In the world of fitness, there can be a lot of confusing articles for a beginner that just end up sending you running in circles. The one thing I wished that someone would create when I first started was a basic step by step guide to getting fit.
Now that I’m slightly more educated, I have decided to take this task on myself and create this, The Ultimate Beginners guide to Getting Fit.
In order to make this incredibly long post easier, I have included some sub-navigation below so you can quickly jump to each section.
I’m not lying when I say this is going to be long, so get a pen and paper and get ready to start taking some notes.
The most important thing at the start of your journey is to know WHY you are doing this. If the reason isn’t for you then you need to sit back and reassess things. Your only real push in this journey is going to see something that will be of benefit to you as a person. If you are looking to start this in order to please someone else, then I’m afraid you’re already going to fail.
If the WHY is to benefit you then it’s almost time to start.
Before you do, write down the why. It’s important to never forget this and will be your driving factor whenever you’re feeling demotivated and ready to quit.
Setting a goal
Goal setting is where you pinpoint an end goal that you want to achieve.
Now if you’re aiming to have an end physique like Arnold, but you’re at the starting point of Shaggy from Scooby Doo, then you should probably rein it back in a bit. There’s nothing wrong with having an ultimate end goal. It’s what drives everyone. The only problem is, that it can seem so far away when you are actually heading there and can often feel like it’s never getting closer.
My ultimate tip here is to set mini goals. Aim for many smaller and easily achievable goals along the way. For example, rather than aiming for being as big as Arnold, which is going to take a lot of gaining muscle. Aim to gain a couple of pounds of muscle. Or if you’re going for that bench press PR, then aim in small gains rather than 100kg more than you’re doing just now.
This will keep you feeling like you are achieving things rather than feeling so far away from that dream physique.
Now for the good stuff.
In basic terms, weight loss and gain comes down to one thing.
CALORIES IN vs CALORIES OUT
- If you eat more calories than your body needs then you will gain weight.
- If you eat less than your body needs then you will lose weight.
- If you eat the amount that your body needs then your weight will stay the same.
It can often be a confusing issue of how many calories does your body need. There isn’t a magic set number that is the exact number for anyone. Everyone is different. It’s important to remember this.
The number of calories your body burns is dependent on a number of things. Sex, Age, Metabolism, Genetics, Body shape…… I could go on, but you can see that a lot of factors play a part and hopefully you can see that’s why nobody can tell you how much you need without first getting more information about you.
I don’t think it can be put any simpler than that. The only problem is this.
How do you know how many calories your body needs?
This would be called the TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure).
Your TDEE is the number of calories your body needs to maintain its current weight at your current activity level.
Using the calculator below you can work out exactly how many calories your body would need to maintain your weight. Shown as maintenance in the results.
Calculate your TDEE here
Now that you know the number of calories you need to maintain your weight, you can now figure out how many you would need to do the following:
- Gain Weight – Add on a few hundred calories to the number you calculated above
- Lose Weight – Subtract a few hundred calories from the number you calculated above
It is important to re-calculate your TDEE if your activity level changes or you lose 5lb from the last time you calculated it
This is essentially the basics of weight loss and gain.
This is the most important aspect of your fitness journey, which is why I’ve put it in before any talk of workouts.
If you don’t have your nutrition sorted out then you will not progress at anywhere near the rate you might hope to and this can lead to you becoming disheartened and more likely to give up.
Now many people harp on about eating clean and how you must avoid all things that are bad for you or you will just get nowhere. I don’t really believe in that approach.
If you want something, then you should be able to eat it in moderation of course.
The approach that I prefer to take is a lifestyle change, rather than a diet. Diets sound restrictive and will more than likely mean that you can’t have any fruits, sugary drinks, cakes, ice creams, potatoes, bread, etc. I could go on forever, but that’s not how things should be.
“Diets” will in my opinion promote an unhealthy relationship with food where certain things are deemed off limits and you are more than likely going to stick to them for a short period of time before completely giving up and gorging on those sweet treats you’ve missed so much.
The truth is that you should never really feel restricted when it comes to your diet. Avoiding those things that you love completely will only just test your willpower a whole lot more and if like me, your willpower sucks, you’re more likely to have a blowout and just feel bad about it after. If you allow yourself to plan in some space for you to treat yourself once in a while, you’re a lot more likely to stick to things. If you want to have that chocolate bar, then have it. Just make sure you account for it in your calories and adjust the rest of your day accordingly.
Planning your meals out before going shopping will allow you to be pretty focused when it comes to buying the stuff that you actually need and not those bargain multipacks of crisps that they have on offer.
