Posted December 30, 2014

5 Ways for Beginners to Succeed in The Gym in 2015

January in a health club.

Very few other terms will strike terror in the hearts of regular gym goers around the world. Regular check ins to a facility see a spike as people start to come in to make the new year their year to be in shape. It’s awesome to see so many people looking to take care of themselves, but if you’re used to being able to walk into a gym at your usual time and then have free access to all your favourite equipment on demand, it’s going to be a little different.

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While this may be a minor inconvenience to many who routinely workout, it’s a bigger problem for someone who may have never worked out a day in their life, and are already intimidated to step foot inside a gym at all. This is one reason why a lot of people who begin a gym membership will simply go over to the cardio equipment and spend 30 or 40 minutes simply being active while avoiding the crowds that may happen in the weight training area.

This is a good thing.

It’s something that will be comfortable enough for the individual coming in to an unfamiliar and often intimidating environment to find some semblance of success. As they get more comfortable, they can try out some of the other areas, be they group classes, weight training, working with a trainer, or whatever they want to accomplish.

The downside to most gym goers starting a new fitness regimen is they tend to go about it without a plan, and in some cases without a realistic and reasonable plan. Many times the approach of a complete 180 in the individual’s lifestyle will result in a lot of challenges that make the process unnecessarily complicated and difficult, while also reducing their chances for success. It’s a dark story on how so many people who begin the year with aspirations of fitness will have given up relatively early in the year, and where only a very small percent of people will still be going come next January.

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So having a smaller overall change with more of a plan to work on succeeding at the small things would be a better option compared to going whole hog at it and having a flame out before the next month had arrived. This post will outline a couple of very easy strategies to make sure you can find success in 2015 if you’re looking to start a fitness plan.

1. Make it Daily

I was talking with a client of mine who has been a regular at 6 am for a couple of years. When we first started training, it was once a week, and eventually progressed to twice a week. Aside from that, she was trying to get in some workouts with friends at other times and in other locations (gyms, neighborhood walks, etc), and was struggling to make it consistent. The twice a week workouts at 6am were a hard struggle to get in since they were so early, but again they were the only times she had to work out.

She started taking a spin class each week at 6am as well, and then included a second one. As she was now coming into the gym 4 days a week at 6 am she found it was a lot easier to do than just once or twice because it was more of a habit to be up and out the door for her workouts those days versus a big shock to the system on the days where she would have to wake up so much earlier than usual.

Now I’m not saying everyone should workout at 6am as everyone has a different time that works best for them. However, if you have a specific time that works for you, make it a habit that you work into your daily and weekly routine. If it’s only something you do once or twice a week and at varied or non-specific times, it’s going to be a lot harder to achieve versus a regular scheduled appointment with yourself.

Some people make it their normal before-work thing, some make it a regular after-work thing before they get home, and some would be best to break up the middle of the day if their schedules allow. My ideal time is either 10 am or 2 pm, simply because that’s when I don’t have as many regular clients, and as a result when the gym is not as busy.

You don’t have to do a marathon workout in these sessions, and in fact 20-30 minutes may be more than enough to start off, especially if you haven’t done that much before. A shorter workout will also involve less next day soreness, which will help make you want to show up again tomorrow for your regularly scheduled time,

2. Go For the Low Hanging Nutritional Fruit

Diets suck. Completely changing your entire way of eating and conforming to something that isn’t what you’re accustomed to has a very low rate of retention, and is a major reason why a lot of people wind up giving up on them after the first week.

That being said, there are a lot of benefits to making small and manageable changes to your nutrition that you wouldn’t even notice. Some of the easier options could be:

  • Reducing portion sizes slightly. If you’re used to 2 scoops of rice with your dinner, you simply take one and a half scoops.
  • Drink a glass of water in the morning. It could be while your breakfast is cooking or before or after you’ve brushed your teeth.
  • Have a vegetable at every meal.
  • Use one sugar in your coffee instead of 2, and/or switch from cream to milk
  • Make a protein shake to sip on through the day. Mixing a scoop of good quality protein with either milk, coconut or almond milk, or just plain water, and a handful of berries is all it would take. If you’re up for it, throw in a handful of either kale or spinach, cocoa nibs, or flax seed and maybe a spoon of peanut or almond butter, and you’ve got a great way to make an easily portable meal for whenever you need it. It only takes about 3 minutes to make.

In many cases, any one or even all of these would be enough to see initial results without causing a lot of stress in your life. Most of it would be in line with your current habits as well, which makes them easier to adopt.

3. Learn a skill, don’t just work a muscle

A skill is a movement that has a lot of concepts to work towards and involves a purpose. Simply going to the gym to burn calories and measure weight loss can be a very tedious process. When people want to do an activity that has a skill component to it, they usually show up more, want to see progress and practice more than those who don’t. A skill can be anything you would want it to be, including learning one exercise in the weight training area. It could be a squat, plank, deadlift, chin up, or any skill you like, but focusing on achieving competency in a movement makes working out a lot easier to accomplish.

Let’s say the gym isn’t your thing, but you were just born to dance. Your name is Billy Elliot, and you’re gonna be your own West Side Story. Jamiroquai wrote that song about your and your canned heat in your heels tonight bay – BAY.

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Take a dance class. Show up to Zumba. Do anything you want that helps you get your sweat on and boogie your little heart out. Maybe join a recreational sports league. What ever floats your boat and that has a skill component to it that allows you to improve your movement ability.

4. If Starting With Weights, Keep the Workouts Short

Weight training is a big component to people joining a gym and getting healthy. The weight room typically makes up about 70% of the usable gym space, so it’s value to your membership is pretty high, meaning you should eventually get into some of the iron and get all jacked and stuff.

This doesn’t mean you’re going to turn into Arnold overnight or that females will grow an Adam’s apple after their first venture with dumbbells over 20 pounds. That kind of stuff takes decades of incredibly hard work, optimal genetics, and a specific desire to make it happen.

That being said, the benefits to strength training for all people and for pretty much all goals is immeasurable. From easier ability to make it through the day to better sleep to maintained functional capacity in the elderly, it’s essentially the fountain of youth for many, which means you should learn what to do.

Trying to spend an hour torching your triceps when just starting out might not be the best idea. Instead, pick one or two exercises you would like to accomplish and do those. Exact sets, reps and weights aren’t important when you’re beginning, but learning and gaining comfort with them is more beneficial. Machines are beneficial because they’re pretty much idiot proof, operating on only a fixed axis and movement direction. They also have descriptions and pictures on them for how to operate them and what muscles they work.

Once you’re feeling comfortable with the machines, give a barbell or dumbbell a try. Most initial workouts will only have to be a couple minutes, and then from there you could expand as you feel comfortable and want to do more.

 5. Just Show Up

Exercise is something you have to actively participate in to see the benefits. It’s not something you can outsource or delegate to others and expect to see any gains. This means you have to put in the work and get it done and avoid procrastination. Similar to grocery shopping,cleaning the bathroom, doing paperwork for your job, or driving to work, it just has to be done to get what you want.

There’s a great sequence in the movie Dangerous Minds where the teacher talks about choice. The students have the choice not to get on the bus and go to school each day. The choice to get on or the choice to not get on each results in specific consequences, and many choose the beneficial consequences of going to school each day versus the negative consequences of not going because they know it will pay off.

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Each day you have a choice to go to the gym or to not go. Going will give you a specific consequence, and not going will give a specific consequence. If you want the result, you just have to make the choice to show up.