As I mentioned in my introductory post, I have been resistance training for quite a while – 7+ years to be exact. Over time, I’ve acquired a decent amount of knowledge and experience by listening to experts, fellow gym goers and, of course, trial and error.
In this post, I’m sharing with you my most important takeaways that’ll hopefully inspire you and be of use in your own fitness journey.
1. More is not always better
Although many people applauded me for going to the gym or doing some kind of workout every single day, and this may have worked for me at the time, training more is definitely not always better.
When working out you are (1) breaking down muscle, and (2) putting stress on your body. This is needed in order to improve your physique and performance and is, to a certain extent, a good thing.
However, muscle gain only happens when muscle repair is greater than muscle breakdown, and too much stress (even from exercise) will stall fat loss, too.
So, in order to build muscle, lose fat, or accomplish whatever other fitness goal you may have, your body needs time to recover.
Be sure to incorporate at least one or two rest days a week (more if you’re just starting out) so that your body can heal optimally and you can go all out again during your next session.
Yes, you do need to work hard in order to accomplish your goals, but sometimes the hard part is to know when to take a step back.
2. There is more to fitness than building muscle and losing fat
Muscle gain and fat loss may be the things you associate most with the idea of being or getting ‘fit’. Muscle building is certainly one of my main goals, too.
But, lifting weights or doing the same form of cardio for hours, is not the end all be all. The most important thing is to find some (any) form of exercise that you enjoy doing.
I personally love lifting weights, especially setting new personal records and just feeling stronger overall. But if that’s simply not your thing, find something else that you like.
Actually, just focusing on weights can actually prevent you from feeling your best if you neglect your cardiovascular fitness and flexibility. I recommend finding a balance between training for strength, endurance and flexibility.
3. Consistency is key
The thing I’d probably recommend most to newbie gym goers – apart from finding something you actually like doing – is to be consistent with working out.
Sure, you could start out your fitness journey by going to the gym 7 days a week – and probably burn yourself out within the first month. But it’ll work better if you find a schedule that works for you in the long run and stick to it.
If once a week is all you can manage, that’s okay. Hold yourself accountable (or find an accountability buddy, a workout partner or a group class) and stay consistent every week.
Ideally, I’d recommend going at least 2-3 times a week (for a shorter workout if necessary) dispersed throughout the week. This way, you’ll truly make a habit of working out.
I’ve found that going only once a week makes sticking to a routine more difficult, since you basically have to start over every week, after an entire week of not working out.
Lastly, try to be somewhat consistent with your exercises, too. You should certainly try out different things from time to time, but sticking to a set of exercises will allow you to track your progress and get better over time.
4. You can always learn more
Yes, after a while you know what you’re doing in the gym. No, you don’t know everything.
Even if you are making great progress and you have acquired a decent amount of knowledge, you should still be open to learning about new strategies.
Keep in mind that the current research has not yet been able to explain everything – by far – and that mixed research results are not uncommon in many areas.
Additionally, while it’s great to pay attention to scientific evidence, something that has not been proven is not automatically wrong or nonexistent. Research acquires funding (and availability of participants) which is simply not always available.
5. There’s no one size fits all
Everybody is different, both physically and mentally.
I still encounter so many people who are convinced their way is the best way, not just for them but for everyone out there. Just because you’ve managed to get some results doesn’t mean others will, too.
This goes both ways: don’t feel bad if you are not getting results from something others have had great success with. It just might not be the optimal strategy for you.
So, don’t just focus on what you know and believe in, but keep an open mind towards others’ experiences and knowledge, and try to find out what works for you and what doesn’t.
To sum up, then, Listen to your body. You don’t have to go all out every training or work out every day. It’s okay – necessary even – to take it easy every once in a while. Find what you truly enjoy doing and stay consistent. Keep learning and remember that different things work for different people.
What are some things that you have learned throughout your ‘fitness journey’?