Having your meals planned and prepped ready for bulk cooking or daily cooking will also mean that you aren’t going to be caught short and have to resort to eating something on the go from a greasy takeaway. It allows you to control the stuff that you are eating rather than having something that might be laced with tonnes of hidden calories.
Now this might make your diet sound pretty strict, but as I spoke about above. There’s no need for it to be. The beauty of meal planning means that you can schedule in some treat calories so that if you do get the desire to have some cake towards the middle of the afternoon, guess what? You’ve got some free calories to play with. Go enjoy that cake.
So you might be wondering how you actually track all of these calories that you should be eating. Never fear, in this golden age of technology we live in, there’s actually a website/mobile app that can do it all for you.
MyFitnessPal is exactly the thing you need when trying to track your calorie intake. You can either use their on-site calculator to figure out the calories that you need to eat or you can manually plug in the calories you worked out earlier on in this guide.
This will give you your daily target to work towards.
MyFitnessPal comes with a built-in barcode scanner for mobile app users for quickly adding those calories to any pre-packaged food that you have and also allows you to manually search their huge database of food items to add each ingredient to your daily meals.
Giving yourself an on the go account of how you’re doing will work wonders for you in being able to keep everything accountable.
Many people don’t like working out calories in their weight loss and gain journey. I’m not going to lie, it is a bit of a hassle but becomes second nature quick enough.
Alternatively if you know that your diet isn’t going to be changing drastically throughout your journey you could track for a few weeks to get a rough idea of the number of calories in the foods that you eat and then just take it from there.
Obviously results probably won’t be as perfect as they would if you track strictly, but if you’re honest enough with yourself then you should still see results.
The tracking for a few week method isn’t really the best route to take as there is more margin for error, lying to yourself and just general slackness with your eating, which could in turn affect your overall progress. So avoid this route as much as possible.
There are three different types of physical exercise that you can do. These are Aerobic, Anaerobic and Flexibility.
Aerobic exercises use large muscle groups and cause your body to use more oxygen than it would while resting. Often referred to as cardio these activities increase your breathing and heart rate. They keep your heart, lungs, and circulatory system healthy and improve your overall fitness. Some examples of cardio activities would be Running, Swimming, Cycling, Football etc.
Anaerobic exercises are often referred to as Strength exercises and are used to make your muscles stronger. Examples of strength training would be Weightlifting, Resistance band training, Bodyweight exercises.
Important: Females should not avoid strength training. You won’t become the next Arnie, because you don’t produce enough testosterone. Those female bodybuilders you worry about becoming take steroids and testosterone supplements. If you do avoid then you’re only missing out on the benefits like burning body fat, decreased risk of Osteoporosis, increased strength. I could go on, but I think you see my point.
Flexibility exercises stretch and lengthen your muscles. Activities such as stretching help to improve joint flexibility and keep muscles limber. The goal is to improve the range of motion which can reduce the chance of injury.
Depending on your goal will depend on the main type of exercise that you would carry out. For those looking to increase muscle mass, you would lean more towards a strength based routine.
For those looking to reduce body fat levels, you would look more towards a cardio based routine.
Now whilst the majority of your workouts favour one method, this does not mean that the other should be completely neglected. I would still recommend that both methods are utilised within your training routine, to ensure the best possible results and an overall healthier you.
Flexibility exercises work in tandem with both, to ensure that your body can continue you be put under strain with reduced levels of injury probability.
There are so many different types of workouts that I couldn’t possibly include them in this post. My aim is to start creating tailored workout packs depending on an individual goals.
- Workouts for Muscle Gain
- Workouts for Strength Gain
- Workouts for Fat Loss
If you want to keep up to date with when these will be released then sign up for my mailing list. It’s the first place you’ll hear about it and that’s a guarantee.
Keeping track of your progress both in and out of the gym is a must if you want to get anywhere.
Throw away those scales.
Yep, you read that right. Don’t use the scales to track your progress. They’re unreliable, a giver of false hope and a drain of motivation all at the same time.
Your body weight fluctuates so much during the day based on loads of different factors. One day you could be up 3 pounds, down 5 pounds the next, back up 2 pounds, up 4 pounds….I think you see the pattern here.
The number of times I’ve had someone that I’ve been helping on their journey come to me saying that they have been eating the right calories but have still gained a couple of pounds since the week before is ridiculous.
The method I prefer to use for monitoring your body progress is through photographs. That’s right. Good old selfies. Taking photos at intervals of your journey will much better serve you than the scales will.
