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I have been working out for years now. No, I didn't have a personal trainer in the family... actually, most of my family is super un-athletic. My parents never enforced sports on me, and for most of my life I hated anything "athletic". So when I decided to change my life, my body, and my health... I did it on my own. I basically went into this journey blindly.
I didn't start lifting "heavy" weights (i.e. having access to heavy DBs, barbells, and some machines) until this past Decemeber. But I still have trained ... if I had dumbbells around, I would use those. But usually I used body weight or resistance bands.
I also have trained in the form of cardio, or conditioning. Not always the good kind, let me be honest! But more on that later.
In these years of training, I have learned ALOT.
I've learned more about the RIGHT way to train, from both a personal and scientific standpoint, instead of listening to silly fad diets and workouts.
I have learned about new equipment and clothing to aid in my workouts.
Most importantly... I have learned what works for ME. Time to workout, style to workout...what I like and what I don't like.
Not to say I don't have more to experience, and more knowledge to gain... because, uh. I DO.
But I for sure have learned a few things in these past few years that I wish I knew before I started!
1) Nutrition means more than just calories, and is REALLY important. This list is in no order, but I still put this first because is reigns supreme. Before I was conscious of the fact that food is more than just calories... I was that girl. The one with the Special K cereals, the 100 calorie snack packs, reduced fat peanut butter, and diet coke. I thought I was doing good because I tracked calories, and kept them low. During this time, I actually gained weight (NOT muscle) and felt horrible, both mentally and physically. I was addicted to fake sugar and fake food. But when I started to EDUCATE myself (see #3), I started seeing results. My training improved, my skin cleared, and I felt better.
2) Take information with great caution, and don't think too much about it. This is to an extent, of course... But in fitness, you tend to hear A LOT of different opinions (many of which are totally unsafe, or untrue). Too many times have I read magazines telling me to eat 1200 calories, or to do more cardio. There are tons of fake fitness "gurus" on Instagram, Youtube, and Facebook trying to convince you it is their way or the highway. Plus if you believe EVERYTHING you hear, you will get no where and drive yourself crazy. You can't be on every new diet at once, you can't be a cardio junkie who also powerlifts, you can't use every protein powder just because they all claim to be miracle workers. Know your body, and find what works for YOU.
3) That being said... don't make stupid choices. Use common sense, and know the FACTS behind why you are training/eating a certain way. I use to think everything I heard or read was true. You know where that got me? Avoiding salt like a plague (even though your body NEEDS salt to properly function, especially with training), not touching even natural sugar like honey (which in fact has tons of nutritional benefits), and being scared to death of fat (uh, now I go through a tub of coconut oil in a matter of weeks.) Once I stopped relying on other peoples opinions and researched hard cold facts and SCIENCE, I gained the ability to make smart training and nutrition choices. You might be surprised with what you find, so it's also important to be open minded.
5) There is a difference between needing rest and just being sore. Don't be a weenie and skip your workout because you "don't feel like it", are "too busy", or are aching from squatting twice your weight yesterday. If you want results, you will work for them-it is that simple. This is a LIFESTYLE after all, not a fad (see #2). But in the same context... don't be stupid (see #3). If you are vomiting and have the flu, don't workout. If you had three heavy training days in a row, take a rest. If you are genuinely fatigued, then go to SLEEP and do your bench press tomorrow when your fresh.
6) Put your ego aside. This is for the guys, AND the ladies. Seriously... you are not going to get ANYWHERE throwing weights around, not squatting deep enough, or using improper form in general. Lighten the weights (even if that means using the bare bar) and use PROPER FORM before you even think about adding on the plates to the barbell or going up in DBs.
7) Focus less on cardio and more on weight training and HIIT. I know I said to find what works for you on #2, but this is pretty general. I used to be a cardio bunny too... I spent my entire hour at the gym switching from the treadmill, to the bike, to the elliptical. And did I see results? Ha, NO. Resistance and weight training builds muscle, which strengthens the body and prevents ailments that aging brings along. Also, muscle at rest burns more calories than fat does. Studies show that steady state cardio has little benefits for overall conditioning and fat loss... I mean, WHO wants to sit around on cardio machines for an hour when you can get it done with body weight in 15 minutes?
8) Speaking of cardio machines... ditch the treadmill. And the stair stepper, elliptical, bike machine... Not only are these machines TOTALLY BORING, but they really, really hurt too. And not in a good way. Whenever I would get off these machines, my hips would ache like crazy. My knees would also pop, and usually be sore from stepping on the hard treadmill surface. These machines put your body in an unnatural environment, and usually cause injury in the long run. Kick them to the side and instead, use your own body weight in the form of plyometrics or sprints, or a few pieces of equipment (kettle bell, battle ropes) to get in your cardio.
9) Preplan things, and be prepared! It sounds strange, but when I know what I am doing for a workout the day before, my mental preparation helps me the next day. I can look up proper form on the internet, practice myself, and overall just get ready for the workout that next morning. Having a structured workout plan (at least plan a few days ahead) keeps me on track and organized. It has also helped me to lay out my workout clothes so that I save time getting dressed for the gym, or get equipment ready if working out at home that morning. Speaking of which...
10) Find a time to workout that will be open for you DAILY, and stick to it. This way, it simply becomes habit. I work out first thing in the morning... this way, I get it done before I even start my day and can relax later on. This works for me... find what works for YOU. Working out around the same time each day makes it more special, in my opinion: just like you go to work from 9-5, you workout from 6-7. It is YOUR TIME... so be sure that you have it locked down in your schedule.
11) People in the gym are NOT judging you. So stop being so self conscious. Seriously... while I am pretty new to the whole "gym" atmosphere, never have I once felt judged by ANYONE in the gym, even from the girls who could probably hurl me across the room. If anything, I have received nothing but support... if I need help with form, people kindly step in to guide me. I ask openly to work in with others on weights they're using... heck, I've even made FRIENDS at the gym! People are not going to be worried about you when they have their own workout to focus on. I see people of all ages and fitness levels, and the only thought I have is that I am proud of them!
12) Focus on your goals. DON'T GIVE UP. You are going to face people (family and friends especially) who don't understand or support what you are doing. They will call you crazy, obsessed, and worry that you will hurt yourself by "lifting too much". Just because some people try to knock you down, doesn't mean that they don't care for you (or maybe they really don't, but who cares anyway?). Usually, they just can not grasp what they do not participate in... those who have never experienced the thrill of lifting more, or the benefits of eating right, sometimes find it hard to see what we like so much about it. They typically don't know anything more than common bioscience on the topic either.
Besides outside challenges, there are internal challenges you will face. It is hard to stay motivated sometimes. Often, we don't see results as fast as we would like. But does this mean we should stop? No. It means we should find the light in the dark... heck, we should BE the light in the dark! Don't ever, ever give up.
Stay focused. Stay strong.
What are some things you wished you knew before you started training?