Of course, I am always flattered when people come to me for advice and feel that my body is one that they aspire to emulate. Truth is, I am still not happy with my physique and feel there are definitely areas that need improving. My body, like any serious fitness enthusiast, is a continual work in progress. In my case, it is one that begun over 12 years ago.
So, when people come to me feeling deflated that they have not achieved the physical goals they set themself, despite the fact they have stuck to a fitness and eating regime for the last few months, I have to laugh a little and feel a degree frustrated. Of course, I understand their frustration, but, to use an age-old cliche, these things don't happen overnight, or even over the space of just a few months.
Physical fitness is a life-long commitment.
It is not something than you can just begin every January and then slowly trail off within a few weeks. For the regular gym-goer like myself, the added crowds at this time of year is frustrating. This is not to say that I do not admire their courage for finally taking the step into the local gym. They can, after all, be intimidating places. But do not go there expecting that, within the space of the month, you will somehow transform into this lean, mean, fitness machine that the air-brushed model on the cover of Men's Health will have you believe that you can be.
So, what are the best ways that a new gym-goer or home gym user can stick to their long-term fitness plans? Below is a list of tips and advice that I share from my own experience, both as a fitness enthusiast and as a qualified personal trainer. However, I cannot stress any more that they are only my advice:
- do not set yourself an overly specific physical goal. To say you want to lose weight or gain muscle is brilliant, but to say, I want to look like this model, or lose 10Ibs in 4 weeks, is only lining you up for likely disappointment. You will never look like anyone else or anyone else's body. Just accept it. Enjoy the achievements as and when they happen and savour those moments.
- know exactly what you are going to do before you get to the gym. It is ABSOLUTELY pointless going to the gym with zero idea about what you are going to workout, wonder around the place and just jump on whatever machine is free. Your workout has to fit in to a week's fitness plan and has to be logical, taking into account the different body parts and your long-term goals.
- write down what you do and what weights you have lifted. Keeping a log of what you have achieved is crucial so you know where to go next. If like me, you have a bad memory, hoping that you will remember what weight and number of reps you achieved last time is pretty fruitless. Write it down.
- don't worry about other people in the gym. I constantly hear people say that other gym-goers stare at them. So what if they do? They have to look somewhere and maybe you are so drop-dead gorgeous its hard to take their eyes off you. Either way, your focus should be on YOU and nothing else. Take music, don't worry about anyone else and, if you can, try to avoid getting drawn into long chats with other gym-goers too. This will distract you from your main focus, your workout.
- start light and take small steps - progression is key. GUYS! Its not a competition. It really doesn't matter if you can lift heavier weights than the guy who was on the bench before you. No-one really cares. And you're the one who's going to look like an idiot when you find the barbell coming crashing down on you because you find you can't manage the last rep. Effective weight exercises are about doing the movement properly and utilising the muscle groups effectively. Weight progression has to be gradual, taking only the smallest increments at a time.
- everyone's body is different and reacts differently. Some people are naturally muscular or athletic. Some people can naturally seem to eat a lot of crap and not gain the weight. The key is to get in touch with your body like you never have before. Know what it likes, know what works best to get the results you want. Do not compare it to any other body, only to the one you had before.
I could bombard you with so many other tips, but these main principles are key.
One other thing to say, if ever you feel like you don't know what you're doing, just ask. You may be surprised to know that even the muscleheads, even though they look intimidating, are usually amongst some of the nicest and friendliest guys you will ever meet and are more than happy to share their knowledge (very often it is all they know, hence why they are so massive). Although I might recommend the services of a personal trainer to those who can afford one and need the motivation of another human being face-to-face, I have never personally used one. There is plenty of information in books and videos (just check out the plethora of apps and vids on the internet) if you have the time to spare to read or watch them.
Most of all, the best of luck and stick at it!