Fitness 101: The Basics

Congratulations! It’s a new year and you have made the resolution to finally get into or back into shape. You have your new workout clothes, joined a gym, and are motivated to eat better. You’ve checked with your physician and she says that there is no reason why you should not exercise more and, in fact, encourages you to do so. In other words, you are ready to go!

Now what?

Here are a few quick tips to help you get off to a great start and be successful in your new quest.

The Workout

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Start slowly: the biggest mistake most people make when starting out is being too ambitious. No one walks into a gym never having lifted weights before and starts pumping out reps of 225 lbs. on the bench press. It is best to start out slow with a lower weight than you think you can handle. You need to learn to feel the movement and get used to using the equipment.

Stay Consistent: the secret to getting into shape is basic. Find a routine and stick to it. Make working out a regular part of your day and you’ll succeed in the long run. This means working out when you feel like it and even when you don’t – which is the tough part.

Don’t Get Discouraged: it takes time to see and feel results. You didn’t get out of shape overnight and you won’t get into shape overnight either. Don’t expect to notice change for several weeks. The good news is that progress is addicting. Once you notice the positive benefits of exercise you’ll find that you want more and it will get easier.

Move everyday: I’m willing to bet that you spend too much time sitting around. Learn to move more. Even if it’s just walking a few extra steps by parking farther away at the store, work, whatever. Being able to move is a gift and the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Today’s walk around the block might lead to next year’s marathon!

Fitness trackers: I’m a big believer in them. If nothing else they help you to better understand how you move through the day. 10,000 steps may just be a number but most people don’t get half of that. I say again – move more!

The Gym

There will be crowds: gyms are most crowded this time of year with all sorts of people who have made New Year’s resolutions. Sadly, most will be gone within the month. You don’t want to be one of them.

Gym Etiquette: just a few basics. Check your gym’s rules for details.

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  • Rack the weights when you are done using them. This especially important as you get stronger – what might be light for you in a few months will still be heavy to someone else.
  • Wipe the benches and equipment off when you’re done – we all sweat.
  • Keep your stuff with you, don’t leave it on an empty bench while you workout across the gym – gyms have lockers for a reason by the way.
  • Mirrors are for checking your form. If you have to flex do it quickly – and in this age of “fitness influencers” and Instagram “models” everyone has to flex.
  • Speaking of influencers – some gyms forbid the use of recording equipment. If you are keeping a video log or whatever be sure to check.
  • Don’t hang around the equipment talking with your new gym buddies. Socializing is fine, just don’t hog stuff other people may need to use while you’re doing it.
  • Don’t be a creep – eyes on your own form guys and focus on your workout. Gym attire by it’s very nature is tight and often revealing. But that doesn’t mean the lovely lady on the treadmill wants you to stare at her for the entire workout.

Don’t be intimidated: everyone starts somewhere. Even the biggest, baddest dude in the gym was once a scrawny kid struggling to pick up a 2 pound weight to curl for the first time and the most bodacious booty started out as a flat or shapeless blob. Plus, these folks are focusing on their own workout. No one is paying much attention to you and most are applauding you for starting your fitness journey. And if they aren’t well who needs them? You are doing this for you and no one else.

Personal Trainers: do you need a personal trainer to get fit? Of course not, but many people find the extra accountability motivating. Plus, if you’ve never worked out in a gym before a trainer can really help you understand how exercises work together and the proper form to avoid injury. They also help get over some of that initial self-consciousness. I have a personal trainer who I meet with once a week and am still learning from him. If your budget allows it, I would recommend you try to work with one. If you can’t afford a trainer another option is to find a friend who already works out. See if he/she is willing to help you get started. Chances are they’ll be flattered you asked.

How Not To Diet

You just have to glance at me to realize that diet and nutrition are not my fortes. I’m pretty good at lifting heavy stuff but not at watching what goes into my mouth which is unfortunate because any bodybuilder will tell you that changing your shape is about 20% gym work and 80% nutrition. So, here are my top errors. Don’t emulate them:

Don’t clean out your refrigerator and cupboards by eating all the “bad” stuff first.
Don’t think you can lose weight and still eat fast food every day (or twice a day, or three times a day for that matter).
Don’t starve yourself in an effort to lose weight. You’ll only binge later.

Now for me, a lot of the usual tricks about eating don’t work and I’ve reached the point where I know why I overeat, when I overeat, and what I should not be eating. I’ve accepted that fat loss is in my hands (or mouth) and don’t feel guilt or remorse anymore when I miss goals. That’s why I’m still too fat. But, c’est la vie. Enough about my problems. I know that you can do better.

Oh, and by the way, I’m sorry to inform every nutritionist out there but if you really think that a bagel is a substitute for a doughnut you are missing the point. Granted they are both round and have holes but the similarity is only superficial!

So, Get Started Already

You have the basics – don’t be too ambitious, find a routine you can stick to, watch your diet. But the most important thing is just to get started!

Happy New Year and let me know how your fitness quest progresses through the year!

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All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted.
Photos and words @copyright by David P. Wahr