In my 15-ish years of working out, a big chunk of it not very smartly, and nearly 10 working in the fitness industry, with people from all walks of life, it’s safe to say I’ve learnt a lot.
I’ve made my fair share of missteps and mistakes, tried and failed countless times and become better for it.
However, if I could speak to my naïve teenage self who had just started working out this is the knowledge I would try to pass down.
In this article, I’ll share with you the 35 things that I wish I’d known when I started working out.
#1: Consistency of Effort Over Time is Key
Transforming your body is not the result of one big action but the accumulation of small actions stacking up over time.
If you want to reach your goal then you need to apply consistent effort over time, not sporadic effort applied infrequently.
#2: 8 Times Out of 10 You Won’t Feel Like Doing It
There’ll be times (often a lot of them) where you’d rather do anything else but workout or hit your calorie goal.
Yet it’s in these times that staying the course makes the biggest difference, as doing what you should even when you don’t feel like it is what will bring the results you desire.
#3: Perfection Isn’t the Rule It’s the Exception
The idea of reaching perfection can be crippling.
It’s the reason people procrastinate and delay, saying things like “I’ll start tomorrow” and “I’ll start on Monday”. Don’t think you need to know everything to get started, aim for balance and consistency, not perfection.
#4: You Can Miss A Week of Workouts Without Losing All Your Progress
This means if you cannot train for 1–2 weeks for any reason then you can rest assured that once you get back to training you will be no worse off than when you stopped.
#5: Doing 15 Minutes is Better Than Doing 0
Us humans often adhere to something I like to call the ‘throw in the towel’ syndrome where if we cannot do exactly what we planned to do, we will overwhelmingly opt to do nothing instead of a modified version of what we had planned.
This is counterintuitive as not only does doing a short session help you keep the habit of working outgoing but it also brings more benefit that doing nothing.
#6: Cardio Doesn’t Have to Be Gruelling
There’s a common misconception that cardio has to be a gruelling, whether in intensity or duration, for it to be effective and whilst this type of training does have its place, it’s often not the efficient method of calorie control for fat loss or muscle building.
#7: For Most People Meal Frequency & Timing Don’t Really Matter
When it comes to changing your body, losing weight, or building muscle, it’s your calories, macros and strength training that bring 99% of your results.
Details like how often you eat and when you eat just don’t matter as much as you think they do.
Stop looking for tactics and master the basics first.
#8: Lift with Your Muscles Not Your Ego
Apart from being a good way to get injured, ego lifting i.e. going heavier than you can handle because you don’t want to appear weak is also the best way to bring your progress to a grinding halt.
Stop caring about what other people think and realise that everyone is too concerned with their own shit to think about yours.
Lift appropriately and lift properly because the gym has no place for ego.
#9: Rest & Recovery Are Important
Changing your body is a balancing act, which means it’s just as important you workout as it is that you rest.
It’s the combination of both activities that help you change your body over time without crashing and burning along the way.
This means different things for different people, but at a minimum should include rest days, good quality sleep, providing your body with nutritious food and giving yourself time to relax and reflect.
#10: You’ll Never Regret the Hard Work Once It’s Done
The truth is you’ll never regret the hard work you do, but you will always regret the work you didn’t.
Remember this next time you’re struggling to pick yourself up off the sofa or drag yourself out of bed to do a workout or prepare a meal that fits with your calories is often the last thing you want to do.
#11: You Must Be Patient
One of the most important parts of successfully transforming your body is being able to stay patient in the face of a perceived lack of progress.
Weight loss and muscle building almost never present themselves in a linear, organised fashion which means you can spend weeks or even months feeling like you’re not getting anywhere only to see huge progress seemingly overnight.
This leap in progress is the cumulative result of the previous weeks and months of consistent hard work finally showing itself.
#12: There Is No Such Thing as Good & Bad Foods
Food can be a lot of things, nutritious or not-so-nutritious and filling or not filling, but 2 things it isn’t is good or bad.
