Before you begin
There are a couple of things you need to realize/understand and plan out (if you haven't yet). I do need to mention that all this is a bit long, so be ready for that.
“What do you want?” or “How badly do you want it?”
The former phrase is simple- most of us have some clue of what we want. If you ask anybody off the street at random, they will tell you something they desire: fancy car, trip to the moon, whatever.
“How badly do you want it?”- now this is the real deal. Are you willing to do whatever it takes to achieve your goals in life? You want that “shredded” or "summer" body, but are you willing to put in the work, the required honest work to get it? What good is an achievement if you didn't earn it righteously, through dedication, passion and true commitment? The hard working man grinds every day to always push forward, no matter how great his obstacles are, no matter how bleak things may seem, and no matter how much external pressure he faces. And you will find that he is always rewarded for this; at the end of the day, he is in the least, a step ahead of where he was yesterday, and that sense of achievement cannot be taken by anybody.
When I first moved to Australia as a student, having just turned 18, I had to face several challenges- some of which actually brought me down to very low and depressing levels. I didn't have too many people to talk to, I was separated from family and friends back in Lanka, my primary form of entertainment was a couple of Tintin and Asterix eComics I read off my smartphone with a 3.7 inch display (I wouldn’t recommend doing this), and most of all, I didn't know what to do.
Back in my school days (which I had just finished by this time), I was heavily invested in fitness. A brown belt in Shotokan Karate, “gym rat”, high school senior badminton captain/coach, athlete, School Games Captain, etc. If it was fitness-related, I probably had some knowledge of it.
But here- in a new country, the task of getting back into that old life was a bit “daunting”. You just feel lost, no idea where to start. This is where this particular topic comes in importance.
We’ll start off with a simple example. Say you want to get from Point A to Point B. Point A is where you are, Point B is the Goal. If you are at A, but have no idea what or where Point B is, how are you to make any progress in the first place? Goal-Setting is a similar practice.
Learn and practice to set goals. Whatever you’re interested in, whatever your passions may be- at a certain point in the time forward, you need to be at a certain point of success, place, achievement degree or whatever. Even if it’s the end of today, set goals for the things you want to get done- the achievements.
When it comes to fitness, practice setting Long-term and Short-term goals. Long term goals could be:
- In x months from now, I will cut 10kgs
- By x years from now, I will get so fit, I would literally look competition-ready.
Short term goals on the other hand are usually daily, at the most, weekly:
- A daily log of tasks to complete (a to-do list)
Wake up at 4am
Drink 1L of water
Gym at 3pm
Get x work done by 5pm
Bed by 9pm
Reach xkgs PR (Personal Record) of deadlift by the end of this week
When it comes down to the bottom of it, the reason why we set a goal, is so we know where we are headed to. It doesn't have to be the exact thing, just the foundation, e.g. “I will get into hardcore fitness, while completing my university degree and working two jobs. Once this is there and clear to you, you’re halfway there.
Here is where most people hit the dirt- now that you know who you are or what your passion is, do you have the “balls" to go through with it, without conforming to what “everybody else is doing”? Are you brave enough to stand out, and be proud of it?
With the help of both Mindset and Goal Setting shown above, you should now have a pretty clear idea of what you want (if you didn't already know). The next step is to carry out your Plans with 100% confidence and faith in yourself and what you do.
Walk to the gym confident in yourself and your abilities. However, do not mistake this to Arrogance. Too much of anything, even something good is bad, so make sure you know your limits, in other words- stay humble. Let your work speak for itself.
Do not worry about what other people are lifting. If the guy next to you lifts twice as much as you, but with horrible form, you’d rather be yourself, as you should be able to guess which one of you is heading towards gains and other to the hospital. Don’t be afraid to ask for tips, but make sure you understand them before application, they need to make sense. I personally did a ton of research by myself on almost everything I do at the gym, from proper form of the deadlift, to various workouts, to how to throw a jab, cross, hook, etc. Through safe application (means don't try maxing out when you try something new), you gain experience on what works and what doesn’t. Keep this up, and you avoid being either the “textbook lifter” or the guy that has no clue what he’s doing, but the guy that comes in the gym, knows his stuff, gets his work done, and leaves- the most respected of all. Do what you have to do; get it done- be a Lion, not part of the Sheep.
