Tips to Start Working Out When You’re New to the Gym

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Starting a workout can be daunting when you’re still trying to learn your way around the gym.

There’s muscle heads all over the weights section and you feel so awkward and out of place. Plus, they’re intimidating. It’s hard to lift next to someone curling 30 lb. dumbbells when you’re there with your 10 lb. weights trying to not hurt yourself.

At least, that was my experience.

I felt like a tiny little delicate toothpick in this sea of muscle trying to not get in anyone’s way, so I know how awkward that beginning can be. Not to mention, I made every single beginner mistake possible, which helped when I was trying to guide clients to avoid the same mistakes.

How beginners approach the gym can make or break their gym habits from then on, so let’s discuss how you can do it right.

Find someone who can show you the ropes

This isn’t always easy, because finding someone reliable to work out with is a borderline impossible task, but if you can find someone who can go with you even just a few times to show you the basics, that can be a huge help.

An alternative to this is to hire a trainer. Trainers are rarely cheap, but if you want to force yourself into a commitment and stick with it, it’s a good idea. A lot of big gyms will give you one free training session to test the waters. Be ready for a heavy pitch at the end, but at least it’s a way to get you going.

Commit to the small

While most beginners want to start off with the “best” program available (and it’s a good intention!), the problem is that most of those programs are extremely complicated for a beginner.

Through the years, I’ve discovered that most beginners rarely stick to a program that requires them to spend an hour or more in the gym. Once someone is too sore from a strenuous program, they quit. Instead, focus on simple movements that build up your stamina as you go.

My first program only had about three exercises, which I followed for two months. Then, I went to a program with about six exercises for a few months. That’s how I finally stayed committed. Before that, I’d make it complicated, get sore or injured, quit, and do it all over again in a few months.

Learn one substitution for each muscle area

 

For example, if the 20 lb. weights you need for a dumbbell curl are taken, you can go to the rope curl.

It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a good way to start. One awkward part of starting in the gym is working around people, asking for weights, and waiting your turn. When you can bypass that and get right into another exercise, it won’t get in the way of your flow.

I was also a little more awkward starting out than most people might be. Imagining asking some dude who was 250+ lbs. when he was done with the 25 lb. dumbbell was just too much for younger me, so I kept it simple. You might not be as awkward as younger me was, so do what works for you.

However, the substitution trick helps no matter your experience level because sometimes equipment will be taken or broken and you’ll need to switch it up.

Mentioning that, my stair climber broke at my gym and I’m heartbroken, you guys. Heartbroken.

Find off times and off seasons

After working at a gym, I can tell you the busiest times: First two weeks of January, two weeks before any local college’s spring break, before summer, and before Halloween.

Those were always the times that the cardio machines would be packed, we’d need extra staff on hand, and it was just a zoo overall. From there, after work hours were always crammed until about 7 pm.

When you’re starting, going into a gym where you have to wait 10+ minutes for a bench can be daunting, so if possible go in the off times. When I was first starting out, I started going to 24 Hour Fitness at 11 pm because I had almost everything to myself.

Do not ego lift

This is the top mistake I see new lifters make: they want to impress that hottie in the gym, so they lift way beyond capacity and hurt themselves or make some other silly mistake.

I’ve ego lifted a few times in my life and I certainly did not forget them because they all ended up embarrassing. Having to crawl out from a weight you are failing at lifting is a horrible feeling, especially when you were way off.

Those are my biggest tips for any new lifter. Don’t be scared. Go get it.

– Jackie

 

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Can You Balance Fitness and A Fun Life?

Americans are obsessed with a “balanced” life.

Recently I was browsing through the new books section at my local bookstore and almost every single self-help title was along the lines of:

  • “Work-life balance for the busy professional”
  • “How to balance it all as a mom”
  • “Work hard and have fun”
  • “How to balance it all”

While work-life balance is a great goal, the problem is that most people feel incredibly guilty all the time for not balancing everything.

They feel bad they don’t have enough time to meditate in the morning, that they skip breakfast, that they missed a night out with their friends due to a project needing to be finished, or any other guilt that sits in the back of their minds.

Everyone is stressed out. Look at any single day time television show: it’s about balance and how stressed we all are.

Sure, it’s important to make time for what matters, but understand that we’re all simply doing the best we can at any given moment.

My 27th birthday was this past Friday and instead of feeling bad about not having some “exciting” night out, I decided to finally say: Fuck it.

