Let’s face it ladies — very few of us are programmed to hit the gym every day like clockwork. In fact, sometimes getting started is the hardest part! Hell, I work (and basically live) in a gym, yet it’s not always easy to get my training in and stay in the kind of shape I’d like.
But how do others do it? What separates the fitness phenoms from the also-rans? Here are the top ten factors differentiating women who have great success in the gym from those who don’t.
Does she know something you don’t?
1. Get Pissed and Commit!
If you’re serious about getting stronger and leaner — or just looking dead sexy, the first thing you absolutely must do is make a commitment. The key is to get to the point where you are so pissed off and frustrated with your body that you know you simply can’t wait any longer!
Even more importantly, you have to make the commitment to yourself. It’s easy to let other things get in the way — husband, boyfriend, kids, family, work… the list can go on and on. As I mentioned in my previous article, the best way to get going with this process is to set a goal for yourself and get it on the calendar immediately.
Beyond that, consider placing your goal other places you’ll see it as well — the refrigerator, the inside of your bathroom mirror, or even your car. The more often you’re reminded of your goal, the more likely you are to stick to your guns and achieve it!
2. Get Educated
After you’ve set your goal, the next step is to get educated. If your goal is to get stronger, read everything possible by those who’ve gotten themselves to a respectable level of strength.
If your goal is to get leaner and shed excess body fat, you’ll not only want to cover the training aspect, but the nutrition aspect as well. Quite simply, the more educated you are on how to go about achieving your goal, the easier it will be to git-r-done!
Now, if you have zero desire to get educated yourself, you do have another option: outsourcing. I’m sure I could teach myself to do my own accounting, but let’s be realistic here; I’m not that interested in the topic, and my time is much better served doing other things.
If this is the case with your training, look into hiring a personal trainer either at your local gym or even online. If you find the right person, their education should help you achieve your fitness goals.
3. Paralysis by Analysis: Don’t Let it Happen to You
I’ve worked with a lot of women in my day. Whether it was at the Division 1 level of college athletics, in a rehabilitation setting, or just the average gym-goer, many of the women I’ve encountered tend to overanalyze things.
I don’t mean to sound in any way chauvinistic, either. Instead, think about how this could be affecting your workout regimen.
You decide that enough is enough and you’re finally going to get into kick-ass shape. You set out to read everything possible to help you achieve your goals. The only problem is, there’s a lot of conflicting information out there.
If your goal is fat loss, should you perform straight sets or supersets? Should you do interval training? Or is steady-state work better?
And we haven’t even mentioned diet yet! Should you do low carb? No carb? Moderate carb? The list goes on and on.
Quite simply, it’s very easy to get inundated with the details. When you’re first getting started, however, just start doing something.
In reality, if you aren’t exercising and eating a terrible diet, just starting to exercise consistently and making a dedicated change to eating healthier will kick-start the progress. I wouldn’t even begin worrying about the exercise minutiae until your fat loss or strength gains come to a halt.
4. Get an Assessment
Yes, I’m biased; but I firmly believe that every person should be assessed before they initiate an exercise program. Here’s why.
At our gym, Bill Hartman and I assess each and every person who trains here. Whether they’re training with us three times per week, or are simply open gym members, we want to give them the greatest possible chance for success.
To do this, we have to know what their limitations are. Some people have old injuries, some people are more mobile than others, and some flat out need a total body overhaul.
It’s like taking your car in for a tune-up before you set out on a cross country trip — even if you don’t need any major fixes, at least you have peace of mind that your ride will be a lot smoother!
Each and every one of us is unique, so a cookie-cutter style program simply won’t work for everyone. By getting an assessment, you determine exactly how you’re different from others and how that will affect your training.
Finally, an assessment gives you a firm idea of your starting point. If your goal is to lose 10 pounds of body fat, how will you know when you’ve achieved that if you never test yourself up front?
5. Develop a Training Base
So you’re motivated and ready to get in the best shape of your life. Congrats!
Here’s a tip: Don’t burn yourself out right off the bat.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone hit the ground sprinting, only to come up lame after 20 meters with a limp!
When you’re starting out, you absolutely must ease into things. Unfortunately, watching shows like NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” makes people feel they should absolutely kill themselves right off the bat. Taking things to extremes makes for great TV, but it’s not the smart move in this little place I like to call “the real world.”
Instead, your body takes times to acclimate to your workout regimen. Your connective tissues like your joints, tendons, and ligaments need time to adapt to increased loading. Your heart and lungs need time to become more efficient at doing their job.
And possibly most importantly, from a mental standpoint, if you go in and make yourself miserable for two weeks, chances are you won’t be back for your Monday workout on the third.
