Tis the time for resolutions. The new year is just round the corner and like every year we all have our resolutions in our minds. This is an age old practice which has been engrained in us ever since we were little. Our resolutions might have changed with time but our excellent habit of not following them to the end remains a constant. One resolution that becomes kind of constant for people my age which we make every year to abandon in the very first week is “Get Fit”. This resolution is most commonly phrased as “I will fix my eating habits and start working out”. Most of these people stay enthusiastic for at max a week. Although in this one week they will accomplish a lot of things. They will see what a day that starts at 6am looks like in Delhi winter and what a lettuce tastes like. Now the best and easiest part of the “fitness process” is preparing for it. Which means buying new workout gear, water bottle and a membership at a swanky gym. For most resolutioners gym sign up is well begun and well begun is half done. I will be pulling stats out of my ass but 95% of these people will stop going to the gym within a fortnight. If this year too you are planning to resolve to get fit and are thinking about getting a gym membership/fancy equipment, I have a few pointers for you which I am sure will help you make an informed decision.
- Know your goals – Although this is applicable to every single aspect of life, when it comes to fitness it is extremely important. Do not do anything which does not drive you towards a goal. Your goal could be losing/gaining weight, getting ripped or getting super strong. But setting a goal is extremely important. The best part about fitness is there is no goal which is out of reach.
Get a plan/program – In the technology start-up world we have a term called MVP – Minimum Viable Product. This means that you launch a product with only the absolutely essential features with no bells and whistles to get a sense of the market. As a fitness beginner, you too need a MVP – Minimum Viable Plan. The goal is to have a plan which requires the least about of time and effort possible and can be tracked towards your goal. Your plan would be defined by the goals you set in point 1. You can use following pointers to build your goal plan
- If all you want is to lose/gain weight you do not necessarily need exercise. Which means you do not necessarily need a gym/equipment. Losing or gaining weight is a simple matter of calories in vs calories out. If calories in > calories out you gain weight and if calories in < calories out you lose weight. Now there are 2 ways of manipulating these numbers. You can manipulate Calories in by changing your diet and your calories out by introducing physical activity. So if you only play with the “Calories In” number you can achieve the weight gain/loss. All you need to do is start tracking your calories. The easiest process would be to log your daily diet for 2 weeks so that you get an idea of how many calories you are consuming on an average. Once you have that idea, increase or decrease those based on your goals and maintain that until you are losing / gaining weight. Once the losing/gaining stalls, change the calories even further and keep up. Follow this process until you reach your goal. I recommend using My Fitness Pal for tracking calories.
- If you want to achieve cardiovascular and general fitness you still do not need a gym/ equipment. The MVP for adding cardiovascular and general fitness would be doing walks/runs outside and gradually moving up to bodyweight exercises. Joining a gym to run an a treadmill and pedal a stationary bike is truly wasteful. Go for a run in the local park. If running is too straining for you , walk. As a beginner your first motive should be to make it habit of doing something. There are many great running programs for beginners which are easy-going and have easy progressions. My personal recommendation is C25K.
- If you want to build muscle than you could still start with bodyweight exercise and then graduate to the gym. Look for a beginner bodyweight program and follow it for some time
Track your progress – This is the most important part of the process. You need to have quantitative information about your progress. If your aim is to gain/lose weight you will track your daily diet along with change in weight. If your aim is cardiovascular health you will keep a track of your daily jogs and rides. If your aim is to build an aesthetic body you will take regular progress pics.
- Have a progression plan – If things are going will and you are making progress according to the initial plan then its all good. But after some time your progress will stall. At this point you will have to make a progression. If you were running 2km every day so far you will have to increase it to 2.5. If you were doing 30 push ups every day you now will have to do 40 to trigger the progress again. If your weight loss has stalled you need to cut your calorie intake even further.
Rinse and repeat
Now that I have outlined the general process for fitness let me let you in on some specific pointers.
Do not pick up any foo foo high fundoo diet which prohibits you from eating anything or restricts you to eating specific things. This might work for the moment and you might see results but they will vanish as soon as you get back to normalcy. You need to make permanent lifestyle changes that can be followed for a long time.
- If dieting, be mindful of your macros (Carbs, Fats and Protein). You are supposed to be taking all the 3 to have a healthy body but if you have to cut something out it has to be carbs first, then fat. Don’t cut out fat all together thinking this will help you lose weight. It is important for your bones, joints and sex. Yes, sex.
- Don’t buy fitness gear/equipment until you are absolutely sure that you are continuing the process. I started with Rs 1000 shoes for gym before I moved to specialised shoes which cost much more once I was sure that I will be doing this for a long time.
- Trust me – a treadmill/stationary bike for home would eventually turn into an expensive cloths hanger.
- If you do join the gym please know that you do not necessarily need a personal trainer or any supplements. Remember MVP.
- If your trainer asks you to do a lot of ab exercises like crunches, setups and leg raises every day telling you that those will help you lose tummy fat, smack him in the face really hard. That’s not how it works. It is not possible to non surgically remove fat from a specific area. Take some pity on your spine and stop doing those crunches.
- Just because you exercise does not mean you can eat anything. You can not out exercise a bad diet.
- Please follow gym etiquettes. If you don’t know what they are just google them. Don’t be that guy.
This could go on and on but I think I have covered most of the important points. I will close with a cliché but true statement – fitness is not a destination but a journey. If any of you need any help at all in choosing a workout program or have any confusions about diet, comment here or hit me up on twitter at @akhilrex
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I have helped many startups in building their products and I would be happy to have a chat with you about your idea. Catch me on twitter at @akhilrex