Where to Start?

The world of fitness is filled with many different philosophies and thoughts, so I am likely to offend a good amount of people with this post. Therefore, please don’t take this information as gospel; instead, understand that this information is what helped me get fit. This is my beginner’s guide to fitness based on what worked for me. Hopefully, it works for you too.

When Ashley (my wife) was pregnant with our first child, she craved sweets. In particular, she craved funnel cake. Me, being the good husband, made her funnel cake. Every. Night. Needless to say, I put on some sympathy weight. It wasn’t until I needed to start buying biggest pants that I realized something must be done. So, I joined a local gym and began my fitness journey.

“No citizen has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training…what a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.” – Socrates

Cardio vs. Strength Training

The first thing I did was hop on a treadmill started running. That lasted about 30 seconds before I was out of breath. I was grossly out of shape and it seemed impossible to lose weight continuing on the path of cardio alone. So, after lots of research, I found some articles on lifting that seemed to provide a basis for strength training and losing weight. I had never really considered that lifting weights would help lose weight, but that idea was completely wrong.

  1. Cardio exercises burn more calories per minute than weight lifting.
  2. Weight lifting promotes a longer elevated metabolic rate.
  3. Weight lifting builds more muscles, which increases your resting metabolic rate.

So, I was off the the gym to try lifting weights. However, I never seemed to have a good plan and while I lost weight, I never achieved the aesthetic I was looking for. Five years later, after our second child, I found myself needing bigger pants again. This time, however, I had found the beginner’s fitness guide that I needed: Strong Lifts 5×5.

StrongLifts 5×5

Planning matters. In order to start this blog, I needed to have a plan. In order to get stronger and healthier, I also needed a plan. I needed a routine and goals. That is where StrongLifts came into play for me – it was the strength training side of beginning fitness for me – and my biggest challenge mentally.

First, if you want to know absolutely everything about the StrongLifts 5×5 program, check out their site and app here: stronglifts.com. The essentials are pretty easy.

  1. Start light. You don’t need to try and lift heavy weights. You will quickly get there – start with light weights first and get it right.
  2. Focus on form. This part is critical to success. Form is everything. Form lets you lift heavy weights better and more safely.
  3. Alternate between 2 workouts 3 days a week. For example, on week 1 do workout A on Monday, B on Wednesday on A on Friday. Week 2 do workout B Monday, A on Wednesday and B on Friday. Rinse and repeat.
  4. There are only 3 main exercises you need to do each workout
  5. Every time you go to the gym you add 5 lbs. to your weight, if you can’t do 5 sets of 5 reps each at that weight you try again.
  6. If you fail your reps and sets twice, you reduce the weight by 10%.

Workout A

Workout B

Squat 5×5 Squat 5×5
Bench Press 5×5 Overhead Press 5×5
Barbell Row 5×5 Deadlift 1×5

Obviously, this is just a very brief overview – and I wouldn’t expect anyone to head to the gym with just this advice – but I would highly recommend this program to any beginner. It is fun. It gets results fast. It just works.

Eating Healthy

Finally, the other half of fitness is eating healthy. If you go to Burger King every day for lunch, drink 3 cans of Pepsi every day and eat take-out every evening, you won’t be able to achieve the health and fitness levels you need. Personally, I have been very successful with low-carb/no-carb diets such as the Keto Diet. The nice thing about working out is that, traditionally, the Keto Diet requires staying under 20g of carbohydrates. If you are lifting, and need some carbohydrates for energy, I find that I can keep my carbs under 50g and continue to burn fat as my primary energy source throughout the week.

I will be happy to blog about the Keto Diet more in depth and how I have adapted it to my strength training program, but here is ultimately what I want to say about eating healthy: have a plan and stick to the plan.

Eat Real Food

First, eat real food. What does that mean? Your groceries should primarily come from the fresh meat, produce and dairy sections of the grocery store. Typically, these are all on the perimeter of the store. Most isles in the store contain canned, boxed and pre-made foods that are loaded up with sodium, carbohydrates and other preservatives that are mostly unhealthy. So, yes, this means more preparation for lunch and dinner. This is necessary to being a healthier you and living as long as you can for yourself and your family.

Drink Water. Lots of Water.

Second, drink lots of water. 64 ounces of water, to be exact. How much is that? Google will tell you about the 8×8 rule – drink an 8 ounce glass of water 8 times per day. Personally, I don’t know anyone that consumes beverages from 8 ounce cups. (Hell, we used 9 ounce cups in college for beer pong and those were tiny compared to the 16 ounce red solo cups we use today.) Instead, try to consume 4 or 5 big glasses of water per day. That means one for breakfast, one for lunch, one for dinner and two between or after the meals of the day. Simply said – water does great things for you and your body.

Consider Intermittent Fasting

Finally, consider intermittent fasting. You can find a great article on the benefits of intermittent fasting on Harvard’s Health Blog from Harvard’s Medical School. While there are many different ways to fast, I do one that seems to work for a lot of folks: I don’t eat from 8PM to 12PM. So, I eat lunch and dinner and then wait until lunch the next day to eat again. While not easy, it has also turned out to be not as difficult as I had thought. The benefit is that I have more energy than I have had in years – and at 38 years old that is impressive.

Concluding a Beginner’s Guide to Fitness

I hope you have enjoyed my overview of advice for beginning fitness. There is so much more that I want to share, from recipes, to philosophies, to kettlebells and other specific exercises. Luckily, I have time to cover all those topics as I continue this blog. Please let me know what you liked and what you think I got wrong in the comments below. Fitness is not a perfect science and it is OK to have different opinions. Hopefully, all us dads can work together to overcome the dad bod stigma and feel good about ourselves.