There’s a time and a place to push the envelope, but the initiation of your training program isn’t one of them.
6. Don’t Be a Jack of All Trades
Far too often, I get a “wants” list from a new client that reads like the Indianapolis phone book. They want to become more flexible, leaner, stronger, improve their cardiovascular capacity, learn a new sport or hobby, etc. Quite simply, they want to do a little bit of everything!
Now, I’m not going to tell you this is bad. In fact, I totally respect the fact that you want to be good at a lot of different things! Especially in the beginning, smart training should help you achieve a certain degree of improvements in multiple physical qualities.
The key over the long haul, however, is to focus on one goal while maintaining your other fitness properties. Let me explain.
Let’s say you want to get in good enough shape to run a 5k, but you also want to put on some muscle mass and get stronger. If you trained for both of these goals simultaneously, you might achieve some degree of success — but it’s not going to happen as quickly as you’d like.
Instead, the smarter way to do things would be to focus on getting stronger for one, two, or three months, while simply maintaining your running capacity. Once you hit your strength goals, you can switch gears and focus on maintaining your strength while putting a premium on your running.
Wanna be fit, flexible, and hot? Fine; just don’t expect to accomplish it all at once!
It may sound simple, but this concept works. Shorter, more focused training cycles will always reap better results than trying to chase several goals at one time.
7. Hijack Your Kitchen
My wife and I (like most Americans), enjoy a good reality TV show from time to time. I remember watching a diet show a few years ago, where the trainer went into his clients’ home, collected all the junk food they had in the cupboards and kitchen, and literally threw it in the trash!
I think I even cried a little bit when they poured the Corona out, but I digress.
It was a little overly-dramatic, but they made a great point.
My good friend John Berardi once said, “If it’s in your kitchen, at some point, you will eat it.” I think we all know how true that statement is. So if you’re serious about getting into kick-ass shape once and for all, it’s time to go ballistic in your kitchen!
Start off in your refrigerator. The bulk of your food in here should consist of lean beef, chicken, fatty fish like salmon, Omega-3 eggs, fruits and vegetables. Most condiments suck, so ditch them whenever possible. Same goes for fruit juices, pop, etc.
Next, it’s on to your cupboards. Again, most of you naturally know the difference between “good” and “bad” foods. For grains/starches, make sure you’re eating whole grains — brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, bread, etc.
I always like to keep some almonds or mixed nuts on hand for snacking purposes. The usual suspects like chips, cookies, and other snack-type junk foods need to hit the road.
These changes will make a profound difference not only in how you look, but how you feel. Take charge and get your nutrition on the fast-track to success!
8. Stop Being Perfect!
One of the biggest issues I see with female trainees is the need to be perfect from the get-go. Granted, sometimes this is a personality trait vs. a gender trait, but I typically see women get more caught up in perfectionism than guys do.
When you’re starting out, you’re going to make mistakes. Your technique won’t always be flawless. Your program may not be perfect. Your diet will have good days and bad. But remember, it’s all about the journey and the process; enjoy it a bit!
This tip actually goes hand-in-hand with the following one.
9. Recognize Your Successes
Many of the women trainees I work with not only obsess over being perfect, but they also fail to recognize their own successes.
Want to know a great way to drive yourself crazy?
Here’s a good recipe: Obsess over every tiny aspect of your programming, and couple that with a dose of not giving yourself credit where credit’s due. Not only will you feel insane, but you’ll probably end up quitting altogether at some point in time!
I hate to sound like an armchair psychologist, but take the time every now and then to reflect on where you started and how far you’ve come. While our success may not be self-evident, that doesn’t mean we aren’t progressing.
Enjoy the process a little bit more and you’ll be much more inclined to succeed over the long-haul.
10. Lather, Rinse, Repeat!
This may be the most important tip, so please remember it.
It’s not always easy to get fired up for the gym and train hard. Sometimes, it seems damn near impossible to eat the right things when everyone around you is eating junk. And some days, you just won’t feel like training.
It’s natural. And it’s okay.
The absolute key, however, is to realize that this is a life-long process. More importantly, it’s a lifestyle. Once you take the plunge and get serious about taking care of your body, you can no longer plead the ignorance card.
You know what it takes to get in great shape, so it’s up to you to make the right decisions more often than not.
About the Author
Mike Robertson, M.S., C.S.C.S., U.S.AW., has helped clients and athlete from all walks of life achieve their strength, physique and performance related goals. Mike received his Masters Degree in Sports Biomechanics from the world-renowned Human Performance Lab at Ball State University.
Mike is the president of Robertson Training Systems, and the co-owner of Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training in Indianapolis, Indiana. Don’t forget to check out all of Mike’s products in the Biotest Store.