When people find out what I do, the first thing they always ask me is, “What’s the best way to lose weight/gain muscle/make my arms bigger/run faster/lose my belly/perk up my arms, boobs, butt?” This question is shortly followed by, “This is what I’m doing now. Do you think it will work?” What they’re really asking for is not my advice. They’re asking for “the magic bullet.” A secret nugget of information that will gain instant results with minimum work. I’m here to tell you that doesn’t exist. That’s right, folks. There is no magic bullet. I’m sorry.
No guts? No glory? Yup, pretty much. Results do not happen instantly, and that is the number one reason why workout plans fail. People expect to do one round of the latest fad workout, and wake up with a body like Cindy Crawford or Matthew McConaughey the very next day. It doesn’t work like that. The best “exercise guru” advice that will undoubtedly achieve the results you seek are:
1. Hard work
4. Common sense
Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking, “You get paid $100 an hour just to tell me that?!?!?! Are you kidding me?!?!?” Well, no, of course not. I have spent years with my nose buried in exercise science books and sports medicine journals, paired with countless hours in training facilities applying that science to athletes and clients. I get paid for that. But in all seriousness, all of my knowledge and experience will do diddly squat if you don’t have those 4 crucial elements when starting an exercise program.
It’s actually a very simple concept. Consider it this way. Your child has decided they want to become a classical violinist and would like to play as a soloist at Carnegie Hall some day. Great. Fabulous. You run out and buy the little tyke the best Italian violin your money can buy, and hire the best violin teacher in town for your would-be virtuoso. For the first week, mini-YoYo-Ma can’t put the violin down. By week 2, they are looking forward to their lesson but they aren’t playing 8 hours a day anymore because by the end of last week’s squeak-fest, their fingers became blistered and bloody. Week 3 rolls around and you begin to notice the Xbox is receiving more playing time than the violin. By the time you hit week 4, you have to duct tape the violin to the kid’s hand to get him/her to touch, let alone PRACTICE the instrument. After some stomping, some tears, and a few whines, your child tells you, “This is a lot of work and it’s too hard and it’s no fun and I’m not any good! I QUIT!” An awkward phone call is made to the violin teacher, and the dream of Carnegie Hall is placed in the attic to be sold at a later date on Ebay.
Okay, that was a slight dramatization, but I can pretty much compare this to 80% of the people I’ve ever met that have joined a gym and/or hired a trainer, and failed to meet their goals.
So here is my honest advice on these 4 points for anyone looking to start working out and reach a set of goals.
1. Hard Work – Face it and stop lying to yourself. Exercise can really suck. You sweat. You breathe hard. You ache afterwards. The old school of thought is that if none of those things are happening, you’re not doing it right. Unfortunately, that’s true, but it’s really not as sado/masochistic as it sounds! You need to stimulate your body beyond its current state of comfort and ability to yield a result. Hey, I don’t make the rules of exercise science. I just reinforce them.
2. Commitment – “No! Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.” ―Yoda. Sage advice from a Jim Henson Muppet. Most people say they will try to workout X number of times a week, but there’s always an excuse as to why it doesn’t happen. The dog had a stomach ache. Your favorite NCIS repeat was on. Whatever. Listen to Yoda! Don’t try to workout. Workout!
3. Discipline – This could also fall under the realm of commitment, but I’m speaking in terms of other lifestyle choices here. If you make the commitment to start working out to change your body and your health, you must adapt the rest of your lifestyle, as well. Lifestyle choices greatly impact exercise results. Dietary habits, alcohol consumption, and lack of sleep are the main culprits in this area. Power walking for 30 minutes does not give you permission to eat a double stack cheeseburger with french fries, drink a case of beer, and stay up all night. You know what you should be doing. It’s just a matter of making the smarter choice for yourself. Which leads me into the last point.