As a personal trainer, there is no more common question received than “how do I get back in shape?” Quite frankly, this is likely equivalent to a doctor being asked “how do I get better?” It is your main focus, main job requirement, and main reason why you go into a line of work. Getting people back in shape is not only interesting and revealing, it is also quite simple, as far as actual steps go.
But like they say, “the devil is in the details.” Humans are not robots, and present many unique and interesting challenges. Schedules, stressors, spouses, kids, injuries, etc. I’ve decided to take some of my knowledge and write a helpful guide for you. Follow these 5 simple steps and no doubt you will be back in the gym, looking like an Adonis, in no time!
1. Don’t Get Out Of Shape!
While it may seem obvious, the easiest way to “get back in shape” is to never fall too far out of shape to begin with. With modern stress levels being very high nearly all the time, it is very easy to skip the gym. But think of it like this: you have one dollar (this represents your total health), and every time you skip a planned workout it’s a withdrawal from that dollar. Sure, maybe it’s only a penny, but over time many missed workouts can add up to you having nothing left (i.e. being out of shape).
Conversely, every time you get to the gym, you are adding some money in. Even if you have a lousy workout, think of it like maintaining your current balance. This overly simply example should be relatable to everyone and is a realistic way to always keep yourself motivated.
No matter how much you want to lay on the couch and “veg out,” you need to find a way to keep yourself going to the gym. Continually. As you will soon see, or maybe you know from experience, getting back in shape is much harder than staying in relatively good shape all the time. “You are your habits” as the saying goes. Make sure you create good ones.
2. Start Slowly
As a personal trainer, I’ve never see a more common mistake than the person who is dying to get back in the gym and then promptly injures themselves. They simply go too hard too fast. This is where one’s ego comes in to play. You must accept the fact that you likely didn’t get out of shape overnight, and you likely won’t get back into shape, overnight. This may seem simple, but when put into practice, this can drive many people crazy.
I think the mere act of going into the gym can make people think of all the days they didn’t do much of anything and now they are paying the price. They are very motivated as a result of this line of thinking and want to “make up for lost time”. In reality, a slow, steady progression is what brings results. This must be accepted and realized before any true progress can be made.
As an extra warning, nothing will set you further back than being injured! While walking may be humiliating at first when you see other people doing 300 pound bench presses, if you’re in a cast it will be very hard to work out at all. “Rome wasn’t built in a day” as the saying goes. This should be the number one, red flag message which should let you know that you should take it easy. You will get to your goal, just be sure to slow down and not try to accomplish it in one day or one week.
3. Be Realistic
This goes hand-in-hand with our previous point. While it would be great to be working out like this:
In all likelihood, you will barely be moving. And this is perfectly okay! The simple act of getting back into the gym is a win. You have to have realistic goals…and looking like someone who is likely on heavy doses of anabolic steroids is not a realistic goal. Getting your bloodwork to look better and losing some pounds IS a realistic goal.
What also must be mentioned here is that you must account for all other activities in your life. Have a wedding coming up? Have a huge project at work? Not getting enough sleep due to stress? Probably best to skip the heavy training schedule then. A shorter, more intense workout could be best given that you’re properly prepared for it. Not only will this be stress-relieving (exercise is one of the only endogenous stress relievers) but you’ll have time for it in your schedule. Keeping everything in balance is a key part of being healthy.
4. Have A Plan
This is perhaps the most important part. And by and large, why many people come to me as a personal trainer. Just the sheer knowledge that there is a plan, that you are not floating out there on your own in space, is a huge help. With a personal trainer or a workout partner, you are more likely to keep appointments, more likely to stick to goals, and less likely to end up on the couch.
You have a financial plan, right? Why not have one for your health as well? Your health should be valued as much, if not more, than many other things in your life. A plan is essential to long term (and even short term) success.
Corollary to this, remember that plans have to be flexible. I frequently have clients who are completely inflexible and freak out if their plan doesn’t go perfectly. Since life is inherently unpredictable, you must allow for changes. That said, it is still your goal to always try and get to the gym. The bottom line is: allow for some random events, but don’t let it lead you to eating a carton of ice cream on the couch just because you missed one workout.
5. Stay Positive (No Matter What!)
This may be the hardest step, I won’t lie. Life has many, many, ups and downs. With our countries’ financial climate being uncertain, technology morphing at a rapid pace, and disease rates skyrocketing, it is quite easy to get sucked into a negative place and to stay there. But we must overcome this if we want individual success and long-term success.
There are some things we can control, some which we can’t, and others which affect our collective whole, not just any one individual. Staying positive, realizing that there is always a tomorrow, always another chance, is vital to not just workout success but life success.
It is very easy to be affected and changed by negative events. Divorce, job loss, financial burdens. But it is also possible to let all of these things happen and to still remain positive. The phrase “everything happens for a reason” is a cliché for a reason: it’s true.
As long as you’re reading this, you’re still alive, still above ground, and can move forward in a positive way. We are our habits and new habits can be formed every day. By allowing negative habits to accumulate, you’ve gotten yourself into this mess. By getting rid of those habits, and, more importantly, replacing them with healthier ones, you will get yourself out of this mess. And you’ll have a new, positive life to show for it.
Have I made the overwhelming process of getting back in shape more digestible? Have I provided some motivation? I hope you can now move forward and do so with the strength that there is a way to do this! Remember: there is always someone who is worse off than you are, and gratitude for what you have is a great quality to possess. Being grateful, and not self-centered, is an attractive and successful quality. Negativity, however, is not. Always remember to try and look on the bright side of life. Cliché, maybe, but helpful? Almost certainly.
Positivity breeds positivity, and every day that you step foot inside the gym is one step closer to success and reaching your goal. Life is not a movie and you may not be able to look like a cover model, but setting a realistic goal, staying the course, and making the smart choices, will get you very far. And who knows, you may even surprise yourself and become a new fitness model!
How did I do? Feeling motivated? Let me know in the comments!