For years I went out with friends, whether I was in the mood for it or not, because of some idealistic reality-TV-driven standard of go big or go home. Instead, I just read some books, watched some movies, and got in some quality family time. I ate an entire pizza and tub of ice cream because fuck. it.

I don’t have time to meditate right now (that can also be read as: It’s not a priority right now), and I’m going to stop feeling bad about that. I skip breakfast often and I’m not going to feel bad about that either.

I don’t have it all balanced, and I’m going to keep trying to instill better habits but the guilt has to go. I’m done with it.

I’ve decided to stop feeling bad about not being able to balance it all.

Life is a spectrum. Sometimes you’re 100% all-in and dedicated to a goal. Sometimes everything is thrown off balance. Sometimes you just need to put in 14+ hour days on a project to hit your deadline and you miss your workouts.

Fuck. It.

You’ll catch up later.

You’ll put in extra cardio next week.

To be honest, I don’t know anyone who has it all balanced.

Even celebrities with hired help still operate in different levels of the spectrum.

If you’re feeling guilt over not having everything perfectly balanced, please take a deep breath. Right now.

Keep trying to balance everything, but if you miss something, STOP FEELING BAD.

Sometimes I’ve forced myself into the idea of “balance” and hung out with friends but the whole time I’m thinking about the work I need to stay up all night to finish.

I’m in a period of my life where I need to work harder than I ever have before and I am simply not going to feel bad about it.

When I worked at my old gym, not balancing everything was the top guilt-inducing feeling.

When a client was clearly plagued with guilt about missing a workout, bingeing over the weekend, or thoughts about not spending enough time with their family: their workout suffered every single time.

They were slower, less enthusiastic, and wanted to be done way earlier than they should have.

People walk around with these feelings all the time.

Sometimes you don’t even realize how pervasive guilt is until you stop and realize how often you beat yourself up over it.

Take a deep breath, know you’re trying your best, decide on your top three priorities, and don’t feel guilty about anything outside of those priorities.

Also, I’m going to start posting more videos on YouTube, so come subscribe: Here.

How to Set Goals for Fitness and Life

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Someone recently e-mailed me about goal setting and I thought I’d take the time to go a little more in depth about how to set goals and if you even should set goals.

This post gets a little personal, but goals are a part of who I am so that’s the only way to show you how I do it.

First and foremost,

Goals are not always necessary.

If you’re happy with your life, keep living it. There are a million different paths to a happy life, and for some people working hard and living in the moment is what fulfills them.

Most of the time on this site, I’m talking to the people who are unhappy and want to change their lives, their health, their mentality, or something else, and need that guidance to get there.

I wasn’t always a “goals” person. It wasn’t until I hit the age of 19 where I started to articulate the things I wanted out of life and the goals I needed to achieve in order to live that life. I was always ambitious, but I didn’t know how to map them out until I came across the book Wishcraft by Barbara Sher.

Actually, to be honest sometimes I deeply admire people who are perfectly content with their lives in every aspect. Goals are a double edged sword: Accomplishing them is one of the best feelings in the world, but having that gnawing in your stomach because you want to conquer them so bad takes away from so much of the present moment.

However, if you decide to set goals, need some new goals, or want to adjust the ones you already have, here’s how I set them.

What goals to pursue?

There is no one size fits all goal out there.

Goals are individual and no one should ever set them for you.

Of course, there are millions of ideas to pull from in the world as inspiration for your own list, but that doesn’t mean you have to do them.

One source I scroll through every now and then is on Nerd Fitness: here. (Also, note the comments as well. It’s fascinating how many people come to help you when you openly declare what you want.)

The biggest thing I’ve learned about pursuing goals is that sometimes you just have to start on a path to a goal to find your real goal.

We have all been inundated by the world on the things we “should” want, and the only way you can remove these from your mind is to pursue it and see how it makes you feel.

For example, you might think that you want abs (the most common goal I hear), but on your journey you fall in love with powerlifting and instead decide to pursue competitions instead of the abs, but you wouldn’t have ever known that unless you started.

Taking action is the fastest way to find clarity in any single goal.

What do you want out of life?

This is a deep question that requires a bit of self-reflection. Many experts start you out with imagining your funeral and what you want people to say at your funeral and work backward from there.

That doesn’t work for me, even though I’ve tried it a bunch of times, but I have a clearer vision on where I want to be in 10 years. Anything past that is a blur.

If you can only think to the end of the month, that’s fine too. That was always how my brain was during college: surviving through finals. Developing a vision for your life can already be clear or it can take time.