A successful strategy is a Well Planned one. Make it a habit to make plans in getting tasks done, no matter how small or insignificant. Planning ensures you have not only a solid-set path in achieving your goal, but you are also aware of the most effective or efficient one.
Plan your fitness regimen. Everything: exercises, routines, even meals should be planned out and thought of ahead, to realize maximum benefit. Do not put too much to one session, nor should you have too little. Make sure what you are planning is actually achievable (nobody can turn into a superman overnight), and base your plans on well researched and understood information.
A culmination of all of the above mentioned factors, here is where you actually go out and do the thing. There is little use in being the “armchair hero” who knows all but doesn't actually do any, so go out there, research, learn, and try things out.
This is where the “dedication, motivation, commitment” stuff comes in. If you ask me, I’d say the best thing is to just do it.
“Do it. Whether you feel like it or not” - Elliott Hulse
Coming back to the roots of the Plan factor mentioned above, jot down a routine. And get into it. Make it a habit. For example, drink a liter of water as soon as you wake up and get out of bed. As you go along doing this over and over again for a couple of days, you will find that this has become a habit. You now need to drink that liter of water every time you get out of bed, you don't think if you need it or not- you just do it.
The same principle falls to going to the gym and training. Some of us have the luxury of driving to the gym and the only walk they do is from the parking lot, to the place. I personally, did not have that luxury for many years; all my student life (even after), I had to carry two bags to the gym- one with my computer and academic material, the other: a big duffel bag full of my gym clothes, a pair of 16oz gloves, 4oz gloves, wraps, skipping rope, etc. Probably the only person in the entire uni to do so. Not that far of a walk (1km to uni, another km to the gym); I was lucky enough to live that close in the least, but when you do what you gotta do and love it at the same time, you wouldn’t give it up for anything.
But I did it. So can you. And you always get the reward for the hard work.
Buying a fancy car is not enough. You gotta maintain it- or it won’t be “fancy" for long.
In the same way, so you got some progress on your training. You can either see the “new muscle” or that “vein" for the first time in so long, but if you don’t maintain your work, your regimen, your nutrition cycle, you will more or less fall back to square one.
Two of the biggest questions people have about fitness:
- How do I lose weight?
- How do I get stronger?
Train. Hit the gym. Don’t injure yourself by overtraining, but train on a regular schedule. This is the easiest and most powerful way of getting stronger, losing weight, or whatever your fitness goal is. The more you’re at the gym working your a** out, the closer you are to whatever fitness goal it is, that you are trying to achieve. Make training not a task, but a lifestyle. It’s Friday night- your friends want you to go out. But it’s leg day! Hit the weights, warrior! I’ve seen people in their 60s do pull-ups at the gym and train with some heavy a** weights. They got the young guys shellshocked. There’s no magic to this; these “old dudes” are just guys who made training a lifestyle. I see them at the gym all the time working hard and no matter how old you are, if you put in the work, you see the results.
Nutrition. Whatever you’re trying to do: cut or bulk, eat clean. Eat healthy. Lot of green stuff (veggies). Lot of meat. If you’re vegetarian, a lot of plant protein should be a must have in your diet. I personally think that plant protein is superior to animal protein, however, chicken breast is one kind of food I can’t give up, even if I tried. Stay off the “McD’s", off the fast food, the processed food (as much as you can), the sugary drinks, the chocolate, the usual stuff. Doesn’t mean you have to give up on them, just don’t have them all the time. Fresh milk is good, raw eggs, fresh fruit smoothies- all good.
For me, these are the fundamentals to not only fitness, but a healthier life in general. And in conclusion, a healthy mind and a healthy way of living, are both very important keys to success, no matter what your definition of it is.