Starting Your Fitness Journey : 10 Things to Consider

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UPDATE 25/05/2012 : thanks for helping to make this one of the most popular posts on the site. Greatly appreciated.

NB : Although I wrote this more than 5 years ago, surprisingly little has changed in that time. In fact, I'd probably list the same 10 points if I was starting again now.

They really do make a huge difference.

When I started working out (a little over 3 years ago) I was lucky enough to put in place several things that have held me in good stead up until now (as well as a number that didn't, but I'll just quietly ignore those). Here are 10 things that helped enormously :

1. Set goals

Think about your reasons for exercising, and set goals that seem reasonable to you (you can always adjust these later as necessary). These goals will help enormously when it comes to keeping you on track; regardless of your motivation. Whether you want to be freakishly strong, shed a few excess pounds or simply have beach-worthy abs; goal-setting will help you on your way.

More info : Dan John has written many articles on goal setting, but this one's my favourite.

2. Keep notes

When I began blogging my workouts I was inspired by Kris Lindqvist's excellent site Under the Bar. Since first coming across that site I've noted many others that also contain a workout diary; one of the main reasons these continue to appear is that they're a great way of staying focussed, and eliciting feedback as desired.

Even if the idea of keeping a public site is a little too much for you to handle, keep notes in a private journal somewhere. A notebook (the paper kind, not a computer) is just fine.

3. Work out at home (especially in the beginning)

Let's face it, gyms can be a little intimidating - especially if you're just starting out. Designate part of your house as your home gym (you really don't need much to get started, if there's enough space to lie down on the floor you can do quite a bit). You can always relocate to your garage/spare room/basement if the bug really bites.

More info :

The Straight to the Bar Guide to Planning, Designing & Building Your Own Home Gym (this site)

4. Eat plenty

Personally, I don't believe it's possible to eat too much of the right food (of course you can always eat the wrong foods, and at the wrong times). Without getting heavily into nutrition - although if you want to later, that certainly isn't a bad thing - just steer clear of the things you already know are 'junk' (potato chips, greasy fast food, cake etc) and lean more toward a fruit + veg + lean meat meal plan.

As for timing, don't get stressed about the number of options and the seemingly endless supply of nutritional advice. You'll probably be hungry after working out, so get something ready. If you eat then, in addition to the usual 3 meals per day, you're well on your way.

More info :

Dr John Berardi's Tailor Made Nutrition series (part 1, 2, 3).

5. Get your rest

This is one of those things that will just feel right after you begin working out. If you work out regularly (no matter what sort of exercise you're doing, as long as it gets the blood pumping and makes you breathe a little deeper), you'll find that you sleep better. If you sleep deeper (and possibly longer), keep doing it - it's definitely a good thing.

Conversely, getting a better night's sleep will help your body recover from the workouts. If you can help it along a bit by skipping that late night cup of coffee, avoiding that late night re-run of Seinfeld on TV, or taking the occasional afternoon nap on the weekend; your body will thank you.

More info :

Sleep. Glorious Sleep. (this site)

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6. Keep hydrated

Chances are you'll be thirsty during and after your workouts. Keep a bottle of water handy, and take a sip between sets or exercises. It doesn't need to be a fancy sports drink, just plain water is fine.

More info :

8 Cups Per Day (this site)

7. Make it a habit

If you work out at a set time each day, you'll easily get through those days when you just don't feel like doing it (and don't worry, everyone has them). Try to work out on each lunch break, or before work each day; or any time that you've got available on a regular basis. Make it a part of your routine.

More info :

30 Day Challenge : Becoming a Morning Person (this site)
Installing a new habit and breaking an old one (Dr Stephanie Burns)

8. Little and often

When you're just starting, it really doesn't help at all to watch someone spend hours in the gym performing 17 different exercises. If you only have 10 minutes free every few hours, try a few push-ups / chin-ups / squats etc. It really doesn't matter what you do, just do something. Pretty soon you'll be able to do a lot more in that 10 minutes, no matter what sort of exercise you enjoy.

More info :

How Much Exercise Do You Really Need? (MedicineNet)

9. Listen to your body

There are thousands of exercises available, all of which can help you in some way. If you find that a particular exercise is hurting you in a 'bad' way (not a 'feel the burn', but 'I should really see a doctor about this' way); do something else. There are plenty of things to choose from.

Similarly, when you've been exercising and your body says 'I'm hungry', eat. If it tells you 'I'm tired', sleep (unless you're at work).

More info :

30 Minutes of Exercise? Listen to Your Body

10. Enjoy yourself

This is the most important part - enjoyment. If you like working out and look forward to it, you'll keep doing it and see the benefits. If you don't, well, you won't.

As mentioned above, there are thousands of exercises available. There are also numerous sports to try, different types of machines or free weights and any number of bodyweight exercises. No matter what your budget is or what you like doing, there'll be an exercise you really like. Keep trying things until you find it - it'll make a huge difference.

More info :

Exercise & Equipment Guides (this site)

Hopefully these 10 things will help get you started. If they help, let me know. And most importantly - have fun. It's a great journey.

Scott Andrew Bird

Scott Andrew Bird is a writer, photographer and a guy who just loves this stuff. He's been at home in front of a computer for more years than he cares to remember (OK, 32) and is now making amends for years of many mistakes noted in the De-constructing computer guy articles (part 2) on T-Nation.

Stalkers may wish to track his every move via Twitter, Google+ or Facebook; everyone else is cordially invited to hop over to his online home. Enjoy.

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Of course, if you enjoyed these, I'd highly recommend grabbing the Strength & Fitness Newsletter. Delivered weekly, and absolutely free.

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