So right now we are about two weeks in to the start of the New Year. For those of you that go to the gym on a frequent basis for a few years now know about what has occurred. The New Year’s resolution club has now entered the building. Now these folks mean well. They have a goal, and this is going to be the year they attain it. They come to the gym with often matching gym “outfits”. Their shoes, gloves, and other exercise accessories have the look of being new and not yet broken in.
The gym you are training at now has a line to all of the equipment that otherwise would have been open for your normal routine. Hopefully by now you have some ideas as to what you can do to still get your normal training in, but work around these folks. This is an inconvenience, but I’m glad these folks are trying. I try to be supportive (what would Alvin do) of anybody in the gym that is exercising, especially folks who haven’t done this for a while. So I’m going to write a bit today on the advice that I would give someone about coming to the gym after a long layoff.
Too many people just want to jump in the deep end and start swimming. This is the New Year and they are going to P90 Insanity X fit themselves to a new them. Well the body adapts to the demands placed upon it, but it can only do so at a certain pace. Going 100% balls to the wall for 1 month will never net you the same progress as going an easy 70% for 10 years. So start off with a small amount of volume. I’m a fan of starting strength, 5/3/1, or even the Yessis set of 20 program for beginners (which is what you are if you haven’t trained for a year or more).
Start lighter than you think you should, they don’t hand out medals for the person that partial reps a heavy weight. All the real lifters in the gym laugh at this person. Most people don’t care what you hit in your training otherwise. I like the Henry Rollins quote here: “Know why all the old stories about men going out to impress the gods? Because trying to impress your common man is worth your time or energy”.
Aim for low impact
Once again the body adapts to the demands placed upon it. If all you’ve been doing is 12 oz. curls you don’t need to be doing sets of 30 box jumps or barefoot running on concrete day one (you can build up to it if you want, but that is another story). As much as it pains me to say it, start off with the not so excite bike (stationary bike) or elliptikillmyself (elliptical) those have no impact and will at least help you bring up your cardiovascular system. Also, do not under estimate the use of going for a walk. Yes, I know it is cold outside, but walking is free and always open (you can just look sketchy if you do this late at night).
The reason you want to do this type of easy aerobic work is simply to improve the function of your heart, lungs, etc. This has a great effect of then enhancing how much work you can do in the weight room and otherwise. Adding in some volume here at least three days of week will help you recover from your training especially if you are a rank beginner.
So once you have got your train a rollin’ for a month then add in one exercise. Or you can add in one workout you want to try. Slowly build your training program with time. You don’t need to start off with doing weights twice a day six days a week and once on Sunday, you build up to this point. Follow your body here (as in are you recovering and slowly performing better from one workout to the next?), if you are no longer improving after you even add in more work it might be time to cut back on the volume (it takes time to get to this point, or being too aggressive adding in more work).
Use this same concept with your diet. You don’t need to go paleo atkins ornish pritikin asain fusion with intermittent fasting and carb back loading all at once. If you are the type that can go hard modification to your diet then by all means try it out. However, most people would be best off just cutting out the low hanging fruit. Start with figuring your calories out (what you eat everyday, write it down each meal since people are horrible with food recalls) and then cut that back by about 250 if you are trying to lose weight. This is simply not eating desert or drinking soda. I like the phrase I picked up from Dan John which is: Eat like an Adult. Seriously, children are the ones that want desert with each meal and a soda and chips and blah blah blah. Eat like an adult. Eat your damn vegetables (without butter, cheese, being fried, etc.). Everything you eat and drink doesn’t need to be sweetened or have added sugar.
Find a Friend
I’m on the constant hunt for my next training partner. The “Hop” will never be replaced in my mind (WWSCD), but you can’t fault a man for trying. Having a training partner or group is a good practice of accountability. These are the people that rely on you being there as much as you rely on them. Doing this will get both of you to be more productive and consistent.
Now these don’t need to be social friends that you train with and that might be the best case scenario, but these should be people you respect and trust. Find someone with similar goals (and schedule) and then make it happen. I’m quite sure I would have never made it through the bench assault if it hadn’t been for my training partners Pruter and Jaked. Having people to share misery and achievement with helps everyone (Joy shared is joy multiplied, pain shared is pain divided – Dave Grossman).
Ask for help
If you are a complete rank beginner get a personal training session (or more if you can afford it) and tell them you simply want to learn how to squat, press, deadlift, and bench. Those movements will take you far and having someone coach you can help you make sure you aren’t going to hurt yourself doing them. If the trainer instead wants to show you the bosu ball ask for your money back. Your goal here is to make sure you can move like a human should, not do simple balance tricks.
Some gyms (like crossfit gyms) will have a beginner’s class where you learn the movements and work your way in to harder training. This is something to potentially look in to since nearly every single cardio “pump” workout I’ve seen has worse form than an uncoached high school football weight room. This is something that more gyms could gain from having a simple class in technique. The goal is to do things right from the start so you don’t have to spend the next few years trying to fix what you did wrong in the beginning.
“The warrior doesn’t give up what he loves, he finds the love in what he does.” – Dan Millman
Training is awesome. I hate it with the fiery passion of a million suns. You won’t enjoy most of it (if it is hard training), but you need to find the little pieces of joy afterwards. Sometimes it isn’t the training where you find it until you finish your last set of the day (definitely on squat days), but when you get home and walking up stairs and doing chores around the house are not taxing at all, that’s what feels good. Knowing at any moment you can do pull ups or handstand push-ups is an awesome sensation. Feeling the strength in your hands and feet after you break a person record or lift a load that terrified you initially is a sensation I wish I could bottle and sell to people. Being the person that people call to move furniture or help with heavy work is its own reward. Knowing you gave your best and the feeling of exhaustion after hard training can be their own reward.
Learn to love the training.
In another month the vast majority of the New Year’s resolution club will have left until motivation strikes again next January. It is a bittersweet moment for all of us consistent members since you know those people are likely not training anymore, but you don’t have the huge waits and overcrowded gyms to deal with. This year do your best to help those people. Sometimes it is just a word of encouragement, offer to help teach them the right technique, or maybe offer to have them hop in with you.
At one point or another all of us were starting off on our journey and confused about which way to walk. You likely had someone step in and give you some guidance (Coach Mo, Coach P, Eagle Gym, Lab Gym, Westside, and many more helped me and thanks again to all of them) and that helped you find your way and stay to your path. I challenge you to be that person to someone else. When back home for the holidays I caught a workout with Cue, who happens to be one of my favorite athletes that I ever had the privilege of training (he’s my Luke Skywalker but that’s another post). We went to a globo gym and saw a lot of bro’ing out (it was January 2nd after all which is a Saturday in 2016). He made a joke about it being bro o’ clock (which was hilarious and accurate), but then I asked him: If no one showed you the way, what would you think is the way a person should train? He looked at me and said something to the effect of: I guess what is in the magazines and what the guys on the Jersey Shore (TV) do.
So be the person that helps someone out this season as much as it can take from your time each day. Thanks for taking the time to read this, please share it with any friends or loved ones that could use some advice this season and please leave any comments. Happy 2016 everyone.