As a Bodybuilding.com reader, you no doubt know your stuff. You're smarter than the average bear, and when you hit the gym to train, you don't just "show up" and putter around on the treadmill. You arrive on a mission. Like me, you'll do whatever it takes to reach your personal best. You're dedicated and focused. You're unstoppable.
Sometimes, however, our desire to get as ripped, huge, fast, or strong as possible is so overpowering that we forget to take a step back and critically review what we're doing. As an athlete and fitness competitor, I sometimes get so focused on my goals—crushing the competition, nailing every workout, hitting every meal—that I forget some of the tried-and-true fitness basics along the way.
Basics, you ask? What basics? I'm talking about the simple building blocks of fitness success. They're easy to forget in lieu of the latest and greatest fitness craze that hits the scene. (Shake Weight, anyone?) Now is the time to remember them. These tips might seem simplistic and elementary, but they're important for any trainee to revisit and utilize.
1 / Have Fun
If you're not having fun with your fitness, it's easy to lose interest. If the idea of walking on the treadmill bores you to tears, don't do it!
Find an activity you enjoy doing: start hiking, begin powerlifting, join a running club, take up yoga, or even try trapeze lessons. As long as you have fun with your fitness, you're more apt to stay consistent.
2 / Set Goals
Maybe you want to fit into a smaller dress size, decrease your body fat percentage, cut your mile time, or set a new lifting PR. Well, set a goal, map out a plan, and get to it! I always have clients set short-term (30-day) and long-term (3-6 months) goals. With these goals in mind, we can map out the necessary plan of attack. That plan will help you stay focused and on the path to success.
3 / Drink Enough Water!
Before you say, "Tell me something I don't know, Jen," allow me to elaborate. While the reminder to drink water may sound unnecessary and obvious, many people often mistake their thirst for hunger. If you just ate a meal and are still hungry, you could just be dehydrated.
Too often dieters attempting to lose weight think they're hungry when they're not. Don't mistake your thirst for hunger! If you feel hungry, drink more water first and then wait it out. After 10 minutes, you'll know if you're actually hungry.
4 / "Pass the Protein, Please"
While exact daily protein requirements vary by individual and goal, you need enough to maintain and build lean muscle mass. Aim to consume about one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day, divided among 4-6 meals. A diet this rich in protein will help you feel fuller for longer while refueling your muscles post-workout.
On that note, remember that proper supplementation is important and must fit your goals. Yes, I understand that supplements can seem a bit overwhelming, so start simple: protein, fish oil, and a multivitamin are great choices. Train hard and conduct your own research before using supplements.
Don't just buy something your friend touts as "the latest and greatest." It may not pertain directly to your goals or needs.
5 / Pile On the Greens
This tip applies regardless of your exact fitness goal. Adding vegetables to most meals brings fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals to your diet, and will help keep you full for a longer period of time. If you're new to the vegetable world, start by trying to add greens to half of your daily meals.
Don't think that adding veggies means you're done. You also need to make sure you eat a consistent, balanced diet. Your hard efforts in the gym will not be evident in your reflection if you don't consistently follow your meal program. The saying "abs are made in the kitchen" is not just a rumor created by the Food Network in an attempt to create more culinary wizards. If you want that lean, toned, or ripped appearance, you have to stay dedicated to both your training and your meal program.
6 / Prepare To Succeed
When it comes to meals, don't be caught off-guard. The more you can plan ahead, the better. Don't get me wrong, you don't need a week's worth of food proportioned out in Tupperware ahead of time in order to be successful. If I leave the house, even if just for a few errands, I always take my next meal or snack with me on the go. You just never know what can come up.
7 / Sleep Sufficiently
Yes, you read that correctly—make sure to get your ZZZs! Rest is crucial to our fat-loss and muscle-building goals. Lack of sleep raises cortisol levels and hampers proper recovery. Aim for 6-8 hours of sleep each night.
8 / Mix It Up!
Many dedicated gym-goers fall into a workout rut. Break out of boredom by challenging yourself in new ways. Try new movements, set aside the dumbbells in favor of a barbell or cables, or grab a buddy and try a class. Don't just set up camp at your usual corner or elliptical. If you are bored with your workouts, chances are your body is, too. Make some changes for a new challenge and a more ripped you.
Although making changes to your workouts is important, make sure your changes are still going to help you reach your goals. If you're trying to improve your 10K time, I'm not sure doing a 5X5 squat regimen is going to help. Make smart adjustments to your program as they pertain to your goals. You don't have to drastically change your workouts every week. Make simple adjustments to keep making progress.
9 / Lift Weights
I constantly hear women say things like, "I just want to tone, so all I need to do is cardio." This could not be farther from the truth. Cardio without weight training will leave you "skinny fat."
You might have a thinner frame than when you started, but your physique won't be any tighter. Depending on your overall weight loss, you could end up with loose skin. Yikes.
Resistance training increases your metabolism by building lean muscle. The more muscles you have, the more calories you burn.
More muscle and less fat means you'll strengthen, tighten, shape, and "tone" your entire physique. Think twice before skimping over the free weight section!
10 / Stay Consistent
None of this information will be of much value if it's not done consistently. No matter your goal, consistent efforts are rewarded with hard-earned results. It's that simple. There's no replacement for consistent time under the bar, so get after it!