Here we are at the beginning of another year. Folks everywhere are dusting off the previous year and building up their courage to step forward into this new year by improving themselves, and some even by re-inventing themselves. Whatever your approach may be, let me begin by wishing you the greatest luck in your journey ahead. Soon our minds create a confusing cocktail of where to begin and what to begin.
"I am going to start by getting my nutrition right, then I will have more energy and discipline to workout"
“I used to workout all the time back in high school, and I remember what I did, I'll just do that"
"I just have to start exercising then everything will be okay."
That last one is awfully close to the truth except for one thing. Where do you start?
These are just a few of the things I have been told over my years as a personal trainer. The individual's heart is in the right place, but the problem is, you can't execute a solid plan if you don't have a solid plan. This confusion of where to start leads to other questions and decisions:
"Should I start with bicep curls?"
"I know! I will start with bench presses!"
"I love cardio so I will start running everyday on the treadmill",
"I just need to learn how to use the machines, then I will be all set."
All these statements once again present us with the same problem: we still do not have a plan.
However, don’t feel bad if any of this sounds familiar. They happen to be some words heard most often from those looking to change their behavior and their lifestyle. A beginner's plan is much simpler than any of this. It is not dependent on what you did in the past, and neither is it driven by what you think you should be doing now. It is reliant solely on your current fitness level and abilities. That is the beginning. A baby does not walk without working incredibly hard and learning to crawl. We can not write a word without learning the alphabets. Even a world-famous chef started by learning to hold a knife properly first. All this boils down to the one thing we all need to do. Master the basics.
Mastering the basics begins with allowing our minds to be okay with the fact that we have a lot to learn. When we open up our minds to the knowledge that awaits, we allow ourselves to progress because we are no longer trying to figure out something beyond our current abilities. We all have to sit down and stand up multiple times during the day, might as well get good at it by inspecting our ability to do bodyweight squats. Many of us walk up and down the stairs all the time, we should really consider working on our ability to do lunges. How about our balance? It’s required to walk, move in any direction, stand…. check your balance, work on it. If we need to pick up a heavy box off the ground, we should know how to hinge, how to squat down, and work on our core strength right? Do some good mornings (do this before learning to deadlift), do some planks, if you need to, dial it back and do some dead bug exercises (a regressed version if needed to start).
One of the funniest answers I ever heard as a rookie personal trainer when I asked a gym member why they workout was “I am training for the zombie invasion.” Well let us say there is going to be a zombie invasion do you have what it takes to run fast and run long? If you need to, do you have the strength to swing a bat? We may be getting ahead of ourselves, but hey – might as well think about strength and endurance. However, strength and endurance can only be developed if we work on our foundational movements (Squat, Push, Pull, Core strength, Carry [I put this after core for a reason], Hinge [or bend depending on distance required]. During one of my assessment courses with Kevin Darby of Darby Training Systems I heard the words that changed the way I viewed everything. “Advanced principles are just the basics mastered.”
Begin the year off right, hold yourself accountable to do what you said you would do for yourself, set aside “me time” every day even if it just 20 minutes, get a plan, execute it, stretch more, work on your breathing, drink more water, eat more natural foods, walk more, get more sleep, do more squats, do more push-ups, improve your pull strength, increase your core strength (your back will thank you). A million things run our lives, but those million things are all reliant on one….you! Improve the one, improve the million. Learn the basics, practice the basics, master the basics.