Within the context of a varied diet, no food should bear the label good or bad. All this does is warp your relationship with food, often leading to unnecessary restriction usually followed by binging and poor adherence.
#13: Messing Up Your Diet Is Normal, Quitting Because of It Isn’t
You will mess up your diet, it’s inevitable. In fact, you’ll probably mess up your diet a lot and that’s ok.
Changing your body is a long game and you will need to learn and adjust as you go.
The secret is to get right back on track.
Don’t beat yourself up when you slip up. What happens on one day or at one meal does not have to be indicative of what will happen every other time.
#14: You Don’t Need to Do Cardio for Fat Loss but Should for Health
Provided you remain in a calorie deficit then cardio is not necessary for fat loss, which means you can successfully lose weight without running, cycling, HIIT classes if you wanted.
However, cardio does bring many mental and physical health benefits that make it worth doing on a regular basis.
This can be a simple as taking a 30 min walk daily or playing sports a couple of times a week.
#15: Just Because Something Is Hard, Complicated or Expensive, Doesn’t Mean It’ll Work
It’s important not to confuse expense and difficulty with effectiveness. Just because something is more complicated or more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll work.
When evaluating whether a training or diet plan works you need to see whether it is backed by the current research i.e. can they back up their claims and whether there is proof of it working in the real world i.e. have others used it to get results.
#16: More is Not Better
There are a lot of times when more is better. More money, more sex, more power.
However, when it comes to changing your body there is a point of diminishing returns where more becomes detrimental.
- More weight loss becomes more muscle loss, more binge eating and less fat loss.
- More weight gain becomes more fat gain, lower body confidence and less muscle gain.
#17: Getting Abs Doesn’t Solve Your Problems
There is nothing wrong with having this as a goal but know that it’s often a by-product of good habits and sensible training.
Fundamentally, it doesn’t make you a different person, negate any existing issues or solve all your problems.
Physical fitness is only one aspect of your overall well-being and placing so much stock in achieving just one part of it is not always the wisest decision.
#18: The Only Difference Between Here & There Is Time & Experience
Getting from where you are now to where you want to be is simply a matter of getting more experience and applying that experience for longer.
That person you compare yourself too isn’t better than or luckier than you, they’re just more experienced and have been training for longer than you.
Learn often, apply yourself daily and continue working hard.
#19: Everything Seems Impossibly Hard Until You Get Started
Know that its normal to fear the unknown, to see a goal as impossible or out of reach. The bigger the goal, the more daunting the task, the harder it is to begin.
They also know that it’s a manifestation of fear — the fear of failure, of ridicule, even the fear of success — and the best way to overcome it to simply start and start small.
Small is simple, small is easy and small is non-threatening.
#20: It’s Easy to Say What You Would Have Done When You Didn’t Have to Do It
It’s so easy to pass judgement.
To sit and imagine how it feels or how you would react, but this is a false truth.
The easiest thing in the world is to say what you would have done when you didn’t have to do it.
Not until you’ve experienced it for yourself can you truly speak from a position of authority.
#21: If You Don’t Want to Be A Bodybuilder, Athlete or Fitness Model Then Don’t Train Like One
Training like a bodybuilder, athlete or fitness model can be hugely detrimental to your long-term success and creates unrealistic expectations of what can be achieved.
Not only is it common for physique competitors to use performance-enhancing drugs which drastically improve their work output, recovery rate and muscle building potential but individuals who train for a living are also able to stick to much more rigid, life-consuming schedules, after all, this is their job.
Not to mention athletes often having highly organised schedules, world-class facilities, preorganised nutrition and a team of coaches.
#22: Most Supplements Are Worthless
I’m just going to come right out and say it…most supplements are worthless. Seriously, they don’t work and aren’t necessary.
If you can get the foundations, diet and training, right and then do them consistently you can 100% reach your goals without using any supplements at all.
