For beginners, getting into fitness and fat loss can be intimidating and confusing. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Fortunately, reaching your workout and weight loss goals requires only two things; discipline (I’ll leave that up to you) and a set of simple guidelines (which I’m happy to provide).
First, you should arrange for a full physical examination from your physician.
This is mandatory for people that have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, or are obese. Once you have your doctor’s approval to begin a fitness program, you should schedule a fitness assessment with a health professional at your gym.
While both of these are incredibly annoying, they are essential to your success and well-being. The benefits of a doctor’s visit are obvious, particularly if you have one or more of the previously mentioned conditions but it also allows you and your doctor to discuss your lifestyle.
Preventative medicine is far better than reactive medicine. Make your doctor part of your fat loss and health-building team along with the health professionals at your gym.
Second, get a fitness assessment from a pro.
The real benefits of the fitness assessment aren’t finding out how much body fat you have or how many minutes you can last on the treadmill, but rather getting a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses.
If you want to avoid injury and actually achieve your goals this year, get to know your strengths and weaknesses.
The next secret is to walk, don’t run, to fitness success.
If you want to pick up your University cardio workouts where you left them 10 years ago, that’s fine. But I guarantee you won’t last 10 days.
The hidden benefit of a good fitness assessment is that it will actually serve as a nice introductory workout to your return to fitness. It will buffer your delusions of fitness grandeur from the reality of what your body actually can do.
After the fitness assessment teaches your body a lesson and awakens your muscles from their winter slumber, only then will you realize your limits that you must respect in subsequent workouts.
Goal-setting is the fourth secret to success (and not just in fitness, but in any area of life).
Chris Lopez, one of Toronto’s top personal trainers advises, “Make sure you have a plan. Start with a goal, then work backwards to determine the steps you need to take to obtain that goal. If you’re new to the whole strength & conditioning scene or if you’re starting a new program that you’re not all that familiar with, consult a professional to help you get organized. The last thing you want to do is injure yourself because you made an attempt at executing an exercise with improper form. (You can get a listing of qualified individuals in your area from most fitness certification bodies – NSCA, NASM, ACSM.)”
And how does Chris structure his workouts? Lopez says, “Before we get into any type of resistance exercise, each client goes through a series of movement patterns, planks, side planks and hip stabilization exercises to get their nervous system fired up and ready for the moves that we will be doing during the body of the workout. Biceps curls are fine, but don’t forgo your core exercises for aesthetic ones.”
You must remember to train within your limits.
If you are currently sedentary and haven’t exercised in months (or years), don’t begin an advanced training program. Start with a conservative beginner program. Your belly wasn’t built in a day, and neither will be lost overnight.
Limit your initial workouts to 1 set per muscle group. In week 2, you should be ready to add another set. And if you want to build up to 3 sets, then do so in week 3. Slowly increase the weight and stay within your desired repetition range. At no time should you be too sore to function.
Runners should also heed this advice. Too much running will guarantee shin splints in the early going. Avoid running on back to back days for the first two weeks and keep the distance short. Sore muscles are guaranteed when you lift. So keep the volume low.
And now for the two super secrets that will help keep you committed and consistent with your workouts and will finally help you lose fat for good.
First, build your social support team.
Social support is the #1 factor for success for women in fitness programs, and is important for men as well. Support can come from your spouse, brother or sister, child, mom or dad, friend, neighbor, co-worker, personal trainer, or lifestyle coach.
Don’t try to go it alone. As Dr. Eric Serrano says about his weight loss patients, “Patients respond better when they report to a person instead of a machine. No one wants to disappoint a real person.”
That’s why you don’t need to train like a world-class athlete when you are starting to lose fat. Most of the fat you’ll lose in the early going is because you have chosen to make better nutritional choices. And if you don’t make better nutritional choices, even the best exercise program in the world isn’t going to help you achieve your fat loss goals.
Nutrition is a lot simpler than you think. Don’t over think things. See a nutritionist or listen to what your mother told you as a kid. Food choices should contain a large nutrient-to-calorie ratio. Dr. Phil (yes that Dr. Phil) calls this “High-Response Cost, High-Yield Nutrition”.
And follow this rule: “Don’t eat foods with added sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or fruit syrup,” says Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD. Log your nutritional intake on a website to track your calories, protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
The consistent use of these 6 secrets will help you lose fat and improve your health dramatically in just weeks.
Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Author, Turbulence Training