Getting Started with Health & Fitness
Ok, so you’ve decided it’s time to make a change in your health and fitness. Maybe you’ve put on a few extra pounds and you want to lose some weight. Maybe you got winded chasing the kids around the yard and you want to feel fit again. Maybe you did some yard work, realized picking up that 50lb bag of mulch felt like a near-death experience, and you want to build muscle and get stronger.
Regardless of the reason, the decision has been made and it’s time to start down that path. Rather filling this article with sets, reps, calories, macros, and all of the other fitness jargon that gets used all the time, I wanted to give you just 4 key principles to use as you begin this journey.
What is your WHY?
It starts with WHY. If any of you have head Simon Sinek’s TED Talk or read his book “Find your Why,” you know the power of this concept. We can all dream about having the six-pack abs and bulging biceps, being able to lift huge amounts of weight, or running a marathon. Seriously, what guy wouldn’t want to look like Hugh Jackman, Jason Statham, or Dwayne Johnson?
However, while it’s great to have goals you aspire to, it’s more important to know why you’re chasing those goals. If your goal is to look like (insert name of famous celebrity here), why do you want to look like that? Do you want to impress your wife? Are you looking to become a stunt double for their next movie? Do you just want to be able to look in the mirror and be proud of what you’ve built?
What about performance-based goals – lifting more weight, having more endurance, or just having more energy throughout the day? Do you have these goals because you love the thrill of competition and want to compete in a specific arena like powerlifting, a marathon, or CrossFit? Do you just want to be able to chase your kids around the yard without huffing & puffing or feeling like you might break something if you break into a jog?
Your why also doesn’t have to be single-focused either – it can be any number of reasons. In fact, I think that can be helpful because it can give you multiple points of motivation for staying consistent. The point here is that your WHY is what is going to drive you to work toward these goals. It has to be strong enough to push you through the sticking points. It has to get you up off the couch or out of bed at 4AM to get in that workout when you would rather just take it easy.
Set a Goal
Once you know your WHY, it’s time to set a goal. Now, your goal does not have to be the same as other people’s goals, nor should it be. You may want to get lean & shredded, or add 15lbs of muscle, or maybe increase your speed and agility so you can catch your 3-year old toddler who just took off in the middle of a crowded department store while you were stuck paying at the checkout counter (I’m not saying this has ever happened to me before, but 3 year olds are surprisingly quick for having such short legs). The point however is that it gives you something to work towards.
Whatever the goal, I’m a firm believer in using SMART goals. For those of you who don’t know, SMART is an acronym for:
I like this system because it helps to put goals in real terms rather than just being some abstract idea of what you want to achieve. For instance, a fitness goal of “I want to be stronger” is not as powerful as “I want to add 50lbs to my max deadlift in 1 year.” If I look at the second version, it’s it checks all the boxes:
- Specific – “add 50lbs to my deadlift”
- Measureable – 50lbs is an exact measure measurement
- Achievable – adding 50lbs to a max deadlift is certainly reasonable, more so than, say adding 200-300lbs to that lift
- Results-Focused – adding weight to the bar is the result
- Time-Bound – 1 Year
Once you have these things in place, you can start to work backwards and create a plan around that. You can start to plan how many and what types of workouts to do, what types of progress you need to expect to see, etc.
Pick a Plan
Notice the title of this section is not “Find A Plan”. In this day and age, you can find information on just about anything with just a few clicks on the keyboard or a quick search on your phone. There are online coaches, done-for-you training and nutrition plans, and endless articles and websites on how to create your own. Once you’ve chosen your next goal, the problem can often be deciding which way to start.
The important thing here though is to pick one plan that aligns with your chosen goal and stick with it. In the future, I plan to have my own set of workout and training plans that you can use. In the meantime, if you are suffering from information overload, here are some great, no-nonsense resources and books that I have used over the years:
- Bigger Leaner Stronger by Mike Matthews
- The Renaissance Diet by Dr. Mike Israetel
- Scientific Principles of Strength Training by Dr. Mike Israetel, Dr. James Hoffman, & Chad Wesley Smith
- Practical Programming for Strength Training by Mark Rippetoe
These books are great hubs of information for evidence-backed training and nutrition principles that anyone can use to get started on their fitness journey. Most also have their own coaching services or training programs that you can purchase that could help you as you move forward.
Progress, not Perfection – Keep Moving Forward!
Finally, and more than any of the previous three steps, I feel that this one is the most important. I don’t know about you, but I personally don’t have my own commercial-sized gym with every piece of equipment I could imagine, personal chef to make all of my meals and measure things out by the calorie and gram of protein, or the luxury of always getting a full and undisturbed 8 hours of sleep every night. In fact, my training is often done in my basement before anyone in my house is even awake or sometimes I have to train while also juggling helping with homework, doing laundry, and feeding small children. My meals are sometimes a protein bar or a drive-thru chicken sandwich because I didn’t have time to meal prep the night before. Sleep? More often than I care to admit I get by on 5 hours that were interrupted multiple times by a restless toddler.
We can’t always expect to be training and eating under ideal conditions. In fact, as busy fathers it will almost never be under ideal conditions. Did you miss a training session yesterday? It’s ok, just plan to hit the gym today. Did you opt for the office donut when you should have just said no? It’s ok, make sure to meal prep tonight so you have your food ready for tomorrow.
The main point here is that whatever the obstacle, whatever the setback, you keep moving forward.
So those are my top tips for getting started with your health & fitness journey. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and if you have any thoughts you would like to share, make sure to leave a comment below!