I started working out at a gym in 2009. I was set on competing in a fitness/bikini model competition the following year. I worked out 6 days a week religiously and followed a strict diet plan for nearly a year. In the year leading up to the competition, I did MANY hours of research on how to train, what to eat and what supplements to take. I lived and breathed the lifestyle and learned everything I could about it. Yet I never saw the results I truly wanted. When I competed, I felt good but I knew I wouldn’t win. I didn’t care because it wasn’t about winning to me and I had a great time. But in the back of my mind I wished I could obtain the physique I dreamed of because even though I’d worked my butt off, I still didn’t feel I’d gotten there.
In the last 6 years, I’ve worked out on and off. Sometimes I’ll work out 4-5 days a week and other times I lay on my couch 7 days a week. I’ve also tried a variety of ways of eating including paleo, vegan, gluten-free. My current diet that I’ve followed for several years now is essentially pescatarian. I have done ALL kinds of different workouts and experimented with various group workouts like pilates, yoga, boxing, CrossFit, TRX, boot camp, etc. I’ve done a lot more research. I have probably read hundreds if not thousands of articles, blogs, books, magazines and Facebook/Instagram posts from experts and so-called experts. Even with all that, I still never saw the results I wanted. And I think all my research was part of the problem. I read so many things that it was impossible to figure out what to do. I couldn’t decipher the truth in any of it since so much info out there is so contradictory. The truth is, I was overwhelmed and confused. The more I read, the more I overanalyzed what I was doing and, in turn, got discouraged when I’d read something that contradicted what I had just started.
So one day I decided, why am I doing this?! I was spending more time looking for answers online than I was working out in the gym. No wonder I wasn’t reaching my goals!! I was like a detective trying to dig up the internet in search of the exact perfect formula for me. The truth is, there isn’t one. Everything you read probably is true for the person who wrote it. But there are literally millions of ways to go about your fitness goals. No way is right or better. The best advice I’ve ever heard is that you have to do what works for you.
Looking back, I never saw the results I was making some really BASIC mistakes:
- I wasn’t consistent. Some weeks I’d be at the gym every day and some weeks I’d skip it altogether. Life got in the way and I didn’t have the commitment and discipline to stay on track. What was likely even more detrimental to my physique goals was that l was that I was also highly inconsistent with my diet. I would eat “well” for the most part, but somedays I’d undereat and other days I’d overeat. Consistency is KEY. Ask anyone who’s had success in this arena and that is generally their first piece of advice.
- I wasn’t following the basics with my diet. A lot of health/fitness advice is confusing, but there are definitely things that I just *know* I need to do but don’t. The two biggest mistakes I made with regard to my diet were not eating enough protein and never drinking enough water.
- I didn’t push myself at the gym enough. I would go through the motions but not really break a sweat most days. I would do the same exercises, same weights, same sets, etc. I personally think is far more important to push yourself when you’re at the gym than to go every day and half-ass it. I think a lot of times I didn’t push myself because I lacked energy, which was a direct result of my crappy diet.
So here are some super simple rules of thumb to follow if you’re looking to get fit:
- Drink a lot of water. As much as humanly possible! Well, not really, but AT least 10-12 cups is ideal. Drinking water is the most basic, easiest thing you can do to improve your physique and health.
- Follow IIFYM and be consistent with your diet. This sounds like a fancy diet but it’s not. (See my recent blog post What is IIFYM?! for more info). Basically, IIFYM is a type of flexible eating and quite simply it means you can whatever the F you want as long as it fits your “macros.” You set a target # of protein, carb and fat grams each day, much like a caloric bank account! Be as consistent as you can with your diet. If you want a special treat, just be mindful of your eating and fit it into your macros!
- Work out consistently each week. If you’re new to working out, aim for 2-3 days. Otherwise 3-5 days is fine. Spend about an hour at the gym, most of which should consist of weight training.
- Do sprints. Sprinting means you give an all out effort for anywhere from 10-30 seconds. Then you rest or walk. Repeat that for 20 minutes about 1-2x a week. That’s it!
- Try to incorporate lots of fresh, organic foods for your health and because your body will work better this way. With IIFYM you can certainly eat treats but if that’s all you eat all day long, trust me, you’re going to feel it. Your body relies on nutrients and vitamins found in these foods to function well. It’s important to be mindful of your micronutrients, not just macronutrients.
- Avoid sugar and alcohol. I know, I know. But if you are serious about getting in shape, these are total diet killers. Start out slow and aim to reduce your intake, as well as avoid hidden sugars. Find healthier alternatives to the foods/drinks you love but that your body doesn’t love as much.
- Sleep!! Whatever your minimum is, make sure you get it. People who are sleep deprived are more likely to be fat. True story.
- Minimize stress. This is SO important. Do yoga, meditation deep breathing, etc. as often as possible. Stress is a fat builder!! Sometimes when I feel stressed, I go into the bathroom and just take a minute to myself to close my eyes and take several deep breaths in and out. Breathing will immediately help your body relax and it actually helps your lymph nodes clear toxins from your body!
Those are the best tips I have found and if you follow all of them, you are pretty much guaranteeing yourself success. You will probably need to tweak things over time as you see results, but once you get going, you will see how your body responds to different things. Over time it becomes a lot easier to understand how things affect you and you will become an expert on your own body and know better than anyone what works best for you.