With 2015 right around the corner many people are gearing up to finally get in some other shape than round. For many this will be the latest in a long line of failed attempts, and many others will find the journey just as difficult, confusing, and frustrating. With the oversaturation of information available it’s important to take a step back and simplify things a bit. Here are a few straightforward tips that should help keep your resolution from derailing.
Nutrition is Important, so Keep it Simple: When it comes to nutrition, don’t start off by worrying about calories, carbohydrates, fats, and protein. There is a time and a place for that and it isn’t now. Calories matter, but they’re not as important as you think. Keep things simple and start by following one simple rule laid out by Jack LaLanne: If God made it, eat it. If man made it, don’t touch it. Avoid prepackaged foods and try to eat things that came from the ground or had a mother. Making drastic changes at once can be a challenge, which leads me to my next point…
Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day, You Won’t Be Either: The famous marshmallow test taught us that those who are better able to delay gratification have better continual success. It also showed people who cannot delay gratification are 30% more likely to be overweight and suffer higher rates of depression and drug addiction. Drastic results usually require drastic changes, but they don’t need to happen all at once. Self-help professionals love to tell you it takes around 21 days to develop a good habit, but the reality is that on average it takes closer to 66. Make incremental changes and adhere to them. If it took you 15 years to get to your current state of dysfunction don’t expect to get fit in one week. Don’t expect perfection. You’re a human being, and human beings are great at sucking at life. Your goal is to suck a little less.
Focus on Strength Training: Regardless of your goal, strength will make it easier to reach. Think of training as systemic. A bout of exercise doesn’t just work the muscles; it also has a significant impact on hormone production and regulation as well as the respiratory and circulatory systems. This doesn’t mean you can pop off a few sets of arm curls and expect to be jacked. Big multi-joint lifts like squats and deads are the best at generating a greater training response. Of course, the most obvious benefit of strength training is strength. A stronger body will move through life with greater ease, be less prone to injury, and be able to get more out of each workout.
Skip the Treadmill: Unless you actually enjoy doing long bouts of cardio you’re better off skipping it. It’s a horribly inefficient use of your training time. If you’re looking for noticeable results your time is better spent under a barbell. The experience I’ve had with clients consistently shows those who focus on weight training and sprint work enjoy much better progress than the cardio crowd. Next time you’re at the gym look for the best bodies and where they’re spending their time. It isn’t by the stationary bikes and stair climbers, and it sure as hell isn’t in a step class.
Learn The Basics: Deads, squats, chins, and presses are basic lifts that give you the greatest bang for your buck. It’s needless to say, they should be at the core of nearly every exercise program, and your ability to improve these lifts will determine how well you can progress. Don’t worry about continually trying to add new lifts, movement patterns, volume, weight, sets, and reps all at once. Develop competent execution of the basics and focus on progression through one variable at a time. This can be as simple as increasing the weight, dropping your rest, or simply adding one or two seconds to your tempo each week.
Hire Somebody If Possible, But Be Cautious: Knowledge of a topic is one thing, being able to implement is something different. Your chances of success are much greater when direction is given by someone who has a wealth of experience helping people get bigger, stronger, faster, leaner, etc… The trick is finding a personal trainer or strength coach who is competent. There is a misconception that personal trainers are generally the same and working out is working out. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Judge a personal trainer or strength coach by their body of work. Have they produced results? Have they shown they can do so repeatedly? If not, look elsewhere.
Last but Certainly Not Least: If this is your first rodeo and you’re just looking for any positive change the rules are simple; eat real food and move your body. Remember, change is the result of applying a new stimulus to the body. For many people doing anything at all is a move in the right direction, you’d be surprised what a simple walk can accomplish. Others will have to take a more in depth approach. Different goals require different approaches. Filter out all the bullshit and find the approach that works for you. When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with eating clean and lifting big.