Part One: Defining a “fitness journey”.
For many people, getting “in shape” carries stringent conditions and ideals. Cover models, celebrities and athletes are thrust into our line of sight daily, and yes they look incredible (not you, Miley). People like these should really be serving as strong motivational tools for the person looking to change their lifestyle, instead I fear that they also may dissuade some from giving it a shot because of self-doubt.
Everyone looks in the mirror some days and says I want to change this, or I want to change that. This is commonplace in a society that sadly, judges us on first impressions and initial appearances. However, we also live in a society that promotes equality and change, yet when I scour the interwebs for new training footage or interesting workout/diet tips, I see so much bashing, self-loathing, and downright negativity that makes me think, “shit I wouldn’t want to try and get in shape either if this is the kind of feedback id receive”. This is the root of all that is wrong within the fitness community, and just everyday life in general. I see so much hate going on just in the gym after work that it makes me want to just buy equipment and put it in my garage so I can get my workouts done there.
First lets clarify what a “fitness journey” is. I’ve seen this term used on facebook, twitter, instagram and on the forums on various websites.
Basically, it starts with an initial desire. The desire to change the way you look, eat, feel, or think. Fitness is not solely about physical health, I would argue that the most beneficial aspects of being fit stem from the mental tools you gain during the process. This desire is then translated into eating better and regular exercise. The cycle repeats itself day in and day out, until the “old” you “becomes” a fitter YOU.
I would be lying if I told you that simply eating better and consistently exercising is what a fitness journey is. Your body consumes better food, yes. Your body exercises regularly, yes. The variables largely come into play when dealing with what your mind endures; that is the real journey. Your body changes and looks “better”, but your mind is the architect to the entire project.
Fitness Journey = Idea => Nutrition + Exercise. (The idea you have about how you want to change your body/lifestyle yields the changes in your eating habits and exercise, as they as necessary components for change in this arena).
Part Two: Lets Get You Started
You don’t need a fancy gym pass to start, or amazing cooking skills. All you need is your desire. I wanted to write this towards a general audience, I don’t know what your specific goals are.
1). Start slow, if you are new to fitness or have a fair amount of weight you want to get off of you, go for a brisk walk every single morning on an empty stomach. Start for 20 minutes, then progress at your own pace. This is a journey remember, not a race, you shouldn’t care how long it takes, just that it gets done. Losing weight and becoming fit takes immense amounts of trial and error, if you feel like you aren’t making progress, switch it up! If you can briskly walk for an hour in the morning with minimal breaks, congratulations, it is time to step up your game.
2). Use the mirror AND the scale. Weight fluctuates dramatically, for some more than others. If you see changes in the mirror, that’s wonderful, but do not be discouraged if the scale doesn’t say what you were hoping for. A tip I have found when I tried to lose a fair amount of weight was to weigh myself multiple times a day, if I could, to see that weight is in fact just a number. This number will change, it will go up and down, but it should not come close to ruling how you approach your journey.
3). Pay attention to how your clothes fit. If your jeans are fitting looser, or your t-shirts are becoming less snug, then you’re on to something if you want to lose weight. If you are trying to gain lean muscle, gauging progress via your clothes can be tricky (use the mirror instead).
4). Read muscle magazines with caution. Don’t get me wrong, I love magazines like Men’s Health, Flex, and Muscular Development (I don’t read women’s fitness magazines since well, I’m a guy). These can give great generalized advice regarding nutrition, workout regiments, training tips, or motivational tools, but try and remember that what works for you is what matters. I lost over 70 lbs because I didn’t skip a day of training or any of my meals for over four months. I trained every body part almost every single day, most people will laugh and call bullshit, but it worked for me. Trial and error is key, here. Try the new “fad” workout that everyone is talking about, it might work, it might not, either way do what you want.
5). You will have bad days, and you will have days where you ask if your sacrifice is worth it. Find motivation in something. It could be simply your own desire, or a picture, a quote, a self-affirmation, a video on youtube, a song, or something a person said to you. Literally, anything. What motivated me will be far different from what motivated you in all likelihood, so do you and keep pressing on.
6). Nutrition is everything. You spend a portion of your day working out to get your dream body or shed a few lbs, don’t sabotage it by not being prepared to make sacrifices in the kitchen. If you’re shooting for overall weight loss, eat lean and look mean. That means lean means like chicken and turkey, along with vegetables. Throw in some brown rice or sweet potatoes for carbs (but don’t overdo it), everyone is different and trying to assess the importance of each individual carb in a general article like this would be exhausting for us both. If you want to gain lean muscle, eat lean and look mean, as well. You cant go wrong with chicken and rice, just at a higher frequency, invest in a whey protein supplement so you can stay in an anabolic (muscle-building) state throughout the day.
