Hello fellow motivated people of the internet!
It is my belief that physical health lays the foundation for success in the rest of life. If we are physically energized, mentally alert, and aesthetically our best selves, then we’re going to be able to accomplish more in the workplace, be more present for family and friends, and live more fulfilling lives in general. Being physically fit opens the door to a greater level of happiness and success.
Internet trolls, hear this! I wrote this guide based on my experiences, and because of that, it comes from a limited perspective. I acknowledge that this guide is not the end all be all of fitness advice, nor is it going to resonate with everyone. Some background on me: I’ve been a fitness enthusiast since I was 14 (I’m almost 26 now), and I’ve had a little over ten years to accumulate knowledge on the subject. I’m currently certified by ACSM as a Certified Personal Trainer. I like soft cotton T-shirts and moonlit bareback horse rides on Mediterranean beaches.
This guide is NOT a quick fix to lose weight or gain muscle. It’s not a 6 week muscle gainer plan to get you jacked up for the summer. This guide summarizes my thoughts on a holistic approach to lifelong, sustainable fitness that allow you to live long, productive, and happy lives. This guide is intended, more than anything, to stimulate thought and discussion and to hopefully motivate you to explore more of these topics in greater depth on your own.
Fitness is a process and a journey. It’s a daily grind that sometimes you hate but that you can grow to love. It will make you a better person, a harder worker, and a better lover (coming soon: PRSUIT’s Guide to Physical Intimacy). So take what you can from the following pages, throw away what you think is bullshit, and if you feel so inclined, shoot me an email at email@example.com if you want to chat more.
Understanding Your “Why”
This is a simple yet powerful question. Why am I here? What is my purpose? Who am I?
In the context of fitness and health: why do we want to be healthy? What are we trying to truly achieve? These are things I challenge you to think about before embarking on your journey of fitness.
Before I dive into this guide, I’ll give you a little background on myself. Over the past ten years, my fitness journey has led me down many paths. It started out as a pubescent quest to gain as much muscle as humanly possible. My path has since shifted to preserving my body such that I can function well into old age and live a happy, fulfilling life (read: more yoga, less meathead lifting). During the course of my journey, I decided to get certified as a personal trainer and train part time, so technically I am ‘qualified’ to give advice.
One of the first things I do when I get a new client is try to develop a complete informational profile— diet tendencies, past workout habits, diseases, and other risk factors. Without fail, the first piece of information a client tells you are their fitness “goals.” I want to lose 20 lbs, I want to bench press 225, I want to look like Bane from the Dark Knight (do you really though bro?). These goals are important pieces of information, but there is another layer of complexity that trainers and those seeking improvements in fitness should try uncover.
We need to understand our “why.”
The “why” is complex and requires you to deeply evaluate your motives. Why do you want to lose 20 lbs? Why do you want to gain strength? Why do you want to look like Brad Pitt from Fighting Club? And the “why” doesn’t stop at “I want to look good for my wedding photos” or “I want to get a girlfriend.” It goes a layer deeper.
Before embarking on our journey of fitness, we need to make sure our “why” comes a healthy, well intended place.
Examples of not so good “why’s”:
“I want to gain acceptance from others by enhancing my physical image.”
“I want to be able to appreciate my body and not have feelings of loath or disdain towards myself.”
Examples of “why’s” that help lead to more sustainable, healthy habits are:
“I want to feel better and more energized so I can be more present for my friends and family.”
“I want to feel more confident and prove to myself that I can set a goal and accomplish it.”
It sounds silly, but it’s important to center yourself before you set a goal. Obviously, it’s natural to want to have a better physique. Just remember that you are worth more than your physical image.
For many people, it’s going to be damn near impossible to achieve fitness cover model-like looks. And that’s okay! We each have our own unique body type, and even if you aren’t ripped to shreds, that doesn’t mean you aren’t healthy. (Note: this is not permission to accept a life of physical inactivity and complacent obesity).
With this in mind, know that starting a lifestyle of fitness and physical activity is one that will make you happier, healthier, and more energized! Now on to the good stuff.
Understanding How to Eat “Healthy”
“You are what you eat.”
-Al Gore (I think)
Food is the fuel that feeds the fire of our pecs and glutes. It’s the coal that keeps our anatomical freight train piling ahead full steam. It’s the human batteries that keep our artificially intelligent machine overlords in control.
