Rachael wants to start exercising and toning up. She has a basic idea how to eat healthy and she knows that in order to reach her goals that she will have to get to the gym and start weight training. She goes to the store and buys a few fitness magazines, and when she is finished reading them she is more confused than before she started.
Just like Rachael, most people want to change everything in their life overnight because they think that’s the only way to make progress to their goals. This isn’t the best way to attack those goals.
But what should you do then?
Small changes in your habits will lead to success, trust me. Small incremental changes to your habits creates a ripple effect in your health.
An example would include ditching soda/calorie-filled drinks. IBISWorld reports soda consumption in the United States reached 40.4 gallons per person in 2021. Studies suggest drinking 1 soda per day for a year could lead to gain an average of 28 pounds per year. Cutty over at Cutty Strength used to drink a lot of soda. He lost over 70 pounds in one year simply kicking the soda habit and barely increasing his physical activity.
Going to the gym is overwhelming, so it’s no wonder why people give up after a few weeks. Keep on reading to get some useful tips on changing your lifestyle.
Looking to add more ab work to the mix? Check out this 2 day workout routine for abs at home.
I tell my clients that you cannot out exercise a bad diet. If you can control what nutrition goes into your body, you can change your body. Period.
“Going on a diet” and your diet (what you eat) are two different things — I want to change what you see as regular foods.
This doesn’t mean we are going to cut off food groups from our diet, it means that we are going to provide proper nutrition to our bodies.
Planning is the most important word that you need to learn next to willpower. You can eat the cake, donuts, and ice cream in moderation… especially when you plan your meals. The issue a lot of people have is the planning and execution of what you’ll eat. This leads to “panic eating” or making otherwise unhealthy choices that foil your progress to achieve your goals.
Eating those sinful treats is something I think everyone should do. You only live once. If you want to eat something sinful, planning out your meals can allow you to do so. The old school tried and true method of counting calories helps, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you look at. You can eat a doughnut or two during the week because you cut down on calories and you ultimately “save your carbs” for that meal.
A good rule of thumb is get 80% of your calories through as many fresh proteins, veggies, and fruits as you can. The other 20% can be what you want. Depriving yourself of foods you have grown to love makes you miserable and spiteful against getting in shape.
For example, if you eat 2,000 calories per day, you can have 400 calories of foods you enjoy. That’s a lot to indulge in if you got the rest of your calories through whole foods.
Proteins should be priority number 1 in your meal planning. You need to eat plenty of protein to recover fully from all of the exercising and weight training you do.
- Chicken – There are hundreds of ways to enjoy chicken. Chicken breasts are usually the go to, but I would invite you try boneless skinless thighs… they are so tasty!
- Eggs – These are great for every meal. They are very nutritious and can be served many ways. If you’re a volume eater, scrambled eggs can fill you up.
- Beef – Ground beef, steaks, whatever you enjoy. Fattier cuts will have more calories, but they are full of nutrition.
- Turkey – Ground turkey is a leaner substitute to ground beef if you need to cut fats or calories.
- Supplements – protein shakes or protein bars are easy and can be had on the go. I would invite you to use protein shakes to supplement your fitness journey, not as a meal replacement. You’re going to be hungry since you aren’t eating as much food — turning one of your meals into a drink can lead to feeling like you are hungrier than you are.
Carbs catch a bad rap because there are so many myths that people believe are true. Carbs are a source of energy and are important, but when eaten in excess they are stored as fat. Carbohydrates are important when you are active, and they are one of the most important nutrients needed for a healthy functioning brain.
- Rice – Any rice is great, when measured. Properly measured portions are important. If you want more volume, try adding bell peppers, onions, eggs, mushrooms, and other veggies to your rice. Try out some of the whole grain rice options!
- Oatmeal – Oatmeal is great because it is full of nutritious fiber and slow-release carbohydrates. I love some oatmeal with honey and/or some protein powder. Fruit is also great in oatmeal.
- Potatoes – Potatoes are great because they are versatile and relatively cheap. Fries and chips are awesome, but a nice baked potato or homemade mashed potatoes with some grilled chicken thighs make a great meal that isn’t as calorie dense.
- Fruit – Different fruits contain different nutrients. Try some new fruits, you never know what you’ll like. Fruit is full of fiber and natural carbohydrates. I keep fruit around when I get a craving for sweets. It’s satiating and tastes great.
Fats make you fat, right? Wrong. Healthy fats are extremely important for a healthy body because they help regulate hormones, they are satiating, and frankly they make food taste better.
- Avocado and Avocado Oil – I love avocados. I put them on sandwiches, burgers, pasta, on toast. Avocado oil is tasty and has a higher smoke point. You won’t burn your foods as easy.
- Olive Oil – Another great option for oil. Drizzle some of this or avocado oil on your salads with some fresh cracked black pepper and salt.
- Sour Cream – There are plenty of studies suggesting full fat dairy products calms the digestive tract, decreases the chance of heart disease, and they can help lower the risk of diabetes.
- Real Butter – See above. Don’t use a whole stick of butter, obviously.
As with all of this, moderation and planning are key. There’s no reason to stop eating your favorite foods you just need to adjust the rest of your diet accordingly.
Check out these 39 fat loss myths debunked while you’re at it.
No more hours of cardio!
Spending hours on the cardio machines do nothing but burn you out and make you wish you never started going to the gym in the first place (trust me I know).
So here’s the deal…
- 5-10 minutes warm up when you first get to the gym – this is going to get your blood pumping and prime your body for exercise. Choose something that isn’t too hard on the body such as walking, bicycling, or the elliptical.
- 15-30 minutes after you are done weight training – this will boost your metabolism and help your body start to recover from the abuse you just put it through. Here is a good article about the effects of cardio on muscle growth; check it out.