7). The secret to success is that there isn’t one. Consistency wins, period. Staying positive throughout your journey is essential as I briefly alluded to in #5. Seriously though, believe in what you are doing. It sounds so cliché, but if you set your mind to losing 50 lbs, BELIEVE that you can. The strongest mental tool I have ever discovered is the power of visualization. See yourself stepping on the scale achieving your goal, see yourself on the treadmill every day, or running, or whatever your regimen entails. Visualization breeds positivity, and positivity generates progress, isn’t that what we all want in life anyway?
8). Failing is good. If you at some point you don’t achieve what you were hoping for, its ok! Failure is simply another opportunity for you to succeed. If a workout kicks your butt, so what! Get up the next day and focus on beating what beat you. That is the quickest way to progress. Use that failure as motivation, not an excuse to quit.
9). Drink only water. You could write multiple articles about the health benefits of water, but for fitness purposes it’s a simply a must. When you’re dehydrated your body goes into “starvation” mode and actually holds more of that water, hindering your weight loss goals. Stay hydrated all the time. First thing in the morning, drink water. Have your coffee after your water, you’ll notice your stomach wont respond as negatively. Water boosts cognitive function and lubricates your joints, so your mind and body will be on the same page during your workout.
10). Take pictures. You don’t have to post them online obviously, they should be for you. Take pictures every week or two weeks, or if you had a really good day of eating and killed your workout. They serve as motivational tools during this process. It’s a long journey and you are going to need to see some returns on your investment (looking at pictures of the “new” you will boost your morale and increases the likelihood of your success).
Part Three: Why Should You Listen to Anything I Have to Say?
“Yo so are you a CPT (certified personal trainer)?”. No, I am not. I don’t have certs, or multiple degrees in exercise physiology, nutrition, or physical therapy, but don’t give up on me yet. I have been training in the gym since I was 16 years old (currently 23), and have been playing sports all of my life. Going to the gym, training outside, and making healthy progress is my favorite thing to do, and I’m slowly realizing that I could help people achieve their goals; nothing would satisfy me more as a person.
I have had two separate “fitness journeys” in my seven years of training. When I first started working out, my goal was to put on muscle and gain strength. I started at 175 lbs and not being able to bench press 75 lbs, I was painfully weak. By age 19 I had reached a solid 230 lbs in weight and was far from that initial pathetic bench press (my personal best is 425 lbs unassisted and fully paused at the bottom at age 22). My second journey started this January when I got the flu. I lost almost 20 lbs in two weeks and ate maybe twice in that span. I felt horrible, losing all that I had worked for, but I saw it as an opportunity. I got back into the gym, started getting back to my roots of running and playing basketball, small and simple changes. I began eating healthier and mixed with cardio every single day, I lost a little over 72 lbs when it was all said and done.
Everyone asks for “stats”, so I’ll just provide them.
Height: 6 ft.
Weight: 192.3 (this morning after two meals)
Waist: 28 inches.
Current Goal: Lean Muscle Acquisition, Overall Health.
Current “Diet”: Chicken, mixed vegetables, brown rice with a touch of tomato sauce (4x daily), 6 eggs and 2 cup of oats in the morning, 2 tbsp of extra crunchy peanut butter every 3 hours as a snack.
Supplements: Creatine Monohydrate (no, it doesn’t kill), green tea extract (I also drink 3-4 cups of green tea daily, mixed with stevia sweetener at times), coffee and amino acid capsules before workout, and at gaspari nutrition aminolast during my workouts (2 scoops provides over 10 grams in aminos).
Strength/Fitness Feats: 425 lbs flat bench press, 635 raw deadlift, 415 decline bench @ bodyweight of 181.2 lbs (morning weight), 140 lbs one-arm dumbbell clean and press (done last week at 189 lbs). 140lbs dumbbell incline presses for 5 reps @ 182 lbs bodyweight, 180lbs weighted dips for 5 reps (4 45 lb plates wrapped around a weight belt), 150 decline pushups consecutively, 6:10 mile at 225 lbs bodyweight, 710 lbs rack pull (192 lbs), and 30 handstand pushups.
(These stats span over the seven years I have been focused on training). I started putting in body weight movements during the month of March (2013).
I didn’t post any pictures in this article because that just felt so self serving, but there are some progress pics I have on my instagram (addisteven). Follow me!
Thanks for reading, any and all feedback is appreciated but most importantly I hope I can serve as some kind of motivation for someone to get out there and make their own incredible journey into a real life success story. Take care, all.