A little over a year ago I began a quest to GET REAL FIT. Only problem: I hated exercising and I refused to eat vegetables. Luckily, through trial and error and a lot of psychology hacking, I figured out how to get in shape.
A little bit of background: I began this journey because a) I felt like absolute shit all the time b) I was tired of feeling like a chubby hobbit. So somewhere around the beginning of February 2017, I took a “before” picture and got to work. I’m not going to post that before photo (or an after photo, for that matter), but trust me, I look a lot different and I feel a million times better.
Anyways, I’ve learned a lot and I just wanted to share my experience with the world.
But let’s get one thing straight: I’m not a fitness expert. I’m not a trainer, and I’m not a nutritionist. I am, however, a former sedentary person who has managed to exercise regularly (and maintain a sensible diet) for over a year. And you can too! I believe in you.
How to get in shape:
1. Find an exercise you actually like
Some people LOVE workout classes, and find that working out in a group with an instructor really keeps them motivated. I personally hate workout classes. Having to be somewhere at a certain time just stresses me out. Also, I am very picky about music and I have yet to experience a class where the music didn’t make my skin crawl.
Figure out whether you’re a group person or a solo person, and start exploring what exercises you can do. If you like classes, try yoga, Zumba, spinning, pilates, Crossfit, etc. Most studios will let you try a class for a small fee (or free). ClassPass is a great way to try a variety of studios and classes in your city.
If you like being alone (like me), sign up for a cheap gym (I go to Planet Fitness) or get some fitness equipment and work out in your living room. I used to do Whitney Simmons workouts, but now I do Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide.
Truly, the exercise you do literally doesn’t matter. Just find something that’s not completely unbearable to you and keep at it.
2. Start small
For years, I wanted to get in shape but I always made the same mistake: I did too much, too fast. I would be so sore I had a hard time going down stairs or trying to sit in a chair.
Don’t do that! If you haven’t worked out in years, start small with walking before moving onto harder stuff like weightlifting and bodyweight exercises. Slow and steady wins the race, buddy.
3. Count macros
I know I’m not the first person to tell you this, but your diet will account for 80% of your results. Tracking your macros seems complicated, but it’s not that bad once you get used to it. This is a great article on how to do it. I use MyFitnessPal to track mine, and it’s made the biggest difference for me in terms of reaching my aesthetic goals.
And I would just like to say this: I do NOT eat salads every day. I have a pretty strong aversion to raw vegetables unless they’re fresh from a farmers’ market, so I don’t usually eat them. I eat a lot of chicken, fish, eggs, Ezekial bread, potatoes, and protein bars. If you don’t like vegetables, DON’T EAT THEM! Don’t eat anything you don’t like. Live your truth.
4. Take a multivitamin
That being said, you’re probably not meeting all your daily recommended doses of vitamins and minerals. I don’t think anyone is, even if you eat enormous salads of organic greens and free-range chicken all day.
If you feel terrible all the time, you probably have some kind of vitamin deficiency. Get a giant bottle of multivitamins and take them religiously. EVERY DAY. Put them next to your bed or next to your coffee maker so you don’t forget.
I guarantee you’ll feel better, even if you don’t follow any of these other tips.
5. Trick yourself into staying motivated
This is actually my best trick and the reason why I wrote this post. When I was first starting on my fitness journey, I motivated myself the same way that dentists motivate children to behave during their teeth cleanings: with a box of prizes.
So, I spent like $100 on small items from Sephora and put them in a box. I gave the box to my room mate and had her put them up high where I couldn’t reach them. If I met my fitness goal for the week, then she would get the box down and I could pick a prize.
The result? IT WORKED. Even when I dreaded working out, I would remember the dope stuff that was in that box and actually go to the gym. After six weeks, I’d formed a habit and going to the gym became second nature. Now I feel weird if I don’t go.
To make your own prize box, buy six small items and have a reliable friend hide them from you. Do all your workouts for the week, and claim your prize! It doesn’t have to be makeup. You could pick books, twenty dollar bills, joints…I don’t know. You know yourself better than I do.
The point is: the prize box gets you over the hump until you have a solid habit.
6. Make a fire workout playlist
If you choose that solo workout life, you’re going to need some groovy tunes to keep you going. Listening to your own music at the gym is definitely more motivating than whatever garbage they pump out on the speakers. Need some inspiration? Here’s my LIT AF WORKOUT MIX, Standard Party Mix, and Aggressively 80’s Mix.
