A Beginner’s Guide To Getting in Shape and Staying Fit

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With the start of every new year, millions of people create resolutions to improve their health and fitness. Most have tried numerous activities that have unfortunately provided little to no health benefit. While others have tried at least one of those crazy fad diets just to crash and burn after a few weeks because they were unable to stick to the rigid requirements or the odd food choices.

My objective in writing this article is to get you focused on the correct things to do right from the start which will allow you to ultimately become healthy and fit. Trust me, there is a lot of misinformation, bogus supplements, sketchy meal plans and fad diets out on the market that simply do not work. My goal is to point you in the right direction so you can learn what actually works and is also cost-effective so you’re not wasting your time and your hard-earned money. As an 8-year certified master fitness trainer, I often notice people doing the wrong things or taking shortcuts in the gym. I’m not going to sell you on a workout plan or a special diet, but more importantly, I will provide you with enough information so you can make informed decisions regarding your own health and fitness goals so you can live a healthy lifestyle while looking good and feeling amazing!

Where Do You Get Started?

I’ve never had one of my clients fail in 7 years by following these basic steps outlined below:

  1. Get a Complete Physical. To ensure you are physically fit and ready to reach your health and fitness goals, it’s crucial that you first get checked out by your doctor. If you are over the age of 40, you might want to visit a specialized anti-aging clinic to get your hormones checked out since these can have a profound effect on your overall health, energy levels and body composition.
  2. Eat a Healthy Diet. Your diet is absolutely key when it comes to building lean muscle and losing body fat, so don’t overlook this critical area if you really want to get fit and healthy. Read our Nutrition 101 Guide to learn about all the nutrient dense whole foods you should include in your diet. Try your best to cut out processed sugars along with processed foods and all that tempting fast food that seems to be on every street corner. Eat lots of lean protein (chicken, turkey, fish, egg whites) and stick to clean carbohydrates like quinoa, brown rice, oatmeal, sweet potatoes and Ezekiel bread. Eat several servings of fresh fruits and vegetables each day. Always avoid cutting your calories too low! Women should never drop down below 1,200 calories per day and men should avoid going below 1,800 calories.
  3. Start a Balanced Workout Routine. If you’ve never worked out before, start off slow and work your way up. The key elements to a solid fitness plan include resistance training (weight lifting, etc.) along with cardiovascular exercise and stretching. Core training (abdominals, lower back, trunk) is also very important so make sure you include these exercises into your workout also. If you have trouble finding different exercises, just take a look at ShapeFit’s massive collection of exercise guides to find the right type of exercise style you enjoy best!

Do You Really Want To Sit on The Sidelines?

Your health is wealth! If you are currently overweight or obese and you fail to address this critical issue, your weight will keep slowly increasing along with all the health issues that go along with it. The heavier you get, the more health risks you will be exposed to. Here are some of the health issues associated with overweight and obese individuals:

  • Overweight people are 42% more likely to get Alzheimer’s disease. Obese people are 70% more likely!
  • 60% more likely to die of a heart attack versus someone who is not overweight.
  • 90% more likely to get type 2 diabetes.
  • 40% more likely to get cancer.
  • 24% higher risk of having a stroke.
  • Overweight people have a 32% chance of getting high blood pressure. Obese people are 81% more likely!
  • Hip and knee replacements are skyrocketing for people who are overweight and obese.
  • The extremely high medical costs associated with being overweight or obese are alarming.

Key Things To Watch Out For

  • Any type of “diet plan” or “meal program” that advocates super low calories must be avoided. You need calories to provide you with energy so you can have great workouts, so don’t cut those calories too low!
  • Focusing on the wrong fitness activities will most likely not get you the results you are seeking. Slow moving activities without resistance training (weights, etc) and cardio exercises that don’t actually get your heart rate elevated simply will not get the job done. It is very common to see instructors in different “fitness” classes trying to appeal to an older crowd while conducting cheap and inexpensive training sessions that do very little to actually improve someone’s health and fitness. Most take the one-size-fits-all approach and are not focused or designed around the client’s specific health and fitness goals.
  • Do your homework before putting together your strategy for improving your health and fitness. Don’t try to lose 100 pounds in 10 weeks because you read some crazy weight loss story in a magazine. It took you time to put on the weight so it will take some time to take the weight off. Be patient and don’t rush it.
  • Supplements can be a huge waste of money so choose wisely. Stick with the basics and focus on a quality mutlivitamin, fish oil supplement and a protein powder. Although whole foods should always be your number one choice, a protein powder comes in handy when you don’t have time to make a meal.
  • Your doctor could be part of the problem! The medical report card for the United States is not very good with over 72% of the population being overweight or obese. If you are currently overweight and your doctor does not challenge you about your weight issues while providing potential solutions or by sharing the health repercussions that can occur because you are overweight then they are clearly not putting your health first. It’s time to choose another doctor who actually cares about your health!

Building Lean Muscle with Resistance Training

If you want to stay fit and healthy for a lifetime, you need to develop lean muscle, period! Resistance training needs to be an integral part of your overall plan if you want to see results. This type of training can include free weights, machines, body weight and even resistance exercise bands. You need to stress those muscles to make them bigger. For most muscle groups, I recommend doing 8-12 repetitions per exercise for the best results in muscle hypertrophy (growth). For total sets, it really comes down to the size of the muscle group. You will do more sets for a larger muscle group like legs or back and less sets for a smaller muscle group like your biceps or triceps.

Rest and recovery is also another huge factor for getting results from all of your hard work in the gym. It’s crucial to allow at least 72 hours of rest between training sessions for the same muscle group. So, if you did a chest workout on Monday morning, you should wait until at least Thursday morning to train chest again. Most people will allow a full week of recovery between muscle groups to ensure the muscle has fully repaired itself and is ready for the next workout. A common training program includes “splits” during the week to focus on one or two specific muscles during each workout. Depending on your schedule, below are samples of 3-day, 4-day and 5-day split workouts you can follow:

3-Day Split Workout Routine

  • Monday: Chest and Back
  • Wednesday: Legs
  • Friday: Shoulders, Arms and Abs/Core

4-Day Split Workout Routine

  • Monday: Chest and Abs/Core
  • Tuesday: Back and Trapezius
  • Thursday: Legs
  • Friday: Shoulders and Arms

5-Day Split Workout Routine

  • Monday: Back and Trapezius
  • Tuesday: Chest
  • Wednesday: Legs
  • Thursday: Shoulders
  • Friday: Arms and Abs/Core

Characteristics of People Who Fail

  • Focused on the wrong types of fitness activities.
  • Inconsistent workouts and not using the right exercises.
  • Slacking on their diet and eating too many bad calories.
  • Lack of education about health and fitness.
  • Low hormone levels for people over the age of 40.

I hope this article has helped shed some light on the specific things you should be doing to become healthy and fit. It can be difficult when first starting out on a new diet and exercise plan so be patient. The key is consistency so focus on showing up and getting to the gym each week or fitting in your workout time at home. For your diet, make sure to check out all the healthy recipes here on ShapeFit for some delicious and nutrient dense meals. I wish all of you the best and I know you will reach all of your health and fitness goals!

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About Author

Timothy Roach

My name is Timothy Roach and I'm a Certified Master Trainer, Certified Personal Trainer and I'm certified in sports nutrition. I'm also an accomplished amateur bodybuilder and have competed in 16 bodybuilding competitions. See my profile page for more information!

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