There are times in your life when you are considering a change in your lifestyle.
Often, most people make resolutions to eat better. Some decide to dial in their sleep schedule. Others plan to take concrete steps to address hydration.
In an attempt to take the first concrete step aboard the self-improvement bandwagon, most decide to focus on one thing — exercise.
Glamorized in movies and social media, working out appears on numerous new year's resolutions. Some decide to add exercise to their routine early in the year. Others choose to
start much later.
Whichever time you choose, your decision to start being more physically active is a rewarding one. In fact, it might even be one of the most rewarding decisions you will ever make. It can even prolong or save your life.
Doctors, athletes, and trainers are unanimous in their high opinion of workout programs. From strength to improved cardiovascular capacity, the pros of working out abound.
However, for most people, the challenge is not the reps nor training volume or any other variables like intensity and exercise selection. For most, the challenge of a fitness program lies at the very beginning.
Reading this, you are either beginning your fitness journey or coming off a hiatus.
Either way, this article is for you if you want to improve your fitness level.
Why Is Starting Any Type of Workout Difficult?
Our naturally built-in psychological drives gravitate towards survival, preservation, and gratification. These drives dictate what we are likely to do. Whether we recognize it or not, there is a reason for doing actions considered lazy or fearful. We sit on the couch to preserve energy.
We inadvertently enter a calorie surplus to prepare for a famine. Let's not even get started on what we do with our hands during times of boredom (we are referring to video games).
Natural? Without a doubt. But, will these actions and drives lead you to higher energy levels,
improved force production, and better work capacity? Definitely not.
In truth, achieving anything worthwhile means denying the "innate drives" that make us "human".
True, exercise can be painful, time-consuming, in-the-way, and expensive (though not all the time, as you will see). Then again, the following are just as inconvenient:
● a hangover
● a junk food binge
The only difference is that exercise leads to a better body and state of mind. So, despite this, why
is beginning an exercise routine challenging?
Here are a few possible reasons:
Exercise "Looks" Difficult
Forget "looks". Exercise is difficult. That is the beauty of it.
We don't believe that our aversion to difficulty is our fault. In fact, as mentioned earlier, it is
ingrained in us due to evolution. However, also mentioned earlier is the importance of going against what evolution has taught us at times.
On the opposite end of the sweat, minutes, and reps are health and weight loss benefits. Other
psychological benefits that are developed from the difficulty of exercise also include improved motivation.
"Paralysis By Analysis"
Social media and the internet have contributed a lot in introducing every fitness program created to a wider audience. With the internet, fitness apps, programs, and products have found
themselves at the forefront of the consumer market.
When it comes to exercise routines, options are just as abundant. This development may sound
like progress on paper. However, the abundance of options brings about the paradox of choice.
For those starting, the multitude of fitness programs creates confusion. Confusion leads to
indecision about which program to choose. Often, this results in decision fatigue that inevitably culminates in abandoning plans of getting into fitness altogether.
In short, starting becomes difficult when the starting point is unclear. And the vast majority of programs and products online can lead to a classic case of "paralysis by analysis."
"Too Expensive, Too Time-Consuming"
Getting started on an exercise routine or program requires an investment of some sort. Often,
investments come in the form of time and money.
Without a doubt, these considerations have been in the minds of many novices. And this is
Nowadays, people are too caught up in the hustle and bustle of life. Whether it's a job or a
family, adding one more task can seem overwhelming, especially when additional costs are in the equation. The time commitment is no walk in the park either.
Results come from working out an innumerable number of minutes per week. If you perform your
choice of physical activity in the gym, this will incur a fee. At home, equipment will cost money as well.
The desire to exercise is present in many who wish to start. This is a fact beyond dispute. Nonetheless, aside from the challenges, most people who wish to begin their fitness journeys often do so with poorly-defined goals.
Indeed, many are not oblivious to the need to lose weight or gain strength. But, some don't know
what they want out of physical activity. The lack of clarity in fitness goals can lead to several obstacles.
Often, indecision in fitness goals leads to:
● program-hopping (even before starting one)
● giving in to feelings of intimidation and frustration
Both result in a lack of tangible and quantifiable results. For those already exercising, it will not
be long until they stop. On the other hand, people who are about to jump on the
fitness bandwagon may be discouraged from further workouts.
Look Forward to the Novice Effect
Indeed, being a fitness novice can be a frustrating experience. At first, many movements will prove challenging despite their simplicity. Many would joke that their first few weeks doing callisthenics gave them a glimpse of their "golden years."
Most quit for reasons of soreness and acute fatigue within the first couple of weeks. Little did they know that all this is part of the adaptation period. Beyond this adaptation period is the novice effect. And during this period of your fitness journey, fitness "noob-ness" is your friend.
The novice effect is an odd phenomenon that goes by many names. For example, trained and untrained populations who take to kettlebells for the first time call this the "what-the-hell" effect. The novice effect is a collection of physical and physiologic changes. These changes manifest themselves as sudden increases in strength and endurance.
It doesn't take months to notice any changes. Nor do trainees have to be specific in their program. All types of exercise, whether it is strength training or endurance training, will trigger physiologic
changes. The more untrained a person is (this likely applies to you), the more
noticeable the adaptations. As a bonus, the novice effect happens to all beginner trainees.
Not only are the physical and physiologic improvements quick and certain. They are also sharp. It is during the novice phase when a trainee can make quick jumps in weight. Beginner trainees can also ramp up exercise volume without worrying about overtraining. The novice phase is also a time of relatively quick recovery to the physical stress of exercise.
The novice phase is one of the best times for workouts to culminate into results.
