Everyone starts with the best of intentions when they start working out for the first time. Some are shooting for weight loss, some are trying to gain muscle, some are trying to run their first marathon, and so many other ideas. Then you see them walk into the gym and start going at a workout like their lives depend upon it. Great enthusiasm and energy, and you can see they really desire a change. This is so common in January when everyone is making a variety of resolutions, but once mid February hits the gyms are empty and people are no longer working out. Why? There are many different answers to this question, but in my opinion and personal experience it is lack of a real plan that matches a persons goals.
I cannot express how many times I have seen someone walk into the gym, obviously new, and do a routine that makes no logical sense. Hitting machines that target different muscle groups, using different rep and weight schemes, and having no consistency in rest time between sets. There is one guy that sticks out to me from a few years back. He would be at the gym every morning at 5am and he would bust his ass but in a way that made absolutely no sense to me. I had just begun learning about the different types of lifting and the benefits so I chalked it up to me not knowing everything and I watched. I watched for months as this guy would come in and basically play weight machine roulette every morning. Sure he would sweat, probably be sore, and lose a few pounds because this was a MUCH better alternative to sitting on the couch, but he could have done so much more!
After almost 3 months of daily training this guy, like so many others started to fade away until I no longer saw him at the gym. I do not know him nor did I ever talk to him so I can only speculate why he stopped, but I assume that it was due to a lack of results. Today I wish he trained at my gym because I would have gladly stopped and talked to him and tried to help him out, but I cannot. This is my inspiration for this article and I hope that it helps anyone out there either just getting started or who wants to change things up!
To find the right training program the first thing you need to do is know what you want out of it. Just like it is not a smart move for a mother of 4 to buy a 2 seat sports car for day to day use, it is not smart to go at a training program you found online without knowing for sure that it fits what you are trying to do! The easiest way to do this in all reality is to sit down with a personal trainer or a coach (it won’t take 3 weeks of reading my blog and can be done in an hour), but if you are like me you want to save a few bucks and so lets go over the basics.
Set a goal
This sounds easy, but a lot of times people fail because they set horrible goals. “Losing weight” is not a goal! “Getting bigger” also is a horrible example of a goal. Pretty much anything that can be summarized in a 2-4 word sentence should not be considered a goal if you are serious about changing yourself! I tell my middle school students and clients the same thing when it comes to goals, you have to create S.M.A.R.T. goals! For those that are new to this concept SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based.
Without going into depth on each one, using this system is a great way to hold yourself accountable and hit your mark, or damn near close! I have set many SMART goals in my day, but the one I have always struggled to do correctly is the “Attainable” piece. I usually think I am able to do more than I can and I set this too high. For example, 2 years ago part of my SMART goal was to hit 10% body fat over the course of 4 months. I was at about 18-20%. This is not unimaginable to do, but with working a full time job and being a full time parent I found that it was kind of unattainable for me at that time. I failed at 12% body fat and was really upset with myself. This overshadowed the huge progress I did make and let me get in my head about what I was capable of. Avoid the same mistakes I made in this regard. Make your goal challenging, but doable at the same time.
It is essential to have a specific goal when you are trying to figure out your training program so that you know not only what types of workouts you need, but also what types of rep schemes and how heavy you need your weights to be. When my goal was to lose 25 pounds of body weight and to increase definition in my muscles (a very loose goal at the end there) I knew I needed to lift heavy weights for shorter reps and longer rests. ***Yes lifting weights is one of the best ways to lose weight… not cardio*** But now my goals have changed, so my training needs to change.
My current goal is to complete my first Ironman in the summer of 2021. This is something that I feel is attainable, has a time goal, is very specific, is definitely measureable, and is relevant seeing as I want to push myself to a new level in racing. Things need to change fairly drastically for me. I need to run longer, bike more, and swim. Two of these things I do not do as regularly as I would like to right now.
I also need to cut back on my weight lifting. Sure, big bulky muscles can look good, but they will just increase the weight I need to haul around with me for a very long event. At the same time however I need to ensure I am not loosing a substantial amount of muscle (some will be lost like with any cut) because I will need a lot of strength for this event.
I need to increase my ability for endurance rather than just strength. Now that I have my goal set in stone I need to start the plan. Over the next few weeks I will go over how I determine my training plan and what I my diet will look like, as well as discuss different ways to determine what your diet and training should look like. But before we get there, YOU NEED A GOAL! Take this week and put some serious thought into what you want your goal to be. Make sure it meets the SMART requirements. This will set you up for success next week when we discuss training methods and what each one will do. Until then go and be active in anyway you can and start your process, even if it is just a walk. A bad workout is always better than no workout at all!