It’s that time again. New year, new healthier you. If this is you, congrats! Getting in shape helps us with so many aspects of life. We look better in photos and have more options in clothes. Those seem to be the most important to some folks, but we also live longer, happier and more social lives.
The benefits of fitness are many. Since you are reading this, I don’t need to sell you on getting in better shape—I just need to offer some advice on getting started.
START WITH YOUR DIET
Be honest with yourself. Start with a real look at what you consume. Write down everything that you eat and drink over a three-to-five-day period. When doing this, try to include the weekend. For a lot of us, that is when most of our indulgences occur. After taking a hard look at your data, look at what needs to be reined in. Too much sugar (sweets, sodas, southern sweet tea) is a huge culprit, so cut way back. Potato chips and cheese puffs are delicious, but not for daily consumption. Save that for maybe once a week.
I have a general rule of thumb for people. If something makes you have a twinge of guilt when you eat it, it’s for a reason. You won’t feel guilty eating good, minimally processed food. If weight loss is a goal, don’t crash diet. It’s not sustainable. Use a calorie calculator to determine how many calories you need to sustain your current weight. I recommend looking at themayoclinic.org in their healthy lifestyle section.
Once you have how many calories you need to sustain yourself, reduce by a few hundred calories a day. Get these calories in healthy, nutrient-dense foods. You are going to be building some new muscles, so make sure that protein is a sizable part of your plan.
Do not get obsessed with the scale. Focus on changes in your body composition. You will find yourself having more lean muscle mass and less fat when you combine diet with exercise. The scale will wobble up and down with a downward overall trajectory. Remember that this is a lifestyle change, so it takes time. Hold yourself accountable, and stay the course.
Now for the fun part. Use your current level of fitness as a guide to begin. If you are not in the best of shape, it’s okay. We all start somewhere. Find something that you enjoy that gets you moving. Walks, jogs, swimming, bike rides…doesn’t matter. I just need you to move!
A couple days a week, get moving at a reasonably sustainable brisk pace. If you can, grab a device with a heart rate monitor. Find out the zones needed for your age group and goals, then monitor with your device. You will find that it becomes a fun challenge. If you do not want to wear an iWatch or Fitbit, it’s all good. Use something called Rate of Perceived Exertion. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being very strenuous, go to an RPE of 7 for 8-10 minutes. Back down for a couple mins and then go back up to 7 again.
Do this at least a couple days a week for 30 to 45 mins to increase your aerobic capabilities and boost your metabolism.
DON’T FORGET STRENGTH TRAINING
We have to lift some weights. Cardio is helpful, but strength equals longevity. Muscles protect our bodies and organs, burn more calories, and look better in your mirror than fat. Just because you do strength training does not mean you will look “bulky.” You are never too old or out of shape to strength train in some form. In short…do it!
If you aren’t quite sure on how to get started or have never done resistance training, grab a session from a qualified professional and let them show you the ropes. When you are getting started, focus on compound movements that help more than one muscle group. Work with squat movements, upper body push-and-pull movements and some rotational movement. Do your strength training a couple of times a week to get started. You will be surprised at how quickly your body can adapt to new demands.
Take your time to warm up before each daily exercise session. Nothing crazy, just get the blood flowing a bit. That can be walking, jogging, jumping jacks, etc. After each session, take time to stretch. As you get farther along, your workouts become more intense, your diet gets sharper, and you adapt to a healthier lifestyle.
Till next time…
Carl “Redbeard” Simpson is a fitness junkie, certified personal trainer and nutritionist, and dedicated martial arts practitioner. He is committed to helping people be the best version of themselves. “Move better – be better – Redbeard Fitness!”