These can give you a direct and quick side by side comparison of your before and after.
You may not see any changes when you look at yourself in the mirror, but put your starting photo beside your latest one and I’m sure you’ll be shocked.
There’s a few standard poses when it comes to progress selfies. You’ll find them below:
Tracking your progress in the gym is something that so many people fail to do, but is incredibly important. How do you know if you’re improving if you don’t remember what you did the last time?
It is imperative to your progress that you track. However you wish to do it, there are a number of different methods to use.
From smartphone apps right back to the basic old school (my favourite) pen and journal method.
For the techy geeks out there, here’s my top pick applications to allow you to track progress. These are all compatible with both Android and iOS.
- Jefit – (Android, iOS) – General gym workout tracker.
- Endomondo – (Android, iOS) – Great for outdoor runs or walks.
- Fitocracy – (Android, iOS) – Community driven workout tracking app.
As I said previously, I’ve tried many many different apps for tracking my workout, but none seemed to suit me. From being too distracted when filling in my lifts, to the battery running out, or the phone not getting signal in the gym there have been many reasons.
I resorted back to the pen and paper method and have never looked back.
A – The exercise that I am going to be doing goes on the left along with the amount of sets/reps that are needed and also the rest period. The rest period always comes last. If there are two exercises before the rest period then it means that it is a superset, noted in brackets.
B – This is the weight that I am working with for that exercise. I track in KG, so all my weights are in KG. I usually put the weight above the part where I’m tracking my numbers.
C – This is the part that probably would cause the confusion. Each number is the number of reps that I managed for a set. For example the first exercise has four sets (x/x/x/x), in these I achieved the full 8 reps (8/8/8/8).
Simple, effective and quick to look back through previous workouts and see what I was lifting the last time.
Motivation is one of the biggest struggles during any fitness journey.
It’s extremely easy to be tempted or just fall off track. I like to think of it as having a period where you might be most succeptible to give up.
If you manage to last past 30 days, then I truly believe that you will continue on your journey without many hiccups. The reason for this is that it will become a habit and you will start to feel like it’s part of your normal routine.
For those who don’t make it to 30 days, it’s usually because they either lack commitment or aren’t seeing progress fast enough.
This isn’t a race.
You will reach your end goal, but don’t expect it to come too soon. Setting mini goals will help to keep you motivated. I talked about this earlier in the post, so hop back up there if you need a refresher.
Another method to keep yourself motivated is to reward yourself. Say that you’ll buy yourself a new item of clothing when you hit a certain date or weight goal.
This gives you an incentive to keep going and you’ll feel great when you actually reach your reward.
Motivation will drop from time to time and life does get in the way. It’s all about picking yourself back up and remembering the place where you started and why you began your journey. If you’re truly committed, then you’ll find that motivation level start to creep it’s way back up.
Keep it exciting
It can get hellishly boring if you’re just doing the same thing for months on end, not only that but it’s also a known fact that your body won’t respond as well to certain workouts after an extended period of time. It needs shocked periodically to stop it from getting too used to things.
Shake it up a bit.
If you hate doing long distance running on a treadmill, then opt for HIIT or even better start playing a sport you enjoy. For me, I absolutely detest cardio, but I adore playing football. That makes cardio enjoyable for me and I aim to get at least a game a week.
These can be an intimidating place for any beginner. It’s not uncommon to feel like you’re being judged by others. Everyone goes through it.
You’ve just got to realise that nobody really cares what you’re doing in the gym.
Those buff guys who you see benching three times what you can….they didn’t walk in there and manage that on their first day.
Everyone has to start somewhere and they have all been in your position.
You’re in there to challenge yourself and nobody else, so focus on you and you’ll achieve great things.
A gym should have enough equipment to allow you work your entire body equally. I used to attend a gym where there was no equipment for carrying out squats other than dumbbells.
Ideally a gym should have a barbell and dumbbell freeweights area, some machines for those looking to build up confidence to start with and some cardio equipment for those who don’t enjoy running or cycling outdoors.
If it doesn’t meet these requirements then you’re probably going to outgrow it pretty quickly, or settle into a routine of doing the same thing all the time with little/no progress. So be sure to shop around before deciding on one.
So there you have it. That took a while, but I hope it was worth it.
Everything you need to start out your fitness journey is set out for you above. Now you have no excuses.
I really hope that you found this guide useful and would love for you to leave me a comment to let me know you’re starting out. I’d love to keep up with all your personal journies, so don’t hesitate to get in touch. I’d love to hear from you.