There are plenty of outstanding strength and conditioning coaches in the world who are inherently more qualified than me to discuss weight training, diet, conditioning and fitness topics. That being said, I have learned a few lessons over my 20 years (holy cow… has it been that long?) years of training. If there is an area I feel fairly well-versed, it’s in how to help break people into fitness and assist beginners with the earliest stages of their training careers. I leave the advanced stuff to the aforementioned experts (several of whom I have linked on the left-hand side of my blog).
So without further ado, here is my super swell lists of tips for people who are fairly new to strength, conditioning and fitness or just never got themselves into a good groove for it.
- Don’t over think things. I am always amazed in this modern world at the extent to which people get themselves mired in paralysis by analysis for things that really can be approached so much more simply. While strength training requires good technique, it’s simply not rocket science. You simply don’t need an elaborately crafted training program with uber-precise training parameters for quite some time. You need a tried-and-true program that focuses on the basics and doing them very, very well. And by basics, I definitely mean something that involves weight lifting. Oh and if the program focuses on “Super Shredded Abzzzz!” please avoid it. I’m begging you.
- Make changes in increments. If you finally find yourself a good program (whether for your training or your diet), give it time to see how things work. For your training, that should be at least 8-12 weeks before you start tinkering with things. And when you do change things? Don’t do it wholesale. The beautiful thing about being a beginner is that you will have tremendous success early on as your body responds to the new training stimulus. This will eventually diminish over time, but enjoy it in the early stages. Same kind of notion with your diet. Do it for a good chunk of time (maybe around the same 8 weeks) to see how it goes and if things are not progressing as you may like, change one thing at a time. If you throw out everything all at once, you will never really get an appreciation for what in particular was holding you back.
- Supplements are nice… but not necessary. I am a fan of nutritional supplements. I take a multi-vitamin, fish oil and essential fatty acid capsules and use protein powders. I find them all incredibly useful for me to be sure I get in all the proper nutrients I need, especially since my life can be a bit hectic. But if you went without supplements of any kind and just ate well? You would be totally fine. In fact, the more exotic a supplement gets, the less I personally trust it. There are just plenty of companies out there looking to get you to buy their Super Black Nitric Boom for some obscene amount of money… and if you put that same money into putting exercise equipment in your house, you would get FAR greater benefit from it all.
- Find one hardcore thing to do. This is something I have come to appreciate more and more over time, especially for someone who might be a little bit newer to training. You should find one activity or exercise that is off-the-beaten path for you. Maybe it’s sprints down at your local high school track or car pushes in an empty parking lot or even some really hard interval training. Heck, it might be for you that you have never done barbell squats and now you are doing them. Hardcore will be different for everyone.
The reason you really need to do one hardcore thing is that there is something incredibly empowering for newbies to have something that makes them feel badass. It builds confidence and lends a little to developing a swagger to your training that will really keep it moving in a positive direction. Remember – start with one hardcore thing, not seven because then you will not be badass… just sore and overwhelmed.
- Eliminate your single crappiest habit. As you might be able to tell from my hints, I’m not really big into taking people new to fitness and putting them into a level of change equivalent to Navy SEAL training. It’s just not necessary. It’s far better to leave people wanting juuuuust a little bit more and keeping them interested when they know they can do a little bit better. So, figure out what the crappiest and least healthy habit you have it and work on eliminating it pronto. Smoking? Ditch it. A habit of mindless snacking on pork rinds dipped in sour cream? Umm, it’s gotta go. Insane amounts of regular soda consumption? Switch to diet. You get the idea.
- Use me as your role model. I am incredibly sexy. And I am also super smart… and humble… but mostly sexy and super smart… and not to be taken seriously very often.
I could probably make a longer list, but in keeping with the general theme above, it’s best not to overwhelm people. Manageable chunks… and my uber sexiness. It’s all you need.