Basic Fitness Advice

A few of my friends recently asked for some advice on getting in better shape this year. The goals were the same:

  • Feel better in daily life
  • Lose a little bit of weight
  • Fill out (or not fill out) clothing a little better
  • Do not get hurt

I’m not a fitness expert – my main qualifications are that I’m in decent shape and have taken pretty good care of myself over the last decade of my life. I’m not sure if it is entirely appropriate for me to offer this advice, but I did so anyways and wanted to share it with anyone else who might benefit from it.

Nutrition

Every person’s body is different and I am not a dietitian. As such, my nutrition advice is always very general:

  • Do not buy or eat junk food
  • Cook for yourself at home / try not to go out for food too much
  • Drink a bunch of water throughout the day

My personal diet is full of eggs, oatmeal, ground bison and bison steaks, more eggs, some egg whites, additional eggs, guacamole, and the occasional protein shake. I eat pretty much the same thing every day and that doesn’t bother me, but it does bother other people.

I eat a ton every day but I’m a 210 pound male with a lot of muscle trying to roughly maintain my current weight. If you’re trying to lose weight, eat less. If you’re trying to gain weight, eat a ton and worry about trimming off excess fat later. It isn’t rocket science, but you do need to monitor the way your body changes over the course of a few weeks and adjust as necessary.

Also, eat a cookie (or delicious brownie your wife makes) every once in a while. Tasty food is a great part of life. Just don’t go overboard when indulging.

Exercise

This is directed mostly at “untrained males” because that is who my friends are, but the general principles pretty much apply to anyone new to weightlifting or just getting back into an exercise program.

Buy a speed rope and start every workout with 10 minutes of jumping – start with 15 seconds on, 45 seconds off and then proceed to 30/30 and 45/15 once you feel comfortable with what you’ve been doing. Jumping rope burns a ton of calories in a little bit of time and will get your heart racing for the rest of the workout. There’s usually a cardio/studio room in gyms like this where you can do this. Your muscles should be all warmed up and ready to go after you jump.

Do the following workout 3 days a week (preferably M-W-F or T-Th-Sa):

  1. 3 (sets) x 8 (repetitions) barbell back squat
  2. 3 x 8 barbell deadlift
  3. 3 x 8 barbell bench press
  4. 3 x 8 seated dumbbell military press

You should be doing weight that you are comfortable with but makes it challenging to finish the set. Do not be concerned with what anyone else is doing in terms of weight. You are competing against your own body – not anyone else’s.

Finish up with a 5 minute cooldown on the stationary bike or something else.

Rest 2-3 minutes in between each set. Each exercise is linked to a video that shows exactly how to do it. However, that’s often not enough. If you don’t feel comfortable just going off the videos, my recommendation would be to purchase 3 training sessions with someone at whatever gym you’re joining and tell them you want to do the above (don’t let them sell you anything different) and you want to ensure that you have good form and won’t hurt yourself. You want them to teach you how to do it so you can do it on your own. Make this absolutely clear if you decide to go this route.

These are the major lifts and pretty much all you ever need to do unless you want to achieve some specific look. You’ll likely lose weight and feel better. You’ll see pretty rapid gains in strength and then plateau – that is absolutely normal. Make sure you’re pushing yourself and are slightly uncomfortable as that means you’re doing it right.

The workout, including warmup and cooldown, should take about an hour and will leave you feeling great.