Seriously though, choosing our food wisely sets our bodies and minds up for success.
When it comes to eating food, you are pretty much in control of two things: what you eat and when you eat it.
Choosing What You Eat
Eating healthy can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. If you explore most popular diets/eating “styles” (read: Paleo, Vegan, Bulletproof, Mediterranean diet), there are a few concepts that overlap among all of them:
- Eat a diet rich in whole foods w/ lots of veggies
- Eat until you are satisfied
- Don’t stress out if you eat something ‘unhealthy.’
When it comes to eating, the best diet isn’t a ‘diet’ at all. It’s one that you will be happy continuing the rest of your life that will also allow you to look and feel healthy. (yes, both are possible).
So you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Okay… that sounds great, but uh, where’s my meal plan bro?”
Well, here’s the tough part, I’m not going to give you a meal plan. Meal plans may work short term, but their rigidity and inflexibility make them unsustainable for most people in the long run. No bueno.
Here’s the long term solution: go out and experiment on yourself (with those three rules I outlined above in mind). Short term “challenges” are good ways to experiment; set a 15-30 day goal for yourself. Try paleo, try vegan, try eating only Jack in the Box tacos. See what kind of food makes you feel the best. Then mix and match to create a diet that works best for you on your schedule with your preferences.
For some context: I choose to eat a ‘flexitarian’ diet. It’s primarily vegan; however, I will include wild caught salmon and some eggs here and there. Aside from the occasional whole pizza pie (mmm… pizza), I avoid dairy and bread. I also try to avoid processed foods and simple carbohydrates in general. The majority of my sugar comes from fruit. Most days, I eat from 12 pm to 8 pm, and I eat until I’m full. I feel really good eating this way. I’m always energized, able to maintain a healthy weight and I’m never stressed out about it or overthinking things.
Choosing When You Eat
When you eat can be just as important as what you eat.
Recently, a method of eating called ‘intermittent fasting’ (IF for short) has been popularized by the fitness and bodybuilding community. It involves compressing all of your meals into a limited ‘eating window,’ whose length can vary anywhere from two to eight hours. Apparently, this is more paleo than the actual paleo diet as it mimics the eating patterns of our nomadic ancestors: hunt all day, eat all evening, rave all night.
Data shows that IF, when done properly, might help extend life, regulate blood glucose, control blood lipids, manage body weight, gain (or maintain) lean mass, and more.
Intermittent fasting doesn’t necessarily mean you are eating less; you’re just eating during less of the day. Bonus: you don’t have to spend any time in the morning preparing or eating breakfast! Double extra bonus: anecdotal evidence (I can confirm) seems to indicate that there is a noticeable increase in your mental acuity during the fast. Triple Bonus: you don’t have to restrict yourself during the eating window, just eat until you’re belly is happy!
This is not to say eating a typical breakfast-lunch-dinner schedule isn’t healthy. But intermittent fasting is definitely worth trying out at some point in your life #YOLO.
Here’s some popular ways to go about IF:
Understanding How to Plan a Workout Routine
Ah, yes, we’ve arrived at the bread and peanut butter of this article. Planning a workout routine. This is the part where I lay out the long, arduous path to swole. This is the part where I explain how to get jacked up out of your MIND. This is the part where we learn how to transcend our utter humanity. GNAR PUMP!!!!
Yo for real though, it’s a confusing world out there. There’s a TON of information out there about working out. Your friends might have their own opinions to add which muddles things further. One might say, that this excess of workout information leaves one in a state of workout indecision. I would agree with that one.
So, here now, I will outline a thought process that will help you understand what goes into determining a suitable workout routine.
This process is appropriate for people with who are in good health and who are looking to develop a well rounded fitness routine. If you answer “Yes” to any of the questions on this form, consult with a doctor before beginning exercise. If you are a serious athlete or training with some specific serious athletic endeavor in mind, this process may help you, but ultimately you should develop a sport specific training plan.
