*Before we start, I’d like to say a few things:
- I generally hate “fitspiration” nonsense, and I hope this proves a bit more relevant and actionable than the garbage floating around the internet.
- I have no idea why I felt inspired to use Kermit for the images in this post, but he’s a treasure, so you’re welcome.
- I don’t know your life, and there are absolutely things that one can and should prioritize over getting jacked; the goal of this bit of writing is not to shame you for your life, but rather to shift your mindset from focusing on what you can’t do to what you can.
- I am not a Registered Dietician, and I am not a doctor. I’m not even that big, bro. Please, do not misinterpret anything on this site as medical advice. It’s not. Always consult a doctor before doing anything that might negatively impact your health, and always use caution when listening to an opera singing personal trainer.
“Hey, I’ve been reading your stuff and I’ve decided I really want to train with you . . . maybe we can start later, when I’m not so busy?”
This is the generic version of a common training inquiry I receive. It’s a reasonable sentiment; there are certainly busy people who have less time than others to commit to their fitness. This way of thinking, though, is indicative of a flawed belief: that there will be some magic time when life’s trials and tribulations magically disappear and make room to take care of oneself. This time doesn’t exist and will never be a part of your reality. You need to abandon this idea. It is actively harming your ability to progress towards your fitness goals (and probably your life overall, but that’s someone else’s article to write).
You may be wondering, then: “if there won’t be a time that’s less busy, am I doomed to never be in shape? I don’t have time to work out 6 days/week, and there’s no time in my schedule to cook all my meals at home!”
If the answer to that question were “yes,” I’d have to be a real dick to write this article. Luckily for you, I’m only kind of a dick, and the answer is a resounding “no!” You are not doomed. You can make lasting, meaningful changes to your life, and you can – and should – start today.
How do you do this? It starts with a shift in mindset: instead of thinking about all the things you think you need to do in order to live a “healthy” lifestyle, think of one thing you can do right now to be just a little bit better.
For example: instead of thinking, “I want to look huge and shredded like a Marvel superhero; I need to work out 6 days a week for over an hour and eat 5,000 calories a day,” maybe think, “I would like to eventually look huge and shredded like a Marvel superhero, but since I don’t have time to work out 6 days a week for over an hour, let me find time for three 45-minute workouts a week that can be progressed over time.”
If you make time for the three short workouts, not only will that be more than enough to make progress (assuming that you’re currently doing less than that), but you may find that time starts to make itself available as your values shift and you buy into the process. All you needed to do was start.
But where to start? How to start? What should you do to reach your goals? I don’t know you, and if you want specific guidance in figuring out where to start (and when/how to progress once you’ve started), consider training with me online (just apply and then tell me you’d like to start in 3 months). If, however, you’d like to go it alone, here are some different goals, coupled with hard/moderate/easy variations of actionable first steps you can take to reach them.
The one rule I have for you is this: ask yourself (and ask in the second person), “[Your name], how confident are you on a scale from 1-10 that you can consistently reach this goal?” If your response is anything under a “9,” make it easier. Start too easy. Succeed, and build on that success. Forget “shooting for the stars” and all that nonsense; get some easy wins, build some confidence, create a foundation, and then keep going once you’ve mastered the basics.
Without further ado, your goals and strategies:
Hard: Count Calories.
Moderate: Keep a food journal for 3 days, spanning both weekday and weekend (or whenever your day off happens to be) and use this data to inform future changes. ***This is my preferred first step; knowing where you are makes it much easier to figure out how to improve! ***
Easy: Set a goal for lean protein and/or vegetable intake and hold yourself accountable to it.
For more ideas on where to start with your diet, check out my article, “How to Diet for You and Your Lifestyle.”
Hard: Go to the gym and perform a proper resistance-training program 3 days/week. If you want a basic program to follow, check out Stronglifts 5×5, or one of my friend Greg’s free programs (just wait for the pop up and enter your email). Eventually, you’ll almost certainly need more individualized programming, but those should do the trick to start.
Moderate: Try the “couch to 5K” app and work on your running chops (if your knees start to hurt, see a doctor and a running coach to make sure everything’s OK). Or, take a dance class with a friend/lover/dog (do yourself a favor and watch that video). Or, participate in any other structured form of exercise (something with a schedule that will keep you consistent).
Easy: Find 20 minutes/day to do something that involves moving. My favorite: taking slow, relaxing walks with a loved one (extra credit if your loved one is a dog).
***You’ll notice that for “fat loss,” I put dieting strategies first, and for muscle gain, I put exercise strategies first. This is not a coincidence; diet is FAR more important than exercise for fat loss, but exercise is crucial for anyone trying to put on some serious muscle. ***
Hard: Go to the gym and perform a proper resistance-training program 3 days/week. If you want a basic program to follow, check out Stronglifts 5×5, or one of my friend Greg’s free programs (just wait for the pop up and enter your email). Eventually, you’ll almost certainly need more individualized programming, but those should do the trick to start. *Sidebar: I know this is the same tip as the “hard” from a fat-loss perspective, and that’s not an accident. Exercise needs for fat loss and for muscle gain are almost identical, especially when you’re just starting out. *
Moderate: Find time for 3 short, at-home workouts/week that use limited equipment. This is harder from a design standpoint, but easier to make happen. Fortunately, you don’t need a perfect program to make progress; if you’d like to start with this, get good at push-ups, rows (you can fill a milk jug or suitcase with different stuff to gradually increase weight), goblet squats, Romanian deadlift variations, and pull/chin-ups. Once you see some muscles start popping up on your body, you’ll feel inspired, and there’s a good chance a gym membership may find its way onto your key chain (this has happened to more than one of my clients).
Easy: 3-5 days/week, do as many PERFECT push-ups as you can. Do 3 sets, resting 90 seconds between the sets. Try to get more reps every time you do this. This will take under 10 minutes, and can be done anywhere, at any time of day.
That’s all, folks! I’d write more, but you don’t need more reason to sit here and read internet blogs. Get off your computer and go reach your goals!
If you’d like some help getting started on your path towards a healthier, leaner, more jacked-er life, consider applying for training!
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