Everyone knows the benefits of being physically independent and strong: better health, aesthetics, more confidence, more testosterone, and an overall better life. But how do we get in shape to get these benefits?
A hell of a lot of hard work. No one ever said this was going to be easy. It requires an ultimate commitment: You have to be focused on your end goal every day. You have to eat well and workout often. Any other method that someone tries to sell you is a lie; Don’t listen to it.
We’re going to focus on physical fitness and exercising for this article. But make no mistake, nutrition is just as important. I recommend checking out some healthy eating guides that are based around calories in vs calories out. Don’t get sucked into some fad diet like “no carbs” or “gluten-free” fads. They only work because the person doing them will be consuming fewer calories than their maintenance calories. They could have just as easily focused on a ‘calories in vs calories out’ diet and achieved the same result, with a lot fewer headaches.
So let’s get into the specifics of exercise.
First off: What are your goals? You’re going to need a different plan if you’re looking to get strongman status compared to losing weight.
For this reason, I can’t give you a one-size-fits-all plan for physical fitness. You need to tailor your goals with a realistic approach to reaching it.
If you’re focused on weightlifting: Put a heavier emphasis on doing weights first in your workout and eating a protein-packed diet. This will use your main energy and body’s capabilities to focus on hitting the weights.
If your main goal is losing weight, focus on cardio and related exercises (but still weight-lift occasionally) and include a calorie-focused diet. This way, you will maximize your ability to lose calories with cardio, because you’ll be fresh at the start of each workout.
The main part of working out to get in shape is developing a plan that you can realistically stick to. Start small in the early days. Try to add in 15-30mins of exercise 5 days a week. As you build up your ability to workout, you can delve into more specific approaches to reach your end goal.
With this plan, determine a workout strategy. Detail which days you’ll do what and for how long. Then attach a nutritional guideline to it that you can stick to. Place a high emphasis on this plan and stick to it. You can’t reach better endurance/finesse if you don’t put in the dedicated and determined effort to do so.
While Developing a Routine to Get in Shape
Make sure the plan is balanced. IE: you don’t overwork one aspect of your body. If you’re doing a long-running workout on Monday, you don’t want to also do a leg-focused weightlifting workout that day. Spread it around so you incorporate enough rest in so your muscles can repair and adapt to your new physical fitness efforts.
As you progress, and stick to it for a certain amount of time, you’ll want to work on the specifics. This means that if you find out you really love running, you can cut back on weightlifting later on. Focus more on running the appropriate amounts throughout the week and only do weightlifting as supplementary exercises.
Currently, the health organizations recommend 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. This means even just starting out, you can do 30 minutes 5 days a week and hit the target. I recommend a bit above this if you have the time, so you can actually excel in your fitness program.
Cardio is an essential aspect of losing weight and gaining endurance.
Cardio is essential for any person using any physical fitness strategy. Yes, even those steroid-abuser weightlifters in the gym should do cardio exercises. It helps everyone. You don’t want to be the guy/gal that runs out of wind immediately after walking up a flight of stairs.
There are a few different ways to get more endurance through cardio. Let’s take a look at them all.
This is a high-impact exercise and the most common people think of when they think of cardio. It’s also one that pretty much everyone should focus on. It helps to be able to run.
Because this exercise is high impact, you’ll want to incorporate low-impact exercises to complement it on your days off of running. So instead of running 5 days a week, run 3 and do other low-intensity exercises the other days. Low intensity exercises such as a hill climber, row machine, or similar.
You can start by running on a treadmill, but when possible, get out there and run outside or around a track. It provides a bit of an extra challenge to it and prepares you should you ever want to run a 5K or a marathon (or even just do hiking).
A Bit of Running Advice
There are a few tips I can give you about running to get in shape. First, get some good running shoes. They’ll save your knees a lot better than running in sandals.
Secondly, figure out how to do the correct running form. I ran for quite a while using bad form and it always killed my shins. When I figured out how to run correctly, it largely went away and I was able to run much better.
One final tip about running I found important is to focus on time, not distance. Don’t just try to run “1-5 miles”. Focus on how long you’re running when starting out. Say you’ll go 20 minutes at first, with a 3-1 interval (3 minutes run/jog, then 1-minute rest). It makes it a lot more bearable and you may find you actually enjoy it. As you go up in time, you’ll see you’re better able to increase the speed you run at and hit higher mile-markers than before.