7. Buy Bluetooth headphones
This honestly made a huge difference for me. Dealing with headphone cords at the gym is SO annoying. I bought a $30 pair of Bluetooth headphones on Amazon to start off with, and then rewarded myself with Beats after I’d been working out consistently for a month.
8. Plan ahead
There’s this psychological concept called “decision fatigue” which basically means the more decisions you have to make, the more irrational stuff you’ll end up choosing. You make so many decisions throughout the day, it can be difficult to make decisions about your fitness routine that align with your goals.
To combat this, plan as much of your routine ahead of time as you can. Plan your workouts (including exercises, reps, and weights) at the beginning of the week. Plan out what you’re going to eat all week and meal prep as much as possible on Sunday. Pack your gym bag and leave it next to your front door. Hell, sleep in your workout clothes so you can literally hit the ground running in the morning. The more stuff you do ahead of time, the more likely you will be to choose to pursue your fitness goals in the heat of the moment.
9. Ask for advice
Everyone has a friend who is in great shape and has a rocking bod and you’re just like BITCH HOW. Mine is Shelby. Shelby was instrumental to helping me to get in shape. She took me to the gym and showed me how she did her workouts. She told me what she ate and how she stayed motivated. What was most motivating for me, however, was when she showed me what she looked like before she started working out regularly. Everybody starts somewhere!
For me, this was one million times better than following fitness models on Instagram because I knew she was a real person and she wasn’t just making this up.
So find that person and ask if you can do a workout with them. Chances are, they are more than happy to share their secrets. If I have learned one thing about fit people, it’s that we FEEL GREAT and we want to help everyone else feel as good as we do. Fit people LOVE to talk about being fit. Every fit person once had a fit mentor, and they want to pass on the gift of fit knowledge. Unfortunately, no one seems to want this gift.
10. Go on walks
If losing fat is your goal, walks are your friend! Low intensity steady state (LISS) cardio is great for burning fat, and it’s pretty easy to incorporate into your routine. Take 30 minutes of your lunch hour to walk around the neighborhood, or take a walk in the park with a friend instead of going to happy hour.
When I worked in an office, I was a big proponent of the noon walk. I love being outside, even when it’s cold, and a nice brisk walk helped me to break up the monotonous office work day. I literally just kept a pair of sneakers and socks in my desk. My coworkers thought I was weird when I started it, but sure enough, they were out there with me after a few weeks.
11. Drink preworkout
I could have never gotten into working out if it weren’t for C4. Preworkout drinks contain stimulants that get you PUMPED UP, and are especially awesome if you think you’re too tired to work out.
Let’s just be clear: C4 is NOT good for you. But I believe that having a little bit for a few weeks while you get used to exercising is totally fine. After you get into the habit, you’ll be able to pump yourself up and you can leave the chemicals behind.
And seriously, DO NOT have more than half a scoop when you start out or you will take off like a rocket ship and shoot into space. Been there, done that.
12. Track your progress
There are four ways to track your progress:
- Weigh yourself
- Take measurements
- Take photos
- Record your workouts
I recommend that everyone keep track of what they do for their workouts. Write down what you do and how you feel about it. Keep it in your notes in your phone. You will be AMAZED at how much stronger you get (especially at the beginning).
Then I would pick two of the rest of the choices. I weigh myself and take measurements a couple of times per week. Every once and a while I take a progress picture. Always weigh yourself at the same time, preferably naked. Take progress pictures in the same setting, from the same angle and distance, wearing the same outfit.
The reason why you want to do two measurements is because you may see progress in one area, but not another. For example, I didn’t really lose any weight when I started working out, but my pictures showed that I was making a lot of progress. Now, my weight will go down but my stomach will bloat up. The human body is truly a mystery.
The important thing is that seeing some kind of results, whether by measurement, scale, or photo, you will be more motivated to stick with your exercise program.
13. Be patient
Please be nice to yourself. If you’ve never really worked out before, it might take a long time get in shape. Don’t compare yourself to others. Just keep plugging away, and you’ll get there eventually. I promise you: you’re worth it and you will be SO HAPPY a year from now if you stick with it.
Am I 100% happy with my body? Of course not. I may never be, and that’s okay. Physical appearance isn’t everything, and that shouldn’t be your focus. Just take care of yourselves, buddies.
How do you like to exercise? Let me know in the comments!