Does the mere thought of exercise make you too tired to exercise? Does the thought of going to a gym inspire you to run away from a gym? Would you rather pull your teeth out with rusty pliers than exercise because screw this, I know where cake is?
But I now weigh the same as I did when I was a late teenager and am only getting stronger. I love weightlifting, and this coming from someone who despised the thought of exercising at all.
HOW TO START THIS NONSENSE
The trick for me at the beginning was to completely ignore my weight or shape. Don’t ever track your pounds at the beginning. Ever. Because weight loss isn’t the point right now.
Your only focus is to get your body adjusted to moving. That’s all. Just plug in your earbuds, listen to music or a podcast, and ignore anything else. DON’T diet (see below.) Don’t beat yourself up for missing a day. Don’t compare yourself to others or strive for whatever imaginary body you want to have.
“Results” don’t matter a lick, so no pressure. You’re only doing this to do it. Work up a sweat. Just do it every day if you can. Even just a LITTLE movement will make progress. Then as you progress, make movement just a LITTLE more difficult.
Scales are particularly non-informative because muscle weighs more than fat. As you build muscle you might GAIN weight. Congratulate yourself then! You’re building muscles!
Keep it positive while you keep it tiring.
The word “Cardio”, like all other words, is just a word.
Let me start again.
Cardio is merely any exercise that speeds up your heart rate and gets you breathing hard. It is absolutely necessary when beginning getting fit. This is your bread and butter. You’re doing this because cardio is going to be the basis of everything after.
There is no point in strength training if you get winded in the middle. Stamina is vital in strength training so that your muscles hurt instead of your lungs. You need stamina, and cardio is the way you get it.
Walking on a treadmill, riding on a stationary bike, or swinging your legs like a stoned-out freak on an elliptical machine are all excellent cardio exercises.
In order to get lasting gains from Cardio, your goal will be 20 minutes at minimum. Anything less is definitely okay at the very beginning. If you can’t do 20 minutes, who cares? You shouldn’t. Listen to your body and push only a little bit more than you think you can go. Never stop when you want to. Only stop when you HAVE to. Just keep doing it until you can move on.
When I first started exercising (on a bike), a minimum of 20 minutes sounded ludicrous. The reason was because at that time it WAS ludicrous! I was right! It would’ve been stupid for me to push too hard at the beginning. The purpose was to sweat, not to hate what I was doing. It is hard to build a habit out of something you hate.
So start at 10 minutes and work your way up to 20 over a couple of weeks. Use a stationary bike or a brisk walk on a treadmill. 10 minutes, then you’re done. It takes longer to heat up a Trader Joes’ Bambino Pizza than it does for you to exercise.
Because again, all you’re doing is getting used to movement. If your body screams, “I can’t do this anymore,” then don’t do it anymore. Don’t get discouraged with this! Don’t think, “I should do better.” No, you shouldn’t. You did exactly what you needed to do. Take a high five out of petty cash.
Eventually, cardio will become easier. Then you move on to a longer time frame, more resistance, more speed, or any mix of the previous. Whatever it takes to make you sweat again and raise your heart rate. Keep moving upwards by a reasonable amount. Do this gradually. Don’t rush to your goal. Rushing your goal is how you start hating exercise. Take it bit by bit and listen to your body.
A SMALL NOTE ABOUT DIETING
I said it would be a small note. More? Fine…
The very beginning is not the time to start radically changing your eating habits. Do this “getting fit” stuff one step at a time. If you do this all at once it will become overwhelming and frustrating, and (again) you can’t build a habit out of something you hate.
There will come a time when your diet will be changing on its own because stuff like fast food will make you feel REALLY crappy. So don’t force it.
The trick to staying on a diet is avoiding the feeling that you’re missing out on anything. Your body will tell you what it needs or hates. So DON’T diet right now. Diet when you’re thinking to yourself, “damn… I hate this crap I am eating. After I’m done my gut wants to punch itself.”
Your body knows what it needs. As you get fitter, your body will need better foods to support this new lifestyle you’re imposing on it. It will react better to healthier foods.
So THEN diet later on down the line. But reasonably. Eat healthy stuff you enjoy. Don’t force down stuff that is yuck. You are NOT denying yourself and nothing you’re eating is done on a bet. That is never how you stick to a diet. Eat good stuff you really like and avoid stuff you don’t. Your taste will change as time goes along.
Hopping on a fad diet like the East-California Duck Fart diet or the Mid-Central Oregon Spruce Bark diet (where you can only eat spruce bark, but you can eat as much as you want) will undoubtedly give you short-term weight loss. But they almost always fail in the long term.
You want to lose weight and build muscle? Excellent! Me too! Calorie deficit (where you burn more calories than you eat) and steady, challenging exercise will do it.
THE VERY GOOD REASONS WHY PEOPLE QUIT
I think one major reason people quit exercising is they try to do too much in the beginning and it becomes overwhelming so screw this, I’m getting cake!
So exercise often and eat whatever for now. Diet comes later when your body is craving more healthy fuel to do cardio longer. Once cardio is a doddle, THEN move on to weights (yet never abandoning cardio) and diet. NOT before. Last long, THEN get strong.
Another reason some quit is being intimidated by choice. You go to a gym the first time and what do you see? A large collection of medieval torture devices that serve functions you can’t comprehend. The helpful diagrams on the machines don’t help and the free weights look bulky and intimidating. The last thing you want to is to stand next to some massively beefy guy juggling cinder blocks while you grunt from lifting five-pound weights.
So first of all, no one cares what you’re lifting at the gym. If you are walking around with two 2.5 pound weights and are pitting your shirt out as if the police were tailgating you, it doesn’t matter. No one was born fit. It takes work. Everyone knows this and bullies get kicked out of gyms pretty quickly so you won’t run into one.
But more importantly, those machines and weights don’t matter to you. Seriously. Not yet, anyway. If you are just beginning exercising after not doing it for years, ALL you need to focus on is cardio.
So keep it simple. Look for the stationary bike, treadmill, or elliptical, and go nuts there. All of the rest of the stuff is scenery.
So I think the key for you (like it was for me) is to take this in small steps, busy your mind while your body works, don’t make ANY goals other than “I’m going to do cardio now,” stay away from the scale because scales are a waste of your time, and avoid measuring tapes because that shit is evil and meaningless.
And don’t move to the next step until your body says, “this is easy. I’m bored.” DON’T make a plan to get to <goal> before <time>.
Progress in little steps, but progress constantly and steadily. Don’t rush it, but don’t settle for easy. The moment something feels easy, make it just a little more difficult. Do this in small and logical increments. Tweak this. Make a habit before you make a goal.
Always remember: you’re not in the freaking Marines. This isn’t basic training. So turn off the inner drill sergeant, stay FAR away from programs like “The Biggest Loser” (because that show literally shows you exactly what you SHOULD NEVER DO to lose weight healthfully), and take it easy on yourself.
You are doing yourself a favor, so the mere fact that you’re beginning means that you are doing something wonderful to you!
That means you are AWESOME for doing so!
John d’Andriole’s suitability for fitness advice may be doubtful to some. He has no certifications, no special qualifications, has no idea what the deal is with those giant rubber bands people use on the gym floor, and doesn’t even know the weight-jock secret handshake. Also, he’s a big old nerd and even though he’s getting fit he’s still the same old dorkasaur he’s always been on the inside.
Much of the advice presented is anecdotal, although if it means anything to you he DOES sincerely believe what he wrote. Also, he occasionally sneaks in some McDonald’s fries even though they make him feel like his intestines want to crawl up his throat and beat his brain in for coming up with this idea. But don’t tell him I told you.