For your post workout cardio you can tackle it in one of two ways; hard and fast or nice and slow.
- Hard and fast – 10-20 minutes of high intensity interval training. This means running for a certain amount of time and then walking for a short break, rinse, and repeat. I won’t go into detail about HIIT training but if you do not know what it is, check out this article about HIIT training from Muscle & Fitness Magazine.
- Nice and slow – 20-30 minutes of lower intensity cardio. Think of this as a brisk walk or slight jogging. Something that you can do so that you are breathing hard but not so much you couldn’t regularly carry on a conversation.
Do this and get out of the gym.
I invite you to find something you can do outdoors away from the gym that will keep you active. Choose anything that interests you like picking up a sport, bicycling, or hiking… use your imagination. The reason you are going to the gym is to look and feel better, right? Go have some fun.
Here comes the part you’ve been dreading; the weight training. The gym is intimidating especially to those who haven’t actually even been in one or used any of the machines yet. If you haven’t picked out a gym yet, check out these 6 tips for picking the right gym.
First thing’s first; everyone has been there and no one will laugh at you. Don’t be afraid to ask a nearby patron for advice or help if you are unsure how to do something. Most people in the gym are like you and don’t want to talk to anyone.
To those who I meet that have never set foot into a gym, I invite them to take a week to get used to the environment. Try out the machines, get a feel for everything in the gym. Take time to try out all of the machines and free weights. Your mood will be high, your disappointment will be low, and you’re forging a path to a new you one day at a time.
Once you are more comfortable with the equipment in your gym, it’s time to start with the routine.
If you do not plan on having anyone train with you, I advise checking out YouTube or the links I provide with the workout names to see how they are done. I’ve chosen exercises that are not hard to get the movement correct. A personal trainer can help get you going on the right path, too.
What weight should you pick?
After you get into your routine, you will need to take another week testing out weight to see what is suitable for each exercise. Now is the time to take it seriously and start to get a feel for what weight you will be picking.
You are going to want to pick a weight that isn’t so heavy you cannot complete all of the reps safely, but not so light that you barely break a sweat. Remember, you have to struggle and push yourself to change, nothing will come easy.
Remember to log your progress!
Check out this short article about free weights and how much is too much. I went into better detail about how much weight you should choose and why. Look at the workout schedule below and test the lifts. If an exercise calls for 12 reps, you want to be struggling to achieve 12 reps. Use a heavier weight until you safely struggle to complete the 12th rep.
The reason your body get stronger, builds muscle, and gets leaner is because your body adapts to the condition it is being put in. If you are forcing your body to press 25 pounds, your body will adapt and make it easier to press 25 pounds… That is when you start pressing 30.
Many gym goers make the mistake of using the same weight for that exercise every time they go to the gym. Don’t fall for that trap and strive to do at least one more rep or go up in weight each time you walk into the gym.
The progression scheme is easy:
- Pick a weight you struggle to achieve the reps below. You will use this same weight for all 3 sets.
- If you achieve the sets and reps below, the next time you will add weight.
- If you fail to make all of the reps in each set, next time use the same weight and achieve it.
- Repeat for as long as you run this program.
Schedules are hectic and I get that. The great thing about training is there is no absolute “set in stone” rules for when you train. There are some guidelines you should follow when choosing your workout schedule, but nothing you need to worry about.
If you want to take your health seriously and turn this into your lifestyle, you need to take time for yourself. Work around your schedule, quit making excuses, and do your best to consistently exercise.
The ideal schedule would look like this:
- Sunday: Off
- Monday: Workout 1
- Tuesday: Off
- Wednesday: Workout 2
- Thursday: Off
- Friday: Workout 3
- Saturday: Off
They key points to take away from this is if you can get a day of rest in between a workout, that’s great. I would not suggest doing all three days one after the other because you will be very tired and unable to recover quick enough.
3 Day Female Beginners Gym Workout
Download a copy of the workout so you can print it out and take to the gym!
|Chest Machine of Choice*
|Dumbbell Incline Bench Press
|Incline Dumbbell Chest Fly
|Close Grip Bench Press
|Seated Dip Machine
|1 Arm Tricep Extension
|1 Arm Dumbbell Rows
|Seated Close Grip Rows
|Cross Body Hammer Curl
|Barbell Walking Lunges
|Standing Calf Raise
|Medicine Ball Crunches
|Ab Machine of Choice*
- Machine* – Pick a machine you like and feel comfortable with. Be sure that it works the body part in the workout. Most machines are clustered together so finding one that you like that works the body part you are looking for will be easy.
- ALAP – As long as possible. Perform this exercise for as long as you can… Feel the burn.
- AMAP – As many as possible. Perform this exercise for as many reps as possible. Only stop when you feel you can no longer safely do more reps.
Below are some of my gym essential top picks you can pick up on Amazon. All of the links below are Amazon affiliate links — this means if you were to click a link and buy something, I would get a small commission.. If you’ve found my article helpful or if you have been using this workout for a while and you’re seeing great results, it helps me produce more content and reach more people.
There are some die hard gym goers that go in empty handed, while others seem to be packing like they are moving in. A gym bag is always a solid choice to carry all of your belongings. Things like an extra set of clothes, chap stick, and towels all make the whole gym experience better. You can get out of your sweaty clothes and into some fresh, comfortable clothing.
I bought one of these bags for my friend and she loves it. They have a few different colors also.
This routine is designed to be tough, easy to learn, and it produces results when you put the work in. This routine is great for beginners to learn and get comfortable in the gym. Keep track of your progress and you will be surprised how your body starts to transform into your goals.
If you have any questions please feel free to leave them below, I’ll answer them all!