If you are not athletic or haven’t spent much time with personal fitness, that first step to an effective routine can be a bitch. Like so many things, it really differs based on the individual. I will tell you what worked for me. I slowly lost over 50 pounds with my initial routine, I learned what my body type was supposed to be and I refined my diet and workout regime over several years of experimenting. My end weight was within 30 pounds of my start weight, but my body fat percentage is around 5%, so I removed fat and increased muscle mass. I went from a waste size of 34 to a 28.
Here is a quick list of the tools you can use at home. You don’t need a gym membership. I did not retain a gym membership until 5 years in. 100% of my progress was done at home or on the road.
Motivation is the most important thing. This can’t be something simple or flippant, you need to be able to turn to it over and over again to keep you going through the rough spots. (There will be times when the most motivated individuals will struggle to do that first rep or put on their gym shoes). For me, it was health and happiness. I found myself feeling in tired, unmotivated on almost a daily basis. When I look at my family, I saw similar traits and took note of the heart disease and type II diabetes that ran in the family. I vowed that I would push myself in a new direction, focusing on health and capability.
One of the biggest hurdles to a regular workout regimen is friction. Friction by way of obstacles between you and your workout. Be self reflective, think about what these are for you and systematically remove them. For me, I knew that if I did my workout after hours or in the afternoon/evening I would make excuses not to do it. Hard day at work, committed to a happy hour, ate something at lunch that didn’t sit well, etc. As a result, I committed to doing my workouts as soon as I wake up in the morning. There is nothing in my way. Literally nothing. There are numerous other benefits to doing your workout in the morning including focus, energy levels, and increased metabolism throughout the day. In the early days of my routine, the morning workout directly impacted my diet in a positive way. I would complete an intense workout in the morning and when presented with food options I would calculate which foods complimented my workout and which ones negated it. For example, for breakfast - eggs vs. donut. Eggs have protein and will compliment the workout i did. Donuts have oil, simple carbs, and sugar which will negate my effort. It made my food choices easier.
The second part of removing friction is, at least when you are getting started, don’t go to a gym. Just don’t. The act of getting up, putting clothes in a bag, getting in the car or walking blocks to another location, doing a workout, showering, coming back and changing then going to work is FRICTION. Tons of it. You can talk yourself out of that shit any day. Do your workout at home. There are numerous home workout programs that do not require much investment or tools to complete. They are fun, they are easy, and they remove most friction. This way, you can roll out of bed, drink your water (more on this later), and start your program. Easy. No excuses, no friction.
Don’t get stuck on the physical manifestation of results. This will be different for everyone. I didn’t really see physical results for almost 6 months. I experienced so many other benefits nearly immediately. Primarily, I slept better and found myself to be more emotionally balanced. I didn’t anger as quickly, and my general demeanor was more positive. I just felt better.
The physical results will come....and you will love it.
Mix it up.
I managed to find myriad things to do to compliment my workout that kept it interesting. I think this is not only the key to not getting bored, but increases results. I worked with a training DVD initially and almost exclusively. Then, one day, my laptop started acting funny and wouldn’t play the DVD. What! I had successfully motivated myself to do this DVD every day for over a month and now it won’t function. What to do? I laced up some old tennis shoes and went for a run. I threw up after a half a mile. The next day I fixed the DVD problem and went back to my training on the DVD, but I decided that two days a week I would run. I bought real running shoes and started running. Working out and running. I eventually was working out, practicing yoga, and running every other day sometimes to the tune of 30+ miles a week. No throwing up. My workout varies these days, but I workout 5 days a week and it typically is a combination of weights, body weight exercises, plyometric, running, gym and gym programs. Quite a mix. You can find what makes you happy....just keep doing it.
You have to give yourself time to repair. This is very subjective IMHO, and you have to listen to your body. Over the years of my fitness programs I have learned to tune into what my body is telling me. I also learned that if I ignore it, it yells....LOUD. See Injury. Originally I was doing a couple rest days a week, but now I keep it to one but pay close attention to what muscles I am challenging and try to give them 24 to 48 hours between workouts by alternating the workout programs. Even on my off day, i do not sit around and watch reruns of Friends. I always end up on a walk or a hike or something active.
I have had myriad injuries over the years. Some of them have been debilitating and frustrating. I think the most important thing here is to give yourself space to heal and find a way to channel your frustration. For me, there was always this fear that the injury break was going to ruin my routine...my momentum. I had to find ways to channel that. Sometimes it was finding other exercises that did not impact the affected area. Other times it was meditation, motorcycling, or walking. Walking is amazing. Save some running injuries, you can always walk. It provides exercise at a leisurely pace and you can find things to do. Walking is another topic entirely...but do some...more than you are used to.
To avoid injury and to get the maximum results you need to maintain good form. Most of the DVD programs will coach you on this but you typically won’t have the benefit of another person objectively judging you. You have two primary tools: YouTube and a mirror. YouTube offers endless examples of good form for exercise and if you practice and or perform the exercise in front of a mirror, you can be your own coach. A simple litmus test: Effective exercise is typically about working an isolates set of muscles, so when you start moving your entire body...you are doing it wrong. See Injury.
As you get more advanced:
Universal body weight shit that will make a difference.
Push ups. You can always do them. Anywhere. There are so many variations. It stimulates your metabolism and really strengthens your core. Do push ups.
Planking. Like pushups, good for the core, but also good for the soul. I find planking to be meditative in nature. Try it....
Pull ups. You can do these with a pull up bar. That said, while traveling I have gotten creative and found ways to do pull ups in hotel rooms, garages, underneath tables...yea....and virtually anywhere. Pull-ups are great for your back and shoulder muscles but also a great full body workout. Do pull-ups.
Sit-ups/crunches/leg lifts. You can do sit-ups anywhere. Do as many as you can. Leg lifts, lie on the end of the bed with your butt at the very edge, legs off and straight. Lift!
Burpees. Look. I have built a tremendous amount of cardio capability. I can run fast and recover quickly. But burpees. They get me every time. There are so many kinds of burpees, but my favorite are the four count. (Well I have a special place for the 6 count which includes a knee to elbow between push ups). Do burpees. Builds character.
The human body.
Don’t sell yourself short. You may think that you have too far to go...that you can’t get there. I remember when I saw Tony on the BeachBody videos and rolled my eyes. I remember when he would do those extra push ups or pull-ups on a video and I would think...”what an ass...of course he can do that...he is superhuman.” I am not superhuman. I don’t have good genes. I can do those things now. I can do 100 pull-ups. I can do 100 consecutive push-ups. You just need to start somewhere....and persist. ...and eat right.