Your Transformation Starts Here: 7-Step Beginner's Guide

Even if you feel ready to begin a body transformation, you may not know where to start. This guide will help you get going and ensure that you're set for success.
guide will help you bridge the gap between "before" and "after!"
This guide will help you bridge the gap between "before" and "after!"

You've been surfing Bodybuilding.com for weeks, looking at the incredible transformations that other people have experienced and the plans that got them there. Now, you think it might be your turn. You've been peeking into training systems like LiveFit and Kris Gethin's Hardcore Daily Trainer, and thinking a lot about time: Is 12 weeks as long as it sounds? Is it long enough to make a genuine change?

You're excited, but also self-conscious, worried, and unsure. That's OK! Whatever brought you here, you're in the right place.

If you're feeling unprepared and a little scared by the distance between "before" and "after," this guide is for you. Remember, even Rocky had to start somewhere. If you're looking to create a new you, not just a new hobby, follow these steps before you go the distance.

1
Step Up, Check Up

If you can't remember the last time you saw your doctor for a complete physical and blood work-up, now is definitely the time. Why? Well, first of all there's all the disclaimer-sounding stuff concerning any outstanding health issues you might not know about. Your doctor could have specific diet or training recommendations that you're better off hearing about now than later. But that's not the only reason.

Simply knowing where you stand can help your efforts tremendously. In exchange for a few bucks and a little pain, you'll receive health benchmarks on things like cholesterol and triglycerides, blood pressure, fasting glucose, and perhaps bone density for older women. These are concrete, quantifiable areas where you can track progress and see your hard work translate into results.

The scale and the mirror have plenty to say, but they definitely don't tell the whole story. Fitness is about more than looking good; it's about feeling healthy and living well!

2
Take Out The Trash

This applies in all areas of your life: nutritional, mental, and social. Remember, your "before" picture isn't just an image of a body; it's a time capsule portraying all the good, bad, and secret things making up your lifestyle. If you want to put the past behind you, clear out anything in your life that you know will hold you back from success.

Start with the easy stuff. If your cupboards are loaded with cookies, candy, and other junk, clean them out. Having these items around will only tempt you to make poor food decisions. Say goodbye to Oreos and Twinkies.

Twinkies

If you're prone to berating yourself for poor food choices or the way you look, now's the time to make a concerted effort to replace this negative self-talk with more positive statements. Every time a negative statement comes to mind, replace it with two positive affirmations about what you're doing well. This could be something like, 'I chose a healthy chicken salad at lunch today,' or "I drank 10 glasses of water today."

There's no need to focus solely on huge accomplishments like fat loss or muscle gain; progress is progress, and every small victory is significant. Simply focus on what you want to do and shift your entire frame of mind.

Although this might seem callous, similarly take stock of people who could make your transformation more difficult. You need to surround yourself with people who will be supportive, not emotional anchors who drag you down. Especially during the beginning stages of your transformation, you need Adrians, not Paulies. You don't have to break up with anyone; just perform an honest assessment, and then make the most of the people who help you be at your best.

3
Buy The Fundamentals

Let's face it: The world isn't a fit place. If you're relying on circumstance, gyms, and restaurants to keep you on-track, you're going to face an uphill battle. So before you begin, fortify your home base with the essential food and workout arsenal.

Having good choices always at-hand in your refrigerator and cupboards will make your life much easier. The specifics will definitely vary depending on the diet play you follow, but these are all solid options to have in your pantry in a pinch.

Fridge Items

All of these foods can combine to make up your healthful eating plan and provide you with a balanced blend of proteins, carbs, and healthy fats.

You should also have everything you need for simple workouts. Especially if you plan to hit the gym nearly every day, it's a good idea to have some equipment for those rainy days when leaving the house isn't an option. And let's face it: Buying some basic workout items will make your jump into the fitness world more fun. This might sound trivial, but having clothes you like can influence your desire to train.

Training Items

  • Properly fitting running shoes
  • Comfortable workout wear (bottoms/top/sports bra)
  • Mp3 player
  • Water bottle
  • Towel
  • Heart rate monitor (if desired)
  • Jump rope
  • Resistance band
  • Dumbbells or kettlebells

Take time to select quality products that will last throughout your transformation. Even Rocky needed good gloves.

