Beginner Fitness: 12 Starting Steps To Reach Your Goals

It's easy to jump on and off the exercise bandwagon. If you plan to make fitness part of your lifestyle, check out these 12 must-read beginner tips!

When it comes to fitness, it's easy to steer off course. Beginners often go hard for a few weeks, or even a few months, but many stall after their short-term motivation goes out like a candle. If you're determined to make fitness a long-term facet of your lifestyle, you can get back on course, smash PRs, and meet strength and physique goals with these 12 simple tips.

Set Goals

Goals are essential to long-term progress. Unless you want to waste your time flailing around at the gym, you need to set specific and measurable goals.

This year, my main goal was to make Southern California Regionals for CrossFit and compete as an individual. But before I could tackle my main, long-term goal, I had to break it up into smaller, more manageable goals. I competed in local CrossFit competitions and even threw in a bit of cross training with EPIC, Tough Mudder, and Ultra Endurance races. Having mini goals helped me stay motivated for my primary goal and added variety to my routine.

Write Your Goals Down

Taking pen to paper might seem a bit generic, but having concrete evidence of your goals from the start can limit the likelihood that you'll stray from them when times get tough. If you have a strength goal, you can chart your weekly progress toward a new PR. If you have a physique goal, take progress pictures so you can measure weekly improvements. With consistent tracking, you'll know where you're going and where you've been.

Educate Yourself

Learn something new about training every day. There are countless resources; you just have to seek them out. It's not unusual for me to approach some of the more seasoned athletes at my box and ask them for pointers: Are my hips explosive on my snatch? Am I breaking parallel on wall balls? Are my shoulders engaged? Don't be afraid to ask for help or advice.

"We all know that nutrition is an integral part of fitness, which explains why I'm such a big fan of cooking and lifestyle blogs. I love Mark's Daily Apple and Stupid Easy Paleo."

If you're in the market for reading materials, "Born To Run," "Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes and Coaches," and "Becoming a Supple Leopard" are a few of my favorite books. We all know that nutrition is an integral part of fitness, which explains why I'm such a big fan of cooking and lifestyle blogs. I love Mark's Daily Apple and Stupid Easy Paleo .

Nail Your Nutrition

I'm going to let you in on a little secret: Fat does not make people fat. Sugar and inactivity make people fat. Everything you put into your body affects you on a cellular level, so choose wisely. One of the most important lessons I've learned during my training is proper food prep. It's the bedrock of any training program. I know from personal experience that failure to plan ahead is a surefire way to steer off course, so dedicate one or two days each week to meal prep and make your nutrition as much of a priority as training.

I usually do all my grocery shopping on Sunday morning, then spend a few hours cooking in bulk and dividing meals into Tupperware. As a result, my week starts relatively stress-free. If I know I'll be out of town for a while, I'll take several meals and snacks with me in my insulated 6 Pack Fitness bag.

Everyone knows that poor dietary choices can lead to a host of health problems including diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. Still, even if it's not at an extreme, poor diet can affect you in other ways that will impact your training: poor sleep, increased inflammation of the tissue, and slower recovery time.

My advice: Keep things simple, eat whole foods, and "eat the rainbow." Get as much color on your plate as possible: red, yellow, and orange bell peppers, kale, figs, eggplants, etc. For protein, I tend to reach for the usual suspects: chicken, salmon, and steak. For a well-rounded meal, throw in some brown rice or sweet potatoes for complex carbs, plus a mix of healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado.

Foods I recommend as part of a well-balanced, muscle-building plan

Lean Proteins
Fish, Chicken, Turkey, Red Meat, Beef, Lamb, Pork, Egg/egg whites

Complex Carbs
Brown Rice, Oats, Beans, Sweet potato, Whole-wheat pasta

Olive oil, Flaxseed, Avocado, Nuts, Fish, Almond butter, Coconut milk

Broccoli, Spinach, Asparagus, Peppers, Tomatoes, Carrots, Celery, Cucumber

Apples, Oranges, Berries (all), Grapefruit, Pineapple, Plums, Kiwi

Tea, Coffee, Water: lemon, lime, and BCAAs can be added

Not On The List
Drugs! Soda, Anything with high sugar (10grams or more), Processed and fast food

Find A Training Partner

Seek out the experts. Someone always knows more than you and, more often than not, they're willing to share their knowledge. Be polite when you approach a potential bench buddy and demonstrate that you've put some effort into finding an answer on your own. You'll get the answer you need or, at the least, get pointed in the right direction. Who knows, maybe you'll even strike up a friendship that turns into a training partnership. A study from Kansas State University found that people who exercise with someone who they perceive as being athletically superior push harder—the cyclists observed rode 90 percent longer!1

Address Your Weakness

Just like stretching and hydrating, trying to improve on my weaknesses is part of my daily schedule. I usually choose 2-3 things I need to work on and practice them for 15-20 minutes every day, sometimes twice a day until I can put them in my arsenal of perfected movements.

Build Mental Toughness

The thing that separates one trainee from another might not be their physical strength. The difference often comes down to mental toughness and the decision to power through. You're capable of so much more than what your sub-conscious mind tells you. Just remember this: There are plenty of people in this world who will root against you. Don't let yourself become one of them.

Keep A Fitness Log

A log is great for several reasons. First, it's a good record of how far you've come and a great way to get into specifics since you can log your weights, reps, and sets. Recording your workout sessions also keeps you focused on the task at hand. After all, you're less likely to get distracted when you have a firm goal in mind. Fitness logs help you learn more about your body, your training, your nutrition, and what does and doesn't work for you.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

A lot of people say you should drink at least 64 oz of water per day. While there's no specific number you have to meet, staying hydrated is essential to living a fit lifestyle. Depending on my training day, I typically consume anywhere between 64 ounces to 1 gallon of water every day.

Allow For Ample Rest And Recovery

Muscle fibers break down during exercise and rebuild into their bigger, stronger counterparts during rest and recovery. I schedule rest days based on how my body feels—nothing is set in stone. There has been more than one occasion where I've set new personal records for lifting on my rest day. Then again, there have been days I was scheduled to train but knew my body needed to rest. Instead of lifting, I'd engage in active recovery like swimming or biking. This is where you need to know your body and its limits. Know the difference between being sore and being completely fatigued and burned out.

Prioritize Mobility

When it comes to mobility, just do it. My favorite book and resource for all things mobility related is "Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance," by Kelly Starrett of San Francisco CrossFit.

"When it comes to mobility, just do it."

Remember, Never Quit

Your mind is the most powerful weapon you have. When your body wants to quit, you have to rely on your mind to push you harder. Sometimes it takes a while to reach certain goals. Some days, you just don't have motivation. In those times, you have to pull from something even deeper: belief. Stay focused and dedicated.



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