A Successful Beginner’s Mindset is NOT a 14 day Cleanse or Shred
Too many people wait until the last second to try and whip into shape. They know things have gone off the rails, in fact they've known for a long time. But for some reason they wait until, “Hurry - summer starts in two weeks!" or, "call 911, I think I just had a heart attack."
I get why. Fitness is not woven into our modern lifestyle. We sit in cars to sit at desks. We have endless easy options of instant edible gratification. Then we come home tired, tend to our home and responsibilities, and collapse. The less activity we engage in, the less energy we have. It's depressing.
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This leaves everyone primed for diet scams, hamster wheel workouts and snake oil salesmen hawking magic beans. Everyone seems to be "shredding" and "ripping" and "blasting" and "cleansing" to go from A to Z in 14-30 days.
I guess that's fine if you always wanted to hobble around, looking for a bathroom, and feeling like you have a tetanus infection, but most people don't enjoy that sensation, so they quit and never go back.
That is why you must set reasonable goals. This is not a race; it is your new life. Progressing in manageable increments will get you much farther than sprinting off and gassing in the first quarter-mile. And those progressions will stick with you, as opposed to trying to flip your lifestyle 180 degrees, thinking your lifestyle isn’t going to fall back on top of you. Because it will. And it will hurt.
What Are Reasonable Goals?
Studies show that on average, it takes a little over two months to form a new habit. So, don’t go around thinking it will take two months to transform your body. In fact, a reasonable goal should have little to do with transforming your body right off the bat. You should be focused on making improvements to prime your body for transformation, instead.
One reasonable goal is to live a healthier lifestyle this year. Yes, I said year. Active lifestyles and hard bodies take time. If you don’t have far to go, it may be possible to achieve your goals within a year, but if you have a lot of weight to lose or live a very sedentary lifestyle, it will take longer.
When you start looking for workout plans, chances are you'll find a lot of high-intensity circuits designed to make you pour sweat and wish you were dead. While these programs are a great challenge for conditioned intermediates and above, I do not think they are the best choice for the majority of people who haven't done a jump squat since high school. If you are just getting off the couch or desk chair, I think a less-intense approach is better.
Walk for a half hour every day. Do a few rounds of push-ups, squats, lunges and crunches. Swap out sugary beverages for water. Cut your alcohol consumption. Eat a quarter less food than you usually do. That’s it. Do this for two months, then consider a gym membership and a simple strength building plan.
Are you rolling your eyes? Thinking that this is too simple? That it is not enough change to matter?
When people jump into the deep end without a swimming lesson, they tend to drown. "Train insane" sounds awesome, but actually doing it is hard. Like, really hard. Three rounds of 15 burpees, 10 pushups, 20 sit ups, 10 box jumps and 30 jumping jacks sounds like tough, sexy, sweaty time.
However, by your seventh burpee on your first round, you are going to be done. No tough, sexy, anything.
Plyometrics, Sprints, and High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) were created to help athletes take their conditioning to the next level, not for couch potatoes to have heart attacks. Don't get me wrong, these exercises are great.
They are incredibly efficient and I highly recommend adding this type of training into your routine later on, when you have at least mastered sticking to a regular plan. But, right off the bat, this stuff will just make you want to quit. I don't want you quitting. I don't want you to lose ten pounds in a month and then be back to square one before the year is over.
These changes I suggested are free, short on time, and require zero equipment. If you can't stick to that, why buy a gym membership and new gear?
If you stick to those small habits for two months, you can kick it up a notch. Begin a weight training program designed for beginners. Add some intervals to your cardio. As you progress, examine yourself. What is working, and what isn’t? What area would you like to improve?
If you feel you need more weight loss, install a calorie tracking app on your phone and get serious about intake. If you want more muscle, focus on pushing yourself incrementally in the gym. If walking or jogging is hurting your knees, consider a bike or an elliptical machine.
If lifting weights bores you, consider group fitness classes. If cardio bores you, consider a boxing class or a dance class. Tweak your lifestyle. Do not make more than one or two changes every two months and make sure those changes are working before you add more.
That sounds like a long time. When will I see results?
You will feel results before you see them. Within a few weeks, you should feel more motivated. Within a few months, you may notice an initial drop in weight, and significant increase in energy. In six to eight months, you will see your strength level go up farther than you would have expected.
By the end of the year, you will have lost weight, gained solid strength and muscle, and be on your way to a happier, healthy life. But only if you put in the effort.
If you hit a snag or screw up, simply get back on track and move forward. Steady, consistent progress is the only way to make changes that last.
In one year, do you want to be better off, worse off, or the same? Those are your only choices. Don’t lie to yourself and then you will not be enticed by the lies of the supplement and fitness industry that tell you all you have to do is take a pill, juice, blast, rip and shred your body so you can look smoking hot on the beach in two weeks.
Summer is always around the corner when you’re out of shape. Create a life that has you looking forward to it, not afraid of it.