The “New year, New me” guide

Okay, all of your friends and family are tired of hearing you say “new year, new me” so let’s make it stick this time, shall we? 

The questions to ask yourself

Where are you at now?

Take an honest self assessment of yourself now. Be honest but not self-loathing, what can you improve upon? What are you already good at?

Where do you want to go?

What kind of fitness are you looking for? Bodybuilding? Powerlifting? Yoga? Obstacle Course racing? What do you want to be with your new body?

How are you going to do it?

The last question should give you some idea of how but there is always more research to do.

Why are you doing this?

This is the most important question. Those with the more detailed answers to this question have the best results. Getting in shape for your children, parents or friends tends to motivate people better than self-driven reasons.

Exercise programs

Insanity, P90X, 5/3/1, Zumba, Pilates, yoga, CrossFit, Starting Strength, etc…

These are just a few programs of the seemingly infinite variety you can choose from. Each is advertised with before and after photos, testimonials and lots of promises. DVD options have the benefit of exercising in your own home but your stuck with the generic coaching coming from the screen, classes are great but can be intimidating to walk in to. It’s overwhelming and no wonder those looking to start exercising regularly have a hard time choosing.

Before you pick anything I want you to imagine a place where everyone there is in shape, performing all sorts of exercises, smiling and no one is even caring how many calories they’re burning. That place is the playground. Kids at a playground are swinging from monkey bars, chasing each other across fields and sprinting up stairs and I can promise you none of them are thinking about how killer their workout is.

Ideally, you need to find your playground. That place/activity that you really can enjoy for itself. This doesn’t mean you have to be playing some sort of sport, just means you should make it enjoyable. Early on in my fitness journey I made trips to the gym exponentially more enjoyable because I frequently would try to go with friends, it became a social event and continued to drive me to go. Nowadays I go just for the joy of lifting the irons.

Gyms: Are they necessary? What kind of membership is best? Can I trust the staff?

First off, you really don’t need a gym to get in shape. Remember: Find your playground. However if you do decide the gym is your method of choice then here’s a few things to keep in mind.

Gym Memberships are negotiable, so when they say this is a limited time offer or they can waive a certain fee that is them making concessions they were prepared to lose to get you to sign up. Please note that if the price isn’t unreasonable then you may not need to negotiate at all. Most of the time the guy signing you up for a membership is also a personal trainer and this is one of the commissions he can make. When I signed up for my most recent gym I agreed with everything up until the end when I was asked to sign, at this point he feels he has made the sale and his time investment has paid off, so by making my requests here I really increased his compliance. I asked them to waive the start-up cost (you can compromise on 50%), and lower the monthly rate by $10 citing the rate was from a TV ad (it wasn’t but most chain gym employees are unaware). In return I promised not to ask for any change to the outrageous cancellation fee. It worked wonderfully and I have had this membership for nearly 3 years at $20 a month at a large chain gym.

Gym staff are all salesmen, especially the personal trainers and keep in mind: I am a personal trainer! Gyms have rigged it that personal trainers pretty much operate like contractors and they’re only getting paid if they bring in clients. This can make it hard to sift through the bad trainers and find a good one. When looking for a good trainer look for someone that is willing to give a free consultation/session and make sure they aren’t just going through the motions with you. Make sure they are hearing your goals and concerns and making adjustments as needed. I tell all my prospective clients that one of the points of a consultation is to find out if we like each other; it’s okay if we don’t but it would certainly not be enjoyable for either of us if we trained together anyways.

Do your homework. Make sure the gym is regularly cleaned and maintained. Was the pool empty when you visited but they said they were just repairing it? A quick search on Yelp will reveal if it’s been empty for very long. Additionally, searching your prospective gym in Yelp may clue you in to whose trustworthy and who to avoid in the staff. Don’t trust a gym at its face value, gyms are not easy to maintain and if the staff takes shortcuts you will surely be the one to pay for it in the end.

Supplements: What the hell will make me fit?

“Got my gym membership, time to spend my mortgage at GNC”

The fitness industry is a multi-billion dollar a year industry and the cornerstone of that industry is supplements. The idea is simple: supplementing what you’re missing from your optimal diet will make you superhuman. In truth most of it is crap disguised as healthy crap and only a small fraction of what they’re selling will do you any good.

The TV personality Dr. Oz was put in front of the Senate in 2014 for popularizing a “miracle weight loss” pill that had no scientific backing among other “miracle” supplements that also did not have any supporting research. This is the perfect analogy for how the supplement industry has been able to sell snake oil to millions for billions: put an expert or trustworthy face on the product, have them swear by it and give them some sort of credentials.

Still if you’re looking for some things that may actually supplement your diet then your best bets are a solid protein powder, fish oil and a decent multivitamin. Click the pictures below for links to the supplements I use.

“Just tell me what to do and eat”

Think for yourself! And eat mindfully!

I hear so many people say “just tell me what to do and what to eat” that it makes me a little sad. It’s the reason you’re not fit already, you just want the responsibility to fall on someone else and to not have to spend mental energy on it but that isn’t going to work. You have to be willing to put in the time, both in and out of the gym, to schedule your exercises, plan your diet and know what to do if everything doesn’t go according to plan. And don’t beat yourself up of you don’t get it on the first try, no one does.

All we can do is try to be a little better today than we were yesterday.