I have focused this column on starting your health and fitness journey. It does not matter what time of the year, month or week it is, you can start anytime.
As a health and fitness enthusiast, this is what worked for me and how I got started on my fitness journey some years ago.
One of the most common questions I get asked is how or where do I start? Beginning any new journey can be scary, but with simple guidelines and tools it really doesn’t have to be.
1. EDUCATE YOURSELF
There is a lot of information and opinions online about fitness and nutrition, and it can be very overwhelming.
I bought fitness and nutrition expert Brian Keane’s book The Fitness Mindset and it was one of the tools that really helped me on my journey and educated me on nutrition, exercise and mindset.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It was the best €11 ever spent, it gave me so much value and knowledge. As we all know knowledge is power.
The book is extremely easy to read and great to have as a reference. I’ve read it so many times and always go back to it if I’m unsure about something.
A more advanced book for those who want to learn more is Thinner, Leaner, Stronger by Mike Matthews. This is the resource I recommend to more advanced people looking to learn.
I often double back and check definitions of terms from these books.
2. UNDERSTAND THE SIMPLE TRUTH
Each of us has different goals, whether it is to lose weight, maintain weight or gain weight – you need to understand the simple math.
Fat is stored energy, and the calories in the foods you eat are units of energy. If you eat less food than you burn throughout the day over a period of time, you will lose weight.
If you intake the same amount of food as you burn throughout the day you will maintain your weight. If you eat more food than you burn throughout the day over a period of time you will gain weight.
So, the most important thing in my opinion is to have an eating structure in place.
When I was starting off, I found My Fitness Pal excellent. It is free to download and you can scan the labels on the foods you are eating to find out how many calories, macros, nutrients etc. are in the foods you are consuming.
3. EATING GOOD QUALITY WHOLE FOODS
When I started my health and fitness journey, I was keeping my calorie intake lower than what I was burning as my goal was weight loss and to tone up.
While I did lose weight, I was not focussed on eating good quality whole foods. I lost weight but did not tone up.
If body recomposition is your goal, food quality and food choices are very important.
This is why consuming lean protein, complex carbohydrates and fibrous vegetables are so important.
These don’t have to be all you eat but once you are hitting your protein requirements (if toning up is your goal) you are almost half way there.
If you are in taking fake preservatives, fake sugars, fake fats they will not do your body any favours in terms of reaching your desired outcome.
4. FITNESS PLAN TAILORED FOR YOUR LIFESTYLE
Everyone’s lifestyle and schedule is different. I found starting off I was comparing myself to others and their fitness regime.
As soon as I made a conscious effort not to do this, I automatically became a lot happier. You don’t have to work out for hours on end to achieve your goal.
Aim to get active 3-4 times a week. Whether it is for 20 minutes or 60 minutes do what suits you.
This will make a lifestyle change sustainable and one you will stick to. The best workout routine is the one you can stick with consistently. 4
If you have never exercised before, perhaps start out walking and work your way up from there.
If joining a gym is your preference, start off with classes. Classes are a fantastic way to build up your fitness levels.
I started off with classes before getting a Personal Trainer, and then working my way up to being able to train alone on the gym floor using free weights, squat racks and cardio equipment.
5. GET A PERSONAL TRAINER IF POSSIBLE
This may not be an option for everyone, but if it is viable, I would highly recommend getting a personal trainer or a coach.
There are a few reasons for this. For me, it was to have someone to motivate me and teach me. These people are experts in this field and you can learn from them.
I knew if I had set times in place for a PT session, I would go. Once I started seeing some results and getting stronger, that motivated me to keep going.
Working with a Personal Trainer, you have an expert gradually progressing you to an intermediate level of fitness while you also learn how to train yourself safely and efficiently.
If you are not in a position to get a Personal Trainer, ask the gym you are a member of if it provides assessments with programme shows.
I find that if I am ever unsure of an exercise, there is always a staff member on the gym floor to ask or google is really helpful too as there are so many videos from experts in the field.
6 SURROUND YOURSELF WITH LIKE MINDED PEOPLE
Having someone else in the same boat as you is always helpful. There are so many places to find likeminded individuals, be it a friend, a co-worker, a sibling.
I found being a member of a gym good to get motivation. It is important to join a gym you are comfortable in, so take the time to visit a few gyms in your area and go with the one you feel is the best fit for you.
It is a great place to meet new people who are probably feeling all the things you are too.
Following someone you like on social media is a good place to get motivated. Facebook also offers some fantastic groups where members motivate each other on a daily basis.
7. HAS TO BE A BALANCE FOR LONG TERM
Starting off, it is a common misconception that there has to be an ‘all or nothing’ approach.
Nine times out of ten you are setting yourself up for failure if this is your approach.
There will always be setbacks, and you will feel as though you have fallen off the wagon and a lot of times this spirals people to give up altogether.
The secret is to just reset and start again. If you take the 80/20 approach towards your journey you will still be able to reach your goals.
The 80/20 approach means 80% of the time you will make ‘healthy’ food choices, but there is an allowance of 20% to treat yourself with your favourite ‘cheat’ foods.
I don’t think there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods, it is all about balance. There is always room for less healthy choices in an overall healthy lifestyle.
OTHER SMALL TIPE THAT WORKED FOR MED
• Unfollow anyone on social media that does not contribute positively to your mental health
• Set goals for yourself, and write down why you want to reach these goals.
• Get a diary and plan your weeks. This really helped me. Habits and routine play a massive part in successful. I couldn’t function without my diary.
• Include resistance training in your workouts. Going from the mentality of “I have to do load of cardio to lose weight” to where I am now did take some time, but I saw huge differences when I started lifting weights.
• You don’t have to do hours of cardio to lose weight (although I personally enjoy the sweat from a good spin class even if doing other exercise can get me the same results).
• Building muscle and doing weights will not make you bulky. Toning up is the same thing as building muscle.
• Be realistic in your goals.
• Ask experts as many questions as possible.
• Physical exercise works wonders for anxiety, so if you are feeling anxious, get active.
• New gym gear always helps motivate me!
• Buy your meat from your local butchers if possible.
• Do a big weekly shop and food prep.
• Have protein in every meal if you can.
• If it really matters to you, you will find the time.
• If you don’t like something, then change it.
• Trust the process.
• Remember, consistency and patience is key, you will get there.
• Be kind to yourself, you are doing a lot better than you think.
Thank you for reading.
Chat again soon.