We are nearing the end of the first month of the new year, and in my opinion, the most popular ‘new year’s resolution” is to exercise. If you feel like you’ve slacked a bit in these first few weeks, take this as your sign to pick it back up and keep going! It’s never too late, and I’m honestly not a fan of waiting for the new year to start a new goal anyhow.
If your goals are to start weight lifting to gain muscle, lose fat, get into shape, and live an all-around healthier lifestyle, you’ve made it to the right place. As someone who only started their fitness journey 10 months ago, there are many things I wish I had known along the way. And some of these things may be the reason you’re not seeing the gains you want to.
- forget gym-timidation
You deserve to use up space in the gym! I wish I could bold that sentence and put it in all caps. Especially as women, the gym can feel super intimidating (hence the phrase gym-timidation). I wrote an article last semester called 5 Tips to Help You Start Going to the Gym Even if it Scares You, which goes into detail about going in with a plan, practicing your form at home, and feeling confident. So, if you think you are a victim of gym-timidation, and that’s preventing you from reaching your goals, I highly recommend you give that a read. Regardless, you deserve to be in the gym and take up any space and equipment you need, even if you’re still a beginner learning the basics. Everyone has started exactly where you are right now!
- Remember food is your best friend
Get comfortable with eating more. Eat before you work out, and eat after you work out. And eat the rest of the day! This may seem like a given, but you may be surprised that not properly fueling your body may be holding you back in the gym. Carb up before your workout, you need that energy to push your hardest through the entire thing! Post-workout, you should nourish yourself with a high-protein meal. Try your best to eat balanced meals and prioritize your protein intake! It will truly make a difference in your muscle gains. Your body will thank you later! For the muscle to grow and recover, it needs to be fueled.
- practice progressive overload
You may have seen this buzzword before, but this is the key to your workout. Progressive overload means that you should be pushing for more reps, or increasing your weight, every session. When training for hypertrophy, a general rule of thumb is that if you can do 12-15 reps of an exercise relatively easily, you need to increase the weight. If you are struggling to get 6-8 reps, you should lower the weight and increase the reps. The weight you are picking up should feel challenging to you, and if you catch yourself using the same weight on the same exercise for a while, that’s a sign that you need to pick up a heavier one and push harder. (Properly fueling your body before a workout will help with this too!)
- prioritize form over weight
Practice your form before pushing weight! The last thing you want to do is accidentally injure yourself and inadvertently slow your progress. Good form is much more impressive than weight, and I stand by that! There’s nothing more concerning than seeing a stereotypical ‘gym bro’ Chad or Thad nearly break his spine during a deadlift because he’s ego-lifting. Form can vary for each exercise and body type of a person, so it may take some time to perfectly nail it. Don’t be afraid to ask a gym staff member to check your form, or take a video of your workout and ask someone for feedback!
- be realistic and consistent
Consistency is key! A workout split is how gym-goers refer to what days they are exercising each muscle group: shoulders, triceps, chest, biceps, back, glutes, hamstrings, and quads. There is no right or wrong way to organize your split, but pick one that you know is realistic for your lifestyle and that you can be consistent with. I recommend finding a workout program created by a trusted professional or fitness influencer (emphasis on the word trusted), that has as many workouts per week as you can make it to the gym. This can vary between 3-6 days per week. My favorite beginner workout program is Whitney Simmons’ Alive by Whitney app, which taught me the basics of lifting and eased me into the bigger compound lifts. She has several workout programs for people of all experience levels. Don’t rely on random workouts you find on social media to maximize your time in the gym, they are often times made too look aesthetically pleasing and over complicated for clickbait!
2022 is just getting started and you still have time to get after your goals of health or exercise in the new year! You can choose any day to start becoming a better version of yourself, and we all need help along the way. We all start somewhere, and knowledge is power!