This weekend my roommate played basketball with some friends from work. It did not go well. A few minutes on the court revealed just how out of shape he had become. After the game came the promises, the vows to change.
The next day he texted me: “Working out is the worst. I’m in so much pain.”
Those exact words (interspersed with some expletives) have cycled through the heads of millions as they embark on their own fitness crusade. That initial pain breeds resentment towards working out.
That resentment leads to rationalizations (I’ll just skip this one workout…), and those rationalizations are the death of progress and suddenly you’re back at square one.
There are so many reasons to make fitness a part of your daily life. Exercise is not only foundational to good health, but it boosts your mood and improves self-esteem. And few feelings are as satisfying as transforming your own body to reflect a stronger, healthier, more attractive version of yourself.
But the obstacles to achieving a healthy life-style are significant. Complacency and hectic schedules overpower the patience and dedication necessary to building the body you want. And that’s the hardest part of leading a healthy life for most people. In order to build the body you want you’ll need to make permanent lifestyle changes.
That sounds daunting but it’s not as insurmountable as you’d think. Once you get a routine going it becomes so much easier. Here are some helpful resources, including diet advice and a workout routine, that are effective and will help you build the body you want.
There’s no way around it. If you want to look better you are going to have to eat better. This is true whether you are trying to shed some extra weight or want to pack on the pounds.
Exercise is not enough. Diet is just as (if not more) important. According to Dr. Dennis Lipton, “Poor diet directly affects athletic and cognitive performance, as well as immune function. It’s especially important for men who are physically active to fuel properly, to give the body what it needs to recover.”
Whatever your fitness goals may be you’ll need to make two major changes to your diet to achieve them.
The first step is minimizing the amount of processed foods you eat. This is tough, almost impossible, if you don’t know how to cook because almost everything you buy out is either processed to hell or prohibitively expensive.
But with millions of articles about new health trends and “ground-breaking studies” it’s hard to distinguish legit dietary advice from the scare-mongering pseudo-science your aunt forwarded you. This FAQ has answers to a lot of common dietary questions and this guide tells you the best foods for weightlifters, as well as offering meal guides.
Both stress the importance of getting five to seven servings of fruit and vegetables per day (which can easily be accomplished via protein smoothies), eating lean proteins like chicken and turkey, and cutting out all processed foods.
The second step towards building a better body is calorie counting.
If you want to lose weight you need to eat at a calorie deficit. If you want to bulk up you need to eat at a surplus.
Sounds intimidating but, thanks to the internet and aps, it has never been easier.
First, find out what your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) is. Once you know how many calories you burn each day, you can plan how many calories you need to eat. Eat This Much gives you a personalized, long-term weight loss/gain plan, complete with meal suggestions. Get in the habit of entering everything (yes, everything) you eat and drink in MyFitnessPal. You cannot estimate your calorie intake in your head so don’t try. Get the app and enter the data.
Both steps-eating natural, unprocessed foods and counting calories-are made ridiculously easier and more time-efficient by prepping meals ahead of time. Even if you enjoying cooking, it is burdensome and unrealistic to prepare every meal ad hoc. Doing so is frustrating and increases the likelihood you will lapse back to old ways and drive-thru solutions.
Prepping meals for the whole workweek on Sunday is a convenient, delicious way to make sure you are hitting your calorie count with healthy food every meal.
In addition to a balanced diet, you need to exercise to sculpt your body. That means you need to do cardio and you need to lift weights.
Don’t let the weight room intimidate you. As with diet, the internet has all the resources you need to choose a workout routine that works and video and written instructions on how to perform exercises correctly. You definitely don’t need to waste time and money on a personal trainer.
Liam Rosden has written one of the most practical and informative exercise guides for beginners on the internet. All men and women who want to improve their physique should read it and follow his tips.
The weight lifting program Rosden and many others recommend to beginners is Mark Rippletoe’s Starting Strength. Starting Strength is a minimalist lifting routine that utilizes compound barbell lifts to work-out the entire body. It’s so popular with novices because it’s easy, only requires you to hit the gym three times a week, and, most importantly, it works. Here is a great breakdown of the routine. If you follow the program and hit your nutrition goals, you will see visible progress within 4-6 weeks.
You can manage three days a week at about an hour a workout. Pick three slots a week when you can reliably go to the gym. If you start working out during a hectic period of your life it’ll be harder to get that regular schedule established, and regularity is the key to success. At the same time, you don’t want to put off working out forever because you tell yourself that you’ve got too much going on.
And once that first visible progress starts to show, you’ll be hooked. It’s easy to be discouraged if you are suffering from all the pain of a workout without seeing any visible benefits. And you won’t see any visible improvement if your time if your diet is directionless and your time in the weight room is chaotic.
There’s no (legal) magic quick-fix that will get you the body you want. It sucks at first. But it’ll get better. You’ll get better. You just need to start.