I’m in love with feeling alive, and the thing that makes me feel alive is to fill my body with fear every once in awhile. This is why I pursue and set goals that make me wildly uncomfortable.

Another note on goal setting: They don’t have to be fulfilling and meaningful. Feel free to set completely shallow goals because sometimes you need to get them out of your system.

Some personal examples:

  • I felt academically dumb for a long, long time. I never gave school 100% and barely squeaked out of high school with a decent GPA. So, in college for one semester I gave it my all, got a 3.9, laughed, and went back to scraping by. I needed to get that great GPA out of my system to prove I could do it so I could move on.
  • I want an Aston Martin. I’m not materialistic by any measure, but that car is a sexy ass car and I want it. Will I be fine if I don’t buy that car? Absolutely. However, thinking about driving it along the California coast on a gorgeous day makes my brain emotional, so it’s on the list. It brings no deep meaning to my life, but not all goals have to be life-altering.

If you want to buy fancy cars, date a supermodel, and have a six-pack all year., why not? Pursue what makes you happy.

I personally find joy in the balance of both service goals and selfish goals, but do what works for you.

There is no right or wrong way to pursue things in your life, no matter what anyone says.

Abandoning and adjusting goals

This is the biggest thing I want to discuss: It’s perfectly okay to abandon goals once you’re positive they’re not for you.

Here the #1 thing to know about goals: They should work for you and your life instead of you always working for them.

Don’t become a slave to your goals. I’ve fallen many times into the trap of continuing to pursue a goal that no longer brings meaning to my life. That is the quickest way to burn out and become exhausted.

You have to analyze if you’re abandoning a goal because you’re scared of achieving it (fear of success is real), or if it’s really not something you want. I have no answers for you on how to decide between the two, that takes quiet meditation on your end, but listen to your body because the fear will come up immediately if you’re afraid of it. Otherwise, you’ll think about the goal and have zero emotion about pursuing or abandoning it.

The biggest obstacle

I wrote a whole post on this topic when it comes to running your own business (here), but the bottom line is that the biggest things that will get in the way of any goal are the people around you and your own mental resistance.

With my birthday at the end of this month, a few friends have already invited me out for drinks and it’s hard to explain to people that I’m currently in a summer shredding competition and I can’t really have any cheat meals much less drink for eight weeks.

It’s up to you whether you share your goals publicly or not. I don’t often share mine on Facebook or to people who don’t get it.

It’s hard to explain why I wake up at the crack of dawn, work out, have a bland diet, write for five hours a day, and party very little these days.

Mapping out your plan

I wrote a huge post on goal setting and mapping: here. I stand by that as my total way to take a goal and break it down to the actions you need to perform today.

That’s all the advice I have for deciding what goals are right for you, but I thought I’d write this out since I know there are a ton of people who want to change the direction of their lives. I’m also going through this myself to decide on a new direction for my life. (See? Abandoning old goals can be great.)

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Vita Jym Review – Should You Take Multivitamins?

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Only one in ten Americans eat enough fruits and veggies.

Of course, this isn’t shocking to anyone, but the problem is that by not eating enough, we deprive our bodies of the essential nutrients we need. Also, so many people in the fitness industry are constantly pushing macro nutrients (IIFYM – protein, carbs, fats) while completely ignoring the micronutrients.

If you want to know the science, you can read the study on why micronutrients are completely essential, here. The main point to know is that micronutrients play an essential role in almost every single thing our body needs to do. Although that study did conclude that there needs to be more research done if micronutrients play an essential role in fighting disease, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it will 100% be the case.

I avoided taking multivitamins for years because they always made me nauseous, but when I heard Jim Stoppani was releasing a multivitamin, I had to order it and see how it worked for me.

If you’re looking for the fast answer to the question: I will never go back to another multivitamin.

That usual nauseous feeling from multi-vitamins? Yeah, these don’t have that.

Vita JYM is missing quite a few micronutrients (zinc, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin D). The reason for this is simple: these interfere with other micronutrients in a standard multivitamin. You can read the complex science behind that: here. When you have a multivitamin that includes everything, you’re not absorbing everything because some are canceling out in your digestive system. Essentially, most multivitamins are a waste of money and they also are depriving your body of what it needs.

Don’t worry, though. He has a simple plan if you read that article above on how you can fit in your other micronutrients that he has taken out so you have a full and complete system.

Sure, it’s time-consuming to have to take multiple vitamins throughout the day to get them all in, but it’s better than taking a vitamin where you’re not even absorbing most of the micronutrients you need.

