Fitness column: How to survive your new year’s fitness resolution
The new year is a great excuse to finally make some positive physical changes to yourself. Enrolling in fitness competitions as a method of motivation and instruction is becoming very popular because it is a great way to get started. It’s kind of a January cliché, but it works for many people. It’s like Oprah said: “If not now, when?”
More importantly, however, there is no better way to annoy gym rats than being the January rookie at the gym. Don’t allow yourself to be bullied by these intimidating fitness snobs — who are usually way more insecure than you and me. In fact, I do stuff wrong in the gym on purpose sometimes just to give know-it-all work-out snobs something else to complain about other than carbohydrates and GMO corn.
To all of you gym-newbies who have decided to take charge of your own health, great job. You have taken the first step towards feeling, performing and looking better. Here are my tips for surviving and thriving throughout your competition or if you are just getting started with fitness.
Get over it: Being a newbie at the gym can be quite daunting for some. It’s like the new guy at your job; he is nervous, ignorant, goofy, uncoordinated and will ask a lot of questions. This is what it takes to learn new stuff. My advice is to get over the necessary initiation process. Yes, it will be difficult and a little painful. You will feel dumb occasionally while learning anything new, especially physical skills. Attaining fitness is not easy, and not everyone will be supportive of your efforts. I can’t sugarcoat this for you; all I can tell you is that it will be worth it.
Master the fundamentals: What are the fundamentals? Basic exercises and basic training principals should be your focus. Don’t get wrapped up with too many gimmicky workout choices or weird celebrity diets. I’ve known plenty of college and pro athletes who develop major injuries due to sloppy mechanics on basic exercises and really dumb eating behavior, so don’t think that the jocks have it all figured out. I also know plenty of nerds who do great in the gym because they can leave their egos at the door and focus on learning fundamentals. Since fitness is mostly comprised of eighth-grade level science, nerds tend to excel over their jock counterparts. People who are new to a gym-type workout usually do better over the long haul than people who think that they know it all and let bad habits get the best of them.
Basic exercises: The trend of ‘“functional exercise” has brought us many genius exercises — or stupid human tricks, as I refer to them. Don’t freak out when everyone is doing kipping pull-ups on a giant rubber band even if exercises for your everyday life include a pull-up bar and a $100 giant rubber band. Stick to learning proper squats, proper pulls and pushes. All of us need to master these moves as you will squat every time you get out of the chair to get another poisonous (but delicious) beer. You will deadlift (another fundamental exercise) every time you pick up something off of the floor. I can’t stress enough how the failure at performing these moves well will get you injured.
Food basics: Even I am surprised at all the weird food-related behavior that destroys any chance of attaining health and/or fitness. Simple things like eating a variety of whole foods, eating actual meals, eating breakfast and avoiding eating before bed are almost impossible tasks for a society graced with more information and wealth than any other in history. Focus on a few basic behavior modifications, not an entire lifestyle change. Knock out one or two of the most destructive behaviors and you will get better results than “nibbling” at all the dysfunctions in your life. If you don’t know what your bad food behaviors are, ask your mom.
Good footwear: The January beginner may choose to self-motivate with a fresh pair of kicks. This is a great idea in my opinion as the feet set up the entire body’s mechanics. Buy the right shoes for the right job. Newbies do better with an all-around “training” shoe than the fancy, high-end running shoes. Running shoes are great — for running. I don’t know many beginners who will be running 60 miles per week at first, thus making the need for $175 exotic running shoes less significant. What’s worse? Cheap running shoes.
Cross-training shoes or court shoes offer more lateral support for all around fitness and other activities, and you can still run in them a little. There are some great hiking shoes that perform well in the gym as well. No matter what you buy, try to get shoes and shoe inserts that restore your feet to normal function. Weak, tight, tender feet hobble us even more than our poisonous diets, making fitness very difficult. Get some help from someone who understands foot mechanics before you start shimming out your flip-flops.
These factoids may sound simple, but you would be surprised how many of us fail to execute many of them. There is no product, app, dance-party-workout, magic pill, $100 fitness rubber band, or anything that can replace the implementation of fundamentals — except for the Thigh Master of course. That was pure genius.
Steve Wells is a personal trainer and co-owner of Midland Fitness. His column appears on Tuesdays.
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