4
Pre-Workout Workouts

Cardio

Particularly if you haven't exercised in a long time, some light at-home workouts will prime your body and mind for the upcoming challenge. They'll also make you feel more comfortable when you stroll into the gym. Start these workouts as soon as possible, and use them for 1-2 weeks as you get everything ready for your transformation.

Cardio Training

Light cardio workouts will help get you accustomed to the exertion you're going to experience over the coming months. Select your favorite method of cardio training—even just some brisk walking will work—and aim to do it 15-30 minutes per day, 3-5 days per week.

Strength Training

It's also a good idea to get started with some basic strength training at home before you begin training at the gym. Bodyweight exercises are an excellent way to learn the essential movement patterns and discover how it feels to train your muscles. Take the time to learn to do them right, and you'll discover they're surprisingly tough!

To start, perform a circuit of four or five different bodyweight movements, aiming for 10 reps per exercise and three rounds of the circuit. Take 30-60 seconds to rest between each circuit. Pick one exercise per body part to build a full-body workout.

Treat this as practice. Switch things up on occasion so that you get better at a variety of movements, but really try to improve your form on classics like push-ups, pull-ups (or an appropriate regression, and bodyweight squats. When you're ready to battle heavier weights, you want to have these fundamentals in your corner.

5
Don't Sabotage Yourself

Don't sabotage yourself

The Italian Stallion had to work through some tough life decisions before he fought Apollo, and so should you. Even when you start going to the gym every day, what you do outside of it will significantly impact your results. If you aren't living well, you won't hit your goals.

Want to know how to live better? First off, start tracking everything in a log or journal. Keep track of your sleep habits, alcohol consumption, and your stress and motivations levels. Each of these will play a significant role in your success.

Sleep is critical to muscular repair, maintaining a healthy metabolism, and making sure you feel energized to perform during each training session. If you aren't currently getting at least 8 hours per night, start making that a top priority. You will feel the difference.

No matter if you overindulge on the weekends or just have a couple of drinks in the evening, alcohol is still a toxin. It will negatively affect your ability to burn fat and recover from workout sessions—this much is known. So as much as possible, remove alcohol from the picture, at least during your transformation. Many, many people have discovered after going dry for a few weeks that it was the missing piece of the puzzle for them.

Stress causes trouble for all of us. But for those interested in transforming, high levels of stress can really put a damper on your progress. It can have behavioral implications, such as increasing your risk of overeating and skipping workouts, but it's also just bad for your body on a number of levels. Utilize constructive stress management techniques like journaling, meditating, talking to a friend, or going out for a long drive around the city. Learn what works for you and then put it to use.

Adding a social component to your training is a great way to help you tie it all together and stay accountable for the long haul. Find a buddy, join a class, hire a trainer, join a BodySpace group, or make a list your goals and share it with a loved one. Better yet, do all of the above. Do whatever it takes to fully commit. That is your mantra now: "Whatever it takes."

6
Set Goals

You need goals. We all do. But when you're sore, hungry, and about to start a difficult workout, you'll especially need them—and you'll need them to be relevant to you.

Set Goals

Transformations have both physique and performance dimensions, so it's OK to have goals in both areas. Losing weight, gaining muscle, and looking good in the mirror are examples of the former; squatting 10 more pounds, running a mile in under 10 miles, or finally getting your toes up to that bar are examples of the latter. Having both types of goals will help keep you motivated even if one goal starts to slow in progress.

If your goals are health-related or personal are also important. In fact, for many people they're more motivational than physique or performance goals. Want to have more energy to play with your kids? Write it down. Want to get those triglycerides to a level where your doctor isn't bugging you anymore? That's a great target.

The more you have to work toward, the greater your chance of success.

7
Begin!

Your gloves are on and you're in the ring. Let the transformation begin! If you're following a particular program, make sure you read up on the details and are familiar with exactly what you're expected to do. Many have gone where you're going, so it's highly likely they've already found answers to the questions you'll be asking.

No matter what comes next, you've made progress simply by deciding to hold yourself to a higher standard. Now come out swinging, and as Mickey tells Rocky, "Work the body!"