However, there are a handful of supplements which can make your progress easier. Best fat loss supplements here, and best muscle building supplements here.
#23: Stop Thinking About Your Big Goal & Start Focusing on Your Next Step
The fastest route to feeling overwhelmed is to think solely about how far you still have to go.
To reduce overwhelm you want to stop being laser-focused on the outcome and start concentrating on the processes that’ll get you there.
This means not thinking about how you need to lose 20 lbs of fat or build 10 lbs of muscle but thinking about how to make your next meal fit your calorie goal and when you’re going to do your next workout.
#24: Weight Change & Strength Progression is Not Linear
It’s important to realise that your weight on the scales and strength in the gym will jump around day to day and session to session.
This doesn’t mean you’re not making progress but is just the nature of how the body changes.
Instead, of fixating on daily changes or what your strength is like in one session, look at the weekly and monthly trends for a clear idea of what’s really happening.
#25: Illness & Injury Will Get in the Way from Time to Time
There will be times you need to take a step back from your training and diet due to illness or injury.
When this happens, don’t fight it.
Take the time you need to prioritise your recovery and then when you’re back up to full strength get right back to it.
#26: There’s No Such Thing as The Perfect Body
There are only health, happiness and the body you’re comfortable with.
Don’t let anyone tell you any different.
#27: It’s Not What Happens but How You Deal with It That Matters the Most
It’s not about pretending you’ll never make a mistake or that nothing will go wrong but putting plans in place to reduce the chances of it happening and provide a route to get back on track when it does.
This includes looking ahead at all the potential barriers you might face and finding solutions, this way when you hit a roadblock you know what to do.
#28: Losing as Little As 1lb A Week for As Little As 3 Months Can Change Your Life
It’s amazing how far a little consistent effort can go in create huge transformative change over time.
Fitness doesn’t have to be an all or nothing battle, by making small adjustments over time and then maintaining them you can create substantial change that lasts.
#29: Reaching Your Fitness Goal Is About Priority & Sacrifice
The inconvenient truth you’re ignoring is that the life you lead now is an indication of who you will or won’t become.
If you want to change, then you must change, this often requires you to reorder your priorities and make some level of sacrifice.
One of the hardest things to get to grips with is that you must give up a part of who you are now in order to become who you want to be.
#30: Do What You Can Maintain
There is no point following a nutrition plan or training routine that you cannot maintain.
If you can only sustain something for a couple of weeks or months, then either it’s not right for you or you’re approaching it the wrong way.
Long-term success is not about finding what’s best and trying to maintain it but finding what you can maintain and realising that’s best.
#31: Don’t Treat Yourself Like an Asshole for A Goal Someone Else Wants
Be true to you.
Fight for what you want.
Live up to your own ideals.
#32: Sexy Methods Don’t Work
Juice diets, fitness fads, sexy shortcuts and bullshit exists because people are afraid of hard work.
If all these ‘sexy’ methods actually worked then a hell of a lot more people would be in fantastic shape and a lot fewer people would be scouring the internet for what really works.
The reasons these bullshit methods survive is because people don’t want to believe that they actually need to put in some hard work to achieve their goals.
#33: Don’t Underestimate the Power You Have to Change Your Circumstances
Regardless of what you think, feel or believe to be true you need to know that you always have the power to wake up and say, “today is the day I change my life forever” and then do it.
You need no one’s permission but your own.
#34: It’s Ok to Want to Change How You Look
It’s ok to want to change how you look but realise how other people see you is not the sum total of who you are as a person.
Change for the right reasons and you’ll find it infinitely easier to see the process through.
#35: Everyone Struggles
You are not so unique and special that no one else feels the way you do.
That fitness model, personal trainer, online coach, bodybuilder and athlete they all struggle too. They doubt and second guess just like you.
We may like to believe that our experience is unique to us and no one else understands or feels the way we do, but in the end, we’re not so different.
These are the 35 things I wish I knew when I first started working out.
What are the things you wish you’d know?
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