You walk into the gym on your first day and you smile politely at the staff who checked you in. Today is the first day of something new, you tell yourself.
You thought you heard the check-in staff muttering “Newbie” under their breath, but you choose to ignore it.
As you walk towards the locker to put your bag down, a buff gym goer almost knocks you over, you apologize but the person ignores you.
Dauntless, you reach the weight rack and you start to stretch and jump around a bit to warm up. No. You quickly stop. Better grab a weight and not warm up as you feel judging eyes piercing you from behind.
Your hands, now sweaty, reach for the lightest dumbbell instinctively but you recoil in horror as two gym bros point at you and laugh.
You then decide to go for a medium-sized dumbbell. “Yes, I can do this” you convince yourself. You brace yourself and give it your all, your back arches, your body quivers as the dumbbell refuses to go up.
You huff and puff. Slowly, miraculously, inch by inch it finds its way up. “Eye of the tiger” plays in the background!! VICTORY.
BUT Suddenly! As you lower the weight back down, you lose control. The weight slips! “BAM!” It hits your toe. Tears well up in your eyes. You grab your toe. Its bleeding. ALOT. You faint.
You wake up in the hospital, a gym trainer is there. With a look of pity, he says he will train you. And so, before you know it, muscles appear in places you never knew existed! First, you eat protein powder.
Then, you do the unthinkable, you drink creatine.
Later, you stare at yourself in the mirror as you snort that last round of steroids on your 8th set of bench press for the third time this week. You wonder how did it all go wrong? You are a gym bro or a She Hulk – for the ladies reading this =)
IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY!
Lucky for YOU, you read my guide (10 tips) today before stepping foot in the gym.
1. Get Cleared By Your DOCTOR
Before going to the gym, get cleared by the doctor if you have any nagging injuries or illnesses. If you are over 40, it is also a good idea to go for an annual health check up. Don’t get cleared by your ego and think if so and so can do it, me too!
2. Drink Enough Water
Thirsty before the workout? Drink a glass of water. Aim to drink at least 6 glasses of water a day. Different people need different amounts of water.
Use the color of your urine as a guide. If its yellow, drink more water. If it looks just like water and clear and you have to go to the bathroom often, drink a little lesser.
3. Warm Up!
Warm ups are essential, they reduce the chances of injury and increase the performance of your muscles so that you can get a better stimulus through your workouts.
A good warm up would consist of 5-10 minutes of cardio. What kind of cardio? Well, walking is cardio. But walking is most likely not intense enough for most people.
The ideal level of cardio here would be something that is easy and that you can still talk through while doing.
For example, walking is 2/10 on the effort scale. Do something about 4-5/10 on the effort scale. It could be a brisk walk or a walk up an incline or a slow jog.
Remember, you should not be getting winded in the warm up but you should feel your heart beating faster and your muscles slightly warmer.
Okay, now that your cardio is done, mobilize your body. Ideally, do some dynamic stretches but don’t overdo it.
Not sure what that is? Then do some light stretches that go through a large range of motion but don’t hold it at the end for too long.
Hold it for 1-2 seconds. Touch and go and with slightly faster movements. Don’t bounce. Longer slower stretches are best done after the workout.
Phew! And now we start with the big weights!? NO! The above was the general warm up. You also need to at least do a specific warm up for the first exercise of each muscle group.
For example, if you goal is to squat 20kg for 12 reps, start off with 10kg (about 50% of the target weight) and do some easy reps here. Go through the range of motion and when you are still far from tired, stop (This means 50% effort! Not too easy either).
Then next set, do another warm up at 15kg (about 75% of the target weight). Same thing, when you have put 50% effort, stop. Key thing, you should NOT BE FEELING TIRED.
4. Don’t Train To FAILURE
You are a beginner, a novice, a gym white belt! Don’t listen to seasoned bodybuilders who say train hard or go home. You are just starting out! Trust me, you don’t need to workout to failure – especially if you don’t have a personal trainer.
You WILL get stronger and grow just doing a simple routine of 3 sets of 10. To us personal trainers, it’s as if newbies can look at the weights and build muscle!
Don’t do a weight that you cannot handle! Do your exercises with slow controlled form.
5. Train Your Whole Body
As a beginner, the best workouts are ones that involve compound exercises and hit many muscle groups per workout.
WHY? But Expensive fitness Magazines highlight the benefits of German volume training (10 sets of 10 for a single body part), why shouldn’t I do the same?
Reason being, you do not need such a stimulus to build muscle. Such a stimulus would be over stimulus – the same way that cooking food is good but burning food is bad.
Do not neglect training your core muscles. These core muscles also include the Psoas, Glutes, and Lower Back and not just the sexy 6 pack!
6. Cool Down
Remember those long deeper stretches I advised you to avoid while warming up? Do them after your workout is done!
7. Do Cardio
You can choose to do cardio before the weights part of your workout or after the weights. Alternatively, you can do cardio in a separate exercise session during the week. But whatever choice you make, please do cardio.
Whether you are bulking or cutting, cardio is good for your heart. If you are cutting, cardio burns more calories. If you are bulking, cardio makes your heart stronger so that you are able to keep up with the intense workouts for your muscles.
8. Do NOT Drastically Change Your Diet
For this point, I assume you are not already eating huge amounts of junk food and soft drinks/ alcohol. If you do, then you might want to make a drastic change and cut them out.
But for most people, if you eat junk food once in a while in normal portions and your diet consists of some fruits, vegetables, protein, carbs, and fat, don’t overthink it.
Yes you are now working out. Does that mean you should change your diet drastically?
No! Why not? Many beginners are over eager and easily fall prey to misinformed diets. You do not need to go on a liquid diet, or cut out all carbs. A small reduction would do.
Better to slowly change your diet in a manner that lets your body get used to it and have a diet that you enjoy and is sustainable in the long run.
For most people, maybe add a little protein or some fruits and vegetables and reduce soft drinks/junk food.
Try to sleep at least 7 hours a day. More if you can. It’s good for you.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Your fitness journey has just begun. This is a life long journey. Be patient. Think health and longevity rather than muscle gains, NOW.
Now that you are working out, destress more. Workouts are a form of stress to the body. Good stress but stress nevertheless. Go soak in the pool. Get a massage if you can afford. Go walk in the park or read that book!
Thank you for reading!
Fitness IQ +2!
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9 thoughts on “The Beginner’s Guide To Fitness”
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