Time to Get Fit? Here’s How to Start
A few years ago, it was near the end of the summer and I was doing a nutrition check-in with a client. He had been training hard in workouts, but his body composition wasn’t changing . Actually it was, but in the wrong direction. I was asking him about why he thought that might be, and he cut me off and said “Look Andrew, it’s burger and ice cream season, what do you want?”
I always thought that was hilarious, and true too. Summer is for vacations, time with friends, and tasty food and drink. Hey, it’s Canada, we have to make the most of the weather when we have it.
Then, the end of summer comes, and we realize that we never got in shape like we planned. September marks the next opportunity to find the sustainable and effective exercise program that will work for you.
If you’re thinking about getting in shape this fall, keep the following tips in mind to avoid crashing and burning.
Start with the Fundamentals
Doing too much too soon is one of the main reasons people aren’t able to stick to their new routine. The key to great results is consistency. What can you do every day? Every week? Some people wake up one morning and completely revolutionize their habits, but more often than not, serious results are the product of sustained, gradual effort. Additionally, a total body transformation or extreme levels of performance have to be built on a foundation of good health. If you aren’t taking care of the basics, it doesn’t matter what workout program you follow or what supplements you take. Here are some of the healthy habits that are essential if you want to commit to getting fit:
- Walk for at least 30 minutes a day
- Sleep 7-9 hours every night (and go to bed at the same time too)
- Strength train twice per week
- Eat healthy (lots of plants, lean protein, healthy fats etc.) most of the time
- Drink lots of water
If you aren’t doing the above, then it doesn’t make sense to buy a Crossfit membership and commit to powerlifting 6 days a week. Which of the above habits are you doing now? Which one do you feel you can commit to starting today? If you’re not working out at all, start with twice a week. If you’ve been doing twice a week for a while and you’re ready for more, add a third day. Gradually, the new habits become routine and it becomes easier to add more without feeling overwhelmed and giving up.
Don’t Start with Running
Rather than running to get in shape, most folks should consider getting in shape to run. The idea that humans are evolutionarily great runners and that we were born to run sounds nice, but if you’re over 30, work at a desk and don’t run, you’ve already turned yourself into a non-runner. Running has an incredibly high injury rate. About 70 per cent of recreational runners have some sort of injury within the first 6 months. Whenever a client expresses an interest in running, we work on running mechanics as part of our warm-ups. My goal with this is always to set people up for success and avoid injury when they run on their own, but it also makes for a fun and effective dynamic warm-up. Running can be an amazing part of a health and fitness routine, but it’s in your best interest to make sure you have a requisite base of strength, mobility and some good mechanics before making it your go-to activity. Your knees will thank you.
There are so many magazines, books, websites and downloadable programs talking about a 6-week this and a 30-day that. If you haven’t been exercising, and you start today and work hard for a month, you will feel better, have more energy, sleep better, and feel stronger. That’s for sure. But your body will NOT transform. That’s not how it works. Transforming your body takes hard work, and, unavoidably, time. If you’re trying to lose weight, understand that the HIGH end of sustainable weight loss is 1 lb per week or 1 per cent of body weight per week. This is way slower than most people have the patience for, and I get it. One pound per week is a tough sell when you can’t even shop for groceries without seeing “LOSE 10LBS in 10 DAYS” or other crap.
But you need to play the long game. Let’s say you have a lot of weight to lose, and you start tomorrow, and you lose 1 lb a week. This day next year, you’ll be down 50 lbs. You’re telling me you won’t be happy with that?
The same is true for other major changes, like adding muscle or getting really strong. That super jacked dude on the cover of Men’s Health? He’s been lifting weights for 10 years. Results take time, but if you never stop working towards your goal, you’ll achieve it.
Strength is the physical quality that underscores all others. Being stronger helps with EVERYTHING. It doesn’t matter why you want to start training or what’s important to you specifically, I guarantee strength helps. Improve sports performance? Strength helps. Look amazing? Strength helps. Age well? Strength helps, possibly more than anything else.
If you’ve never worked towards increasing strength you are missing out. Some of my favourite success stories are clients, usually women, who’ve never lifted more than a 10 lb weight for fear of getting bulky. Then, after a few months of work, they crush a 135 lb trap bar deadlift. Their look of pure joy is not because they’ve significantly reduced their long-term risk of osteoporosis or falls, it’s because it feels awesome. Rather than thinking about getting in shape, think about getting strong. You’ll love the results, and whatever else you are hoping to achieve will be that much closer.
Hire a Coach
If you’re serious about getting in serious shape, hiring a coach is the best thing you can do. A coach provides you with accountability, guidance, and can help you with some of the above goals. Of course, people get in shape on their own all the time. But all of the top performers in the world work with trainers and coaches. If you want great results, why wouldn’t you want someone to help you?
Speaking of which, Barr Health and Fitness has just added another coach to the team, Matt Flynn. Matt holds a Kinesiology degree from the University of Calgary and is an accomplished endurance athlete. Get in touch to book your first appointment with Matt, free of charge.