Step 1: Understand the High Level Components of Fitness
And there they are, more or less, above. Here’s a few activities that can improve each component:
Flexibility– Yoga, Stretching, Foam Rolling
Muscular Endurance– Higher repetition weight lifting (lower weight w/ 10-20 reps per set), also Yoga
Muscular Strength– Low repetition weight lifting (high weight w/ 3-8 reps per set)
Cardiorespiratory Fitness– Jogging, biking, swimming, playing sports
Each component is important, and it is important to develop workout routines that factor in each component. If you just lift weights and neglect flexibility, you become more vulnerable to injuries. Conversely, if you just go running, you’ll never develop muscular mass and strength, which is crucial to preserving function as an older person. How the heck you gonna carry groceries to your car as an 80 year old without functioning arm and shoulder muscles? Strive to develop a balanced workout routine which includes all aspects of fitness.
Also, it’s possible to work multiple components of fitness simultaneously. If you’re strapped for time, weight circuit training (think Crossfit) can be a great, quick way to work muscular strength, endurance, and cardiorespiratory fitness simultaneously. Yoga is also another swiss army knife of fitness– it works muscular endurance, flexibility, and even muscular strength simultaneously.
Step 2: Get your schedule under control
Figure out how much time you are planning on setting aside for working out. Literally, write out your schedule and figure out which blocks of time will be used for exercise. Put it in a google calendar, print it out, and stick it on your wall.
Step 3: Plan the workout routine.
Your routine should include all the components of fitness and fit into your free time blocks. Ideally, you should choose activities that you enjoy and look forward to (because then you’ll consistently do them).
If you don’t know how to lift weights (and the majority of people don’t), I highly recommend working with a personal trainer to take you through at least a few sessions. Otherwise, you can go on Youtube and try to teach yourself. However, the direct feedback you’ll get from a trained professional monitoring you is indispensable.
I’ll illustrate an example of planning a workout routine below:
Example Workout Routine Planning Process:
Alright, I’m going to walk with you through this entire process and generate a sample routine so you can see how it works. Hold on to your seats; here we go.
Alright, step 1. Understand the components of fitness. I looked at the pie chart, then googled some stuff and watched some Youtube videos, check.
Ok, step 2, figure out when I’m free. Hmm, so right now, I have one hour per day, 6 days per week, I can consistently dedicate to working out. It’s from 6-7 pm Monday through Friday and 10-11 am on Saturdays. Check.
Now for step 3. So how do I fit all those components of fitness into those time blocks? This is probably the most difficult part. Here’s some quick tips: muscular strength and endurance can really be paired together into one weight lifting training session. You can also pair your flexibility exercises with your cardio.
Here’s a weekly routine that could work:
Monday: 10 minutes of Foam Rolling followed by 50 minutes of Full Body Weight Training
Tuesday: 30 minutes of cardio (your choice) followed by 30 minutes of Yoga/Flexibility
Wednesday: 10 minutes of Foam Rolling followed by 50 minutes of Full Body Weight Training
Thursday: 30 minutes of cardio (your choice) followed by 30 minutes of Yoga/Flexibility
Friday: 10 minutes of Foam Rolling followed by 50 minutes of Full Body Weight Training
Saturday: Go play basketball, tennis, or whatever sport you like best
Sunday: Off day! Take a well deserved rest!
Here’s some good 3 day, beginner weight training routines:
Here’s some 3 day, advanced full body weight training routines that I like:
- ICF 5×5
- OneResult 3 day, Total Body Mass Workout Plan
- OneResult 3 day, Total Body Weight Loss Workout Plan
Here’s some info on foam rolling:
Here’s some great beginner Yoga apps to start your practice (look them up on the App store):
- Simply Yoga
- Yoga Studio
Whew! And there you have it. That’s how you come up with a comprehensive workout routine. The next challenge is motivating yourself to consistently adhere to this schedule. Pro tip: working out in group settings (Crossfit gyms, yoga studios, spin studios, etc.) can make exercise more fun and give you a better chance of not falling off the wagon.
Fitness is a daily process and a lifelong journey. It requires patience, planning, dedication, and motivation. It does not mean working out until you puke for two weeks straight then doing nothing for the next year. It means listening to your body, pushing yourself within reason, avoiding injuries, and staying consistent.
I leave you with this quote:
“Take care of your body, it’s the only place you have to live.”
For those of you who have additional inquiries, I’m more than happy to answer your questions. Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay fit, feel good, and thanks for stopping by,
Title photo credit: flickr