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What I would do if I was just starting my fitness journey

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I love reading these types of “advice to my younger self” style posts, so I thought I would jump on and make it related to fitness.

me with a preloaded barbell doing lunges with text above about starting my fitness journey

I have played competitive sports, tried juice fasts, atkins, lean cuisine, macros, etc. I have been all over the board with fitness and nutrition. I have lost weight, gained weight with pregnancies and lost it again.

Now, I am a NASM certified nutrition coach, who lifts weights and has a balanced diet. I am in the best place mentally and physically that I have ever been in and I have a great relationship with food, something my younger self didn’t always have.

Knowing everything I know now, this is how I would start my fitness journey on day 1 if I could go back in time.

Starting my fitness journey from day 1

What I would do:

  1. Regardless of whether I was trying to lose weight or not, I would focus on building muscle through weight lifting. This will help you increase your BMR and will get you that “toned” look as opposed to skinny fat.
    • I would aim for 4 lifting sessions each week (2 upper body, 2 lower body)
    • I would repeat this schedule week after week for 6-8 weeks before changing up my exercises because this is the only way to know if you are progressing in each movement. This is called progressive overload. You can achieve this by either increasing the amount of weight you use, increasing the amount of reps, or decreasing the reps between sets. The goal is to progress. THIS is how you measure success and muscle gain, not by how sore you are after your workout.
    • I would include a variety of rep ranges in each workout with my first two exercises being compound lifts and lower reps (heavier weight).
  2. I would prioritize form.
    • Watch youtube videos, ask a personal trainer, practice in front of a mirror, etc
  3. I would always do a proper warm-up before lifting.
    • Focusing on dynamic warm-ups instead of static stretches. Static stretches are great for post workout.
  4. I would take rest days.
    • Rest days are just as important as lifting days.
  5. I would eat protein at every meal.
  6. I would walk 20 minutes a day.
    • This could be post workout or all on it’s own. Keeping those steps up increases RMR.
    • I personally love to do this at a level 12 incline on the sole f63 treadmill in our garage gym, but walking around the block works too. (I usually just turn on my favorite TV show & time just flies by)
  7. I would replace all beverages with water most of the time.
    • Juices and sodas add up quickly. 8 oz of apple juice has 30 carbs! I would rather eat those carbs than drink them.
  8. I would stop eating when I’m full.
    • Even if that means I am leaving a half a plate of food uneaten, or just a bite. There is no obligation to eat past your hunger level.
  9. I would only eat desserts that taste amazing.
    • This is a weird one. But, the amount of calories I’ve wasted eating foods that were only okay is insane.
    • It’s similar to the previous point. If I order dessert at a restaurant and it turns out it isn’t great, there is no obligation to continue eating it.
    • I a big believer that we should eat for two reasons: for fuel and for enjoyment. If it doesn’t meet one of those standards, it isn’t worth it. It should be intentional.

What I would avoid:

  1. I would not label foods as “bad”
    • This usually makes us restrict or eliminate certain foods from our diet. While we might not need the less nutritious options, it can lead to a binge & restrict cycle. When treats are not off limits, we don’t feel the need to binge because we can have them again at a later date if we wanted. Ex.) It’s not the last time you’ll ever eat a cookie, so you don’t need to eat all 12 right now.
  2. I would not punish myself for eating out through extreme diet or extra cardio.
    • One fast food or restaurant meal will not make you gain 5 pounds. That would require an excess of 17,500 calories. If you gain 5 pounds, it’s most likely water weight, easy come easy go. Instead, I would just move forward and make the best decision I can at my next meal and continue my normal workout routine.
  3. I would forget about a timeline.
    • There’s usually a special event or holiday or season that motivates us to get into fitness and that’s fine. It’s okay to have a goal, but set it and forget it.
    • Focus instead on the actions and not the results. Our body weight fluctuates from day to day and progress is not linear. Focusing on the results adds unwanted stress. Direct your attention on the actions you can take to move closer to your goal. It will pay off, it just takes time.
  4. I would avoid foods labeled as low sugar or zero sugar.
    • These are usually higher in sodium. That plus the fake sugars can bloat you out.

Remember, this is what I would do differently if I were starting day 1 of my health & fitness journey. This is based on my experience over the past 10+ years and my knowledge as a nutrition coach.

You’ll notice that there are no silly rules like zero sugar, no carbs after 5pm, or you have to workout in a fasted state. Most of those are gimmicks and not based on factual evidence. They play to our pain point of wanting to be healthy and we fall for it. I have fallen for it. But not anymore.