Basic Advice For Beginners
Set Yourself Up for Success from the Start
As I write this article we are now into our second week of the New Year. New Year’s resolutions have either been started or are about to be started now that the holiday season is winding down. And undoubtedly a common New Year’s resolution is to start hitting the gym. As a gym owner I know people often don’t last very long at the gym because they don’t see the results they want, it’s too complicated and confusing and they don’t know what to do. So I’ve put together some basic advice on training, nutrition and supplements that will help beginners to set themselves up for success in the gym. No matter what time of the year it is, the basic advice in this article is a great starting point for anyone who is a beginner in the gym.
Keep it Simple
You don’t need an elaborate workout routine to see results. You often see people who have just started up at the gym following complicated training programs and doing difficult exercises straight off the bat. They might be copying a friend or someone they have seen on social media. This is not what they need to be doing, and can actually be counterproductive. As a beginner focusing on the basics will see you make great progress. Mastering the techniques involved and learning how to properly feel the muscles working should be one of your priorities when you just start out training. Beginners make gains in strength and muscularity quick and relatively easy when they start out. So save the complicated stuff for when you’re at an advanced level and you will need it.
Have a Structured Program
Having a structured training program is important. That means you have a workout that is designed with your specific goals in mind and that you will stick with for multiple weeks at a time. Consistency is one of the most important factors to success, and without a structured program your consistency can be all over the place. A structured program gives every workout purpose and allows you to track your progress from week to week. If you are looking for a structured workout program to start out with than a good personal trainer (eg. Sandra and Richard from NRT) can design one specifically for you.
Track Your Progress
Progressive overload is the key to a successful training program. This is probably the most important piece of basic advice that you will receive. Progressive overload involves increasing the amount of work you do in the gym over a period of time. Tracking your progress gives you a target to beat on your next workout, which is great way to make sure you are following the principles of progressive overload. Simply put, if you don’t track your progress you don’t know if you’re improving. It’s also incredibly motivating to be able to see how much you’ve improved from workout to workout.
Intensity is Important
Your physique needs a reason to change. That’s where intensity comes into play. You get stronger or bigger muscles as a result of pushing your body beyond it’s previous limits. This forces your body to adapt to this new stress. So in order to get the most out of your workout it has to be intense enough to cause a physical response. Most people do not train with enough intensity to be getting the kind of results they want. Training with intensity doesn’t mean you need to be covered in sweat or screaming and banging weights, but you have to be pushing yourself as hard as possible every time you train.
Calories Control Your Weight
The most important factor when it comes to either losing weight or gaining weight is your caloric intake. This is very basic advice, but unfortunately it’s not common knowledge, which it really should be. If you take in more calories than you use you will gain weight, and if you take in less calories than you use you will lose weight. So it’s important to figure out how many calories your body uses to maintain it’s current weight. That way you have a starting point to either add or subtract calories depending on your goal. Regardless of what kind of nutrition plan or protocol you choose to follow, calories will be the most important factor when it comes to gaining or losing weight.
Protein to Build Your Muscles
Your muscles are made up of protein. When you train your muscles break down and they need an adequate amount of protein to rebuild and repair, which is what makes them bigger and stronger. Most people aren’t consuming enough protein in order to achieve this. A good basic guideline for people participating in regular weight training is to take in 2 to 2.5 grams of protein per kilo of bodyweight. You can get protein from a variety of sources including (but not limited to) red and white meat, eggs, dairy and beans.
Carbohydrates and Fats
The main function of carbohydrates from a training point of view is to provide energy for the body to use. Fats are also used as a form of energy and they also play other important roles in the body like helping to regulate hormones and healthy function of the body. Both are very important for good health and performance and thus any extreme restriction of either isn’t optimal. This article is for basic advice so I won’t go too far into detail here (opinions on how to use carbs and fats can vary widely and it is a contentious topic). For beginners the important thing to know is that in the big picture, once calories and protein are accounted for, there is minimal benefit to having more fats over carbs or vice versa. It’s really up to your personal preference. Which leads into the next point.
Make it Fit Your Lifestyle
No matter how great a nutrition plan your following, if it doesn’t fit your lifestyle and you don’t adhere to it than it won’t work. For example, some people love chocolate so much it’s like a drug to them, myself included (maybe I’m exaggerating a little… or not!). So, naturally, when they restrict themselves from eating chocolate they eventually end up breaking and then eating a whole block or more and they then throw the rest of their nutrition plan out the window. A better strategy would to include chocolate in your plan and account for it in your calories. This is the same with all other aspects of nutrition. If it doesn’t fit with your lifestyle than you probably won’t do it for very long. Basic advice, but important if you’re in this for the long term.
You Can’t Buy Results
There is no magic pill, shake or supplement that will replace hard work. Everyone sort of knows this already, but for some reason people are still searching for that magic supplement that will fix all their problems. It doesn’t exist. The reality is, you can’t buy results. Otherwise there wouldn’t be so many out of shape millionaires out there! Supplements may be able assist you, but if you want results you have to put in the work. It’s as simple as that. The great thing about that though is that it makes your results worth so much more than if you could just go out and buy them.
Protein Powder Comes in Handy
Need a quick source of protein after you train? Only have a 15 minute break at work? Protein powder can’t replace real food but it is very helpful for people who struggle to eat enough protein and/or don’t have enough time to prepare a meal. One protein shake will have roughly 20 to 40 grams of protein in a quick and easily consumable form. And whilst protein powder isn’t essential, in my anecdotal experience people who buy themselves protein powder are likely to commit more fully to their training and nutrition, and are therefore they are more successful. It’s a relatively inexpensive source of protein as well.
Don’t be Fooled by Marketing
There are countless supplements that will promise you the world. Don’t fall for the hype. If it sounds too good to be true it almost definitely is. The supplement industry are expert marketers, they know how to make their products attractive to buyers using buzz words, fancy packaging and misleading claims. There are a handful of supplements that have been proven to work well, but the majority of what is on the market will only serve to empty your wallet (and maybe make your urine fluorescent too). Save your money and spend it on other things that are worth it, like quality food, personal training, even new gym clothes.
The basic advice on training, nutrition and supplements I’ve provided in this article should help to clear up any confusing or conflicting information and therefore lead you to have a successful start in your endeavours at the gym. The basic advice provided is simple to follow and a great starting point for any beginner. I wish you the best of luck and if you follow my basic advice I’m sure you will be kicking goals in the gym in no time! Make sure to share this basic advice with your friends on social media so they can also get their fitness journey off to a successful start!