Quick, noticeable, guaranteed results.
For this reason, being a beginner in fitness can be one of the most enjoyable experiences of your training career.
How To Begin Working Out
Early in the article, we went over some of the hurdles faced by new exercisers. If some of them
applies to you, know that there are solutions. Exercising does not have to be a drag. Nor does it need to cost a lot or take too much of your precious time.
With the right mindset and expectations, you will be on your way to becoming a stronger, fitter, and better you.
In this section, we will talk about how you can begin your fitness journey.
Determine Your "Why"
The always-enlightening Dan John always emphasizes the "why" of training. Once you have
decided to start exercising, your answer to "why" will be the basis of everything. And we do mean everything.
Knowing why you want to exercise can determine several things. For one thing, it can dictate the type of exercise you are better off choosing.
Want bigger muscles? Go for bodybuilding type of workouts and ditch running.
If you want better stamina, opt for low-intensity endurance work.
Do you desire total body functionality without the risk of spinal compression?
Knowing your reason for exercising, as well as your fitness goals, can narrow your focus to a few
programs and pieces of equipment. As a result, indecision will no longer be a factor.
Most importantly, having a reason to exercise can help with your motivation. You will be more
likely to stick to a workout routine if you have a reason to do so.
Set a Realistic Goal: Think Short-Term
Novices often make the mistake of having unrealistic goals.
Some of the most common ones are:
● "I want to have abs."
● "I want to be equally good at lifting heavy weights, callisthenics, and running."
● "I want to gain a lot of muscle mass."
All of these are unrealistic.
While these are doable, they can take a long time to achieve. Of course, as humans, we want tangible results after doing something for a short time. So, having short-term goals that align with a long-term one makes the process more bearable.
For example, a long-term goal can be regular exercise for six months. Six months is fairly long. So, a short-term goal for this would be getting through one workout a day... 180 times.
Navy Seals call this mental trick "making one's world small". It involves taking a large task like getting through Hell Week (in BUDS) and breaking it into smaller chunks. Made smaller, the task can be reframed as "training for just a day... seven times".
In short, a long-term goal must be attainable on paper, whether it's losing fat or building muscle.
Smaller, short-term goals that can be met immediately contribute to the achievement of the goal.
Measurable and attainable short-term goals make the long-term goal more realistic.
Do Something... Do Anything
Or, you can begin with randomness. As a beginner, you are in a unique position to see gains from any workout routine. Sure, you may have to follow an exercise program to get better results. Nonetheless, something is better than nothing, right? "Random" can be a place to start, especially if you have been sedentary for a long time.
As mentioned earlier, increasing physical activity elicits the novice effect. The keyword is "physical activity." Nothing specific, really. As a beginner, you can expect progress to come from any sort
To quote Mark Rippetoe's statement on the novice phase:
"Even riding a bicycle can make your bench press go up (if you are a novice)."
It is great to follow a program. But, it is also equally important to be consistent. The goal for you is to engage in any sort of physical activity. Any aerobic exercise or cluster of bodyweight exercises can get you in decent shape.
Besides, exercise variety can keep workout sessions fun.
Take Stock of Your Exercise Equipment (If Any)
Before thinking of investing in equipment or a gym membership, see what you have at your disposal.
Indeed, strength training and endurance training need to be done with the right equipment. But,
let's face it. Many things are far from ideal.
Beginners can make the mistake of fixating on equipment. But, you will be surprised to know that you don't need much for a great workout plan.
If you already have a set of dumbbells or even a single kettlebell, exercise options abound on the
internet. An old LPG tank can even double as a kettlebell for some presses and swings.
Your old backpack? Fill it up with sand or rocks and start doing some squats or rows.
Work on your rotational strength with an old sledgehammer. Swing it around, and you'll start feeling the muscles you never knew existed.
Bottom line: whatever you have, use it.
No Equipment Yet? Go Minimalist!
If you don't have any equipment, you can still reap the benefits of exercise.
Never let the absence of barbells, plates, kettlebells, or dumbbells discourage you. So long as
you're alive, you have the most accessible fitness tool on the planet — your body weight.
Your body weight is with you wherever you go. With it, you can still train fundamental and functional human movements like pushing, pulling, and squatting. But, there is more. Bodyweight training lends itself to variety. Each movement can be modified and scaled into varying degrees of difficulty.
For strength, you can go with movements like pushups and pullups. Add squats to get quads of steel and a good sweat going.
For conditioning, do burpees or jumping jacks. Also, never underestimate the power of good
In short, your body can be your gym. But, having just one more piece of equipment can be extremely helpful.
Start With Less Than an Hour
As mentioned earlier, getting into a fitness program requires an investment of time and resources.
Always remember that exercise should improve your quality of life. It should not get in the way of
your responsibilities and the things you love. In other words, let your training be built around your life. Not the other way around.
You may not be an Olympic athlete. But you can get a good workout in less than an hour.
Oftentimes, this can be enough over the span of a month or even years.
You can worry about taking on the mantle of "athlete" later on. For now, getting into the habit is far more important. All it takes is less than an hour of your day... for now, at least.
Conclusion: Start Training!
Ultimately, the most important step towards anything worth achieving is starting.
The same is true for fitness habits and exercise.
It is never too late to reap the benefits of exercise. Exercise can do more than get you the buns and guns you dream of. By starting your fitness plan, you are setting yourself up for strength, cardiovascular, and performance gains.
Better yet, with the novice effect, you will be noticing significant improvements to your functionality and health. All of the phenomenon's adaptations will come to you sooner than you think.
Of course, once again, all the benefits of regular exercise can be yours if you start.