or gain muscle, you’ll be able to look back on your numbers and see how far you’ve come. Here’s a sample of what measurements to take:
Remember to write those down too! Also remember that weight isn’t everything. Muscle weighs more than fat, so when you start gaining muscle, your weight can either stay the same or even go up while you’re still losing fat and toning up. That’s why the other numbers are important, too!
5. Take Pictures
As good as, if not better than, taking measurements, you’ll want to take pictures. Take a lot, take them often. You’ll want front and side views for weight loss transformations, and then some of you flexing in different poses and up close for pictures of muscle definition. Optionally you can wear a swim suit or underwear if you don’t want clothes hiding any changes you’re looking for.
Don’t forget pictures of your face! I love “face to face” comparison pictures because they always show how happy a person is. And that’s the end goal, right? Happiness!
6. Start Slow
This one is pretty important. You absolutely want to start slow. Especially if you’re new to exercising or haven’t done it in a while. If you rush into it going as fast and hard as possible, you’re going to burn out. All you’ll get from that is frustration. You don’t need more reasons to give up, you want more to keep going! You don’t even have to exercise every day. A good, safe zone is 3 days a week, or every other day. Go ahead and take an extra day on weekends to rest and recover, even. Remember that everyone is on their own fitness journey, and it’s okay that you’re not as far along as someone else right now. You’re only competing with yourself.
Get outside and go for a walk. 30 minutes a day is a great start. Always stopped by bad weather? Invest in a gym membership, or even buy your own treadmill. Or find a beginners cardio video on YouTube and get your heart rate up. You can bring up the pace as you feel stronger, and when you feel ready, add in some other form of exercise to start building muscle.
Swimming is also an excellent place to begin. It works your entire body while going easy on your joints. It can be anything from doing laps to just simple aerobics in the water. Maybe just grab some water proof hand weights and walk back and forth a few times. There’s some easy and effective resistance training right there.
7. Figure Out What You Love
Figure out what kind of exercise you want to do. There are so many options out there that are all great for you.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts are great for burning a large number of calories in a short amount of time. (They are hard, so be careful!)
Yoga has many benefits such as building muscle and increasing flexibility, but the point is to become self aware. It’s relaxing, it’s destressing, it’s fun, and it’s great for all levels of fitness.
Pilates is similar to Yoga, but focuses more in the physical rather than the spiritual. Specifically your core. (Lower back, abdominals, obliques.) Pilates teaches you breathing and proper techniques essential to preventing injury during a workout.
Strength training is where the muscle building really happens. You work each area of your body while gradually increasing the weight you’re working with. Always a challenge, but never boring.
Body weight exercising is building up your strength using the weight of your own body. Think push ups, pull ups, sit ups, squats, leg lifts, etc. It’s also my personal favorite combined with Pilates because you need very little or no equipment to do it. See? Exercise can be free! No more using “I can’t afford a gym membership” as an excuse!
Cardio is pretty much anything that gets your heart rate up. Performing exercises at a quick pace, running, swimming, jumping around in circles for several minutes just because you’re bored… Those are all cardio. This is what gets your blood pumping and your fat burning. A good exercise routine should have a balance of strength and cardio.
8. Make a Schedule
Once you’ve figured out how you want to exercise, you’ve got to make time for it. Make it routine and consistent. If you go about your day thinking “I’ll exercise after lunch, or after dinner if I have time.” That’s not going to cut it. Chances are you won’t have time or energy later. Pick a time you know you’ll be free and stick with it.
I like to wake up early and get it done first thing in the morning. Then I don’t have to worry about trying to fit it in the rest of my busy day.
9. Track Your Diet
All that exercise will only go so far if you’re not eating right. Take time to figure out how you normally eat. Is your day full of fast food cause it’s easy, or comfort food to de-stress? How much sugar are you eating? How many unnecessary calories come from what you drink?
In the end, everything can be interpreted as energy. But different kinds of “energy” are going to help you perform better and generally feel better throughout the day.
A good list of “clean” foods I like to follow looks like this:
- Whole grain breads and pasta
- Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables
- Lean meats such as chicken, turkey, fish, or other seafood
- Low fat red meats like steak and lean ground beef
- Rice and quinoa
- Whole milk or a dairy free substitute such as almond, coconut, or cashew
- Pasteurized cheese that hasn’t been pre-shredded or sliced
- Greek or low fat yogurt
Foods I try to avoid are usually the prepackaged, convenient foods, fast food, or anything high in added sugar or salt. Here’s a list of things I try to avoid:
- Convenient Store foods
- Fast food or chain restaurants
- Store bought sweet baked goods(homemade tastes so much better anyway.)
- Pig meat (tasty and not necessarily unhealthy, but generally has a higher fat and calorie content than bird or cow meat)
Neither of these lists are gospel on what you can or can’t eat to be healthy, but they’re pretty safe. Also adjustable for any dietary restrictions or needs.
10. Track Calories
Whatever you choose to eat, make sure you have a proper balance of calories. Too many and you’ll find yourself gaining weight you may or may not want. Too little and you won’t have the energy to keep going. A safe bet would be to figure out your Base Metabolic Rate(BMR) and calculate according to that. Your BMR is simply the amount of calories your body needs to run at the lowest level of activity.
As an example, if your BMR is 1500 calories and you’re trying to lose weight, eat just under that each day. (Never go less than 1200, otherwise your metabolism will slow down and your body will start storing what you do eat rather than using it for energy right away.)
If you’re trying to gain weight, eat more calories than you use each day. Always eat more on days you exercise than you would on days you don’t, whether you’re trying to lose or gain.
These tips are what I personally have found to be the most helpful in my fitness journey. They may all work for you, maybe only a few do, or you might not like any of them at all. I’m not claiming to be an expert on this, but I feel confident in saying I understand the basics of living a healthier life.
Always remember to speak with a doctor or nutritionist before starting any new diet or exercise. I hope these tips are helpful to you!