Although so-called “experts” keep claiming that vitamins are a waste of money, I would bet that a lot of these vitamins lose their power due to the other BS in them that cancels out the benefits.

Vita Jym is the best vitamin on the market that I can find, and believe me when I say I’ve spent years looking for a quality vitamin.

You can find Vita JYM at Amazon: here.*

 

*WritersLiftToo.com is a member of the Amazon Affiliate program.

The Case for Becoming A Superhero

After seeing Captain America: Civil War, my love for superheroes has grown even more.

(Side note: Just so we’re clear I’m Team Cap from now until forever. If you’re interested, you can read these blogs and determine your stance: Team Cap vs. Team Iron Man.)

It isn’t even a nerd thing, okay it’s a little bit of a nerd thing, but it’s also a realization about all the attributes our world so desperately needs: honor, commitment, hard work, dedication to a cause, putting everything on the line for what’s right, and everything else we love about superheroes.

More than ever before, we need superhero virtues.

And yes, fitness plays a huge part in all of this.

Look, I understand this isn’t a “sexy” thing to talk about.

It’s easier to get some half-naked pictures and sell you on some superficial “magical” secret to get the abs you’ve always wanted.

Abs are great.
But an empty life is not.

I’ve seen the people who chase the bullshit, and I’ve seen the people who chase the real fulfillment.

The real deal is what this blog is for and what I’m going to talk about from now until forever.

There are a lot of people out there who think that fitness is a superficial endeavor. There are also quite a few people who think that fitness isn’t “deep” and it’s simply just exercise and nothing else.

However, after you’ve worked as a trainer and seen the joy in someone’s face when they realize they can walk up the stairs on their own after not being able to for years, you realize that health is so much deeper than just how you look.

Fitness is simply a tool for a better life.

Superheroes know they need to stay in shape so they can complete all their missions.

Of course, most of us aren’t out there doing daring missions every single day, but continuing to stay in shape for anything life throws at you is one decision you will not regret.

Stop being passive

I’ve met too many real-life villains and people that fell into what Hannah Ardent called The Banality of Evil. Basically, it means being passive in the face of evil and continuing to go along with the program. Actually, that’s an incredibly simplified version of it but roll with it.

I’ll bet you’ve met similar people. The kind of people who don’t care about anything but their own selfish gain. They pay no mind to their communities, families, the businesses they give their money to, or anything else.

Too many people are more invested in the Game of Thrones than in their own lives.

If you truly care about something, act like it.

The world already has enough people who don’t care about anything at all or only care about things at a superficial level.

You know what you care about. You know what matters to you. Stop pretending like it doesn’t matter.

Get your health in order

Few superheroes are out of shape. Of course, they are mostly perfected and enhanced versions of what humans look like, but that doesn’t matter.

Losers sit around and debate which superhero actors did or did not take steroids, but smart people realize those debates don’t matter.

What matters is the inspiration to reach for more.
To do better.
To be a better person.
To serve the world in a positive, helpful way.

Get in the gym, get on a program, don’t eat your way into an early grave, and stretch once in awhile (something I’m constantly working on).

Do it so you have the energy and vitality to accomplish all the goals you want in your life.

Find something to fight for

Although this was mentioned above, there is something to be said for not only acknowledging what matters to you, but also acting on it every single day.

I recently took some time off of work to really sit and think about what mattered to me.

During that time, I realized that the career I was working so hard toward didn’t matter to me any longer and that I wanted other things out of life now.

Once you know what matters, it’s essential to not only acknowledge it, but to work toward what matters every single day.

Every single superhero has a cause they believe in so hard that they’re willing to die for it at any moment.

I’m not saying you need to sacrifice your life for something, but you need to ignite that passion inside of you again.

That’s what I realized I lost over the last few years: that burning desire to continue to fight for the things I want day in and day out. Especially once you’re crystal clear on what those things are.

Embrace failure

Every superhero fails. You’ll also fail on any journey, but it’s worth every single second of failure because if you are relentlessly persistent, you’ll win.

There will be times that will test you, where it will all seem ridiculous and you’ll debate quitting, turning back, and never attempting this goal again. That’s when it is even more important to get back on the horse and get back to work.

Failure is a part of the struggle, and the sooner you embrace that the greater the chance of winning.

You’ll miss gym days, you’ll binge too hard on food, you’ll fail that test, you’ll get injured, you’ll feel like quitting… Every single champion has those moments, too.

It’s cheesy, I know, but it’s truly the getting back up that separates the winners and the whiners.

Suit up and get it done.