As I mentioned above, give an interval a try if you’re new to running. I find that starting with 2-1 (run 2 minutes, walk 1 minute) was a lot better than just seeing how long I could run for then being completely drained and wanting to quit. After a while you can build up to 5-1, and even 10-1 as you build up your running endurance.
Other Cardio Options
Some other good options to include if you’re not a fan of running (or just want to mix it up) are swimming and biking. These are especially important if you ever want to run a triathlon with your newfound physical finesse.
Swimming is probably the best calorie burner and low-impact exercise imaginable. It’s also really fun. When you get started swimming, try to mix up your technique. Don’t stick with just doing the butterfly, for example, incorporate some different strokes to make it a lot more entertaining.
Biking is also a relatively low-impact exercise. You can get a lot more miles down with biking than swimming or running, so maybe that will give you some encouragement to keep going. As with running, you can start on the bikes in a gym, but it’s significantly more recommended to get a bike and ride outside.
An honorable mention has to go to other outdoor activities. Things like hiking, skiing, kayaking, and a plethora of others are great exercises to add to your routine to mix things up. It’s hard to stay bored while working out if you’re doing different things every day. This way, you’ll be more likely to stick with it and develop an overall better physique. So, when making your plan try to incorporate some exceptional outdoor activities that you find enjoyable.
A principal point to get in shape is getting stronger. This requires a dedication to weightlifting.
When making a weightlifting plan, start simple. You don’t need fancy 2 hour per day weightlifting schedules like the pros do. Try a 3 day a week strong lift routine. If you want a bit more, you can do an “upper-lower split”. This is my personal favorite. You do upper body on day 1, lower body day 2, have a rest day, then repeat. Usually done for 4 days a week (So 2 cycles).
One last honorable mention to the chest-back-lower workout options. In this example, you do chest on day 1, back on day 2, legs on day 3, then rest 1 or 2 days.
Starting out, it’s recommended to do the “big lifts” 3 days a week, as I mentioned above. These big lifts include squats, deadlifts, bench press, and overhead press. You should absolutely include these in your weightlifting plan for any person. They work out a lot of supplementary parts and help build up your strength indefinitely better than other machine options.
When weightlifting, ensure you do the correct form. Try to research every exercise before you do it starting out, so you get into the habit of doing it correctly. Otherwise, you won’t get in shape—You’ll be sitting home injured.
In summary, pick a weekly workout plan, choose exercises to match that plan, learn the correct form, and get to work.
Work on Physical Fitness Benchmarks to Get in Shape
The benchmarks are: timed run 1.5 miles, pushups, pull-ups, and sit-ups.
These, for good or for worse, are the ideal tests of a person’s physical fitness capabilities. While you try to get into shape, you’ll want to monitor your progress on these 4 things pretty heavily to develop a better all-around finesse.
Plus, the ability to run a competitively timed 1.5 miles and satisfactorily perform the other exercises would result in a great feeling. You’ll know you have the ability to compete in the top 10% of Americans (Which sadly, isn’t that hard to do).
If you’re weightlifting and doing bench, your pushup count will get better. If you’re doing cross training and running, you’ll be able to run the timed 1.5 faster. It is unlikely that your goal is going to be being the best at these benchmarks. You probably will focus more heavily on looking good, or being strong. But every once in a while (monthly), test all these out and see how you are progressing compared to the benchmark exercises. It provides you a foundation to continually build upon.
Putting It All Together
To get in shape, you need to have the drive and determination to focus on it every single day.
You’re going to want to have a preconceived plan and nutritional guide to help you reach your chosen goal. Make this plan tailored around what you want exactly, and how you can realistically achieve it.
Make sure, regardless of your goal, that you add in the other fitness exercises as supplementary. Even if you’re only focused on getting stronger, you’re going to want to still do some cardio.
After you have begun exercising and following your goals, check up on your routine by stacking up your progress against the benchmark exercises (1.5 mile timed run, pushups, pull-ups, and sit-ups).
Make sure to check out other sites dedicated to your goals. If you’re a focused runner, check out some running websites for running-specific tips and tricks. Likewise, the same for any goal.
Once you do all of this, you’ll start seeing progress. You’ll increase your endurance, strength, confidence, and a plethora of other awesome things that come from regular exercise.
If you start today, your future self will thank you.
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