Fitness in hindsight: what I wish I would’ve known as a beginner - FOX34 Lubbock

Fitness in hindsight: what I wish I would’ve known as a beginner

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Carbs are your friend

I spent the first 3-4 months of my fitness journey basically keto. To me, carbs are what made me gain weight. Carbs are donuts, sugar, white bread, all the bad stuff you’re not supposed to put in your shopping cart. The sad part was, carbs were all my favorite foods. So I didn’t enjoy my diet. I ate what I thought I was supposed to and constantly craved the carbs I thought I wasn’t allowed to eat. 

Looking back, I wish I would’ve known how this macronutrient really works in my body. Carbs are a fuel source, plain and simple. Carbs are what my body uses for energy. As long as you are reading nutrition labels and focusing on whole, healthy carb sources, they will digest smoothly and go where they are supposed to go. When you are trying to transform your body, the amount of carbs you’re eating can make or break your physique. This food group is a very powerful aspect of any weight loss or muscle gain. They also provide a whole new level of intensity in your workouts because your body goes farther on a full tank. You can create your dream body and still eat carbs! Build a diet that makes you feel satisfied and happy as you work towards your goal. 

Less food doesn’t always mean weight loss

I thought I had to severely restrict my food to burn fat. I thought that no matter the other factors involved, as long as my body was in a caloric deficit, it would drop weight no problem. Input equals output. But I didn’t have any idea how adaptive our metabolisms are and what “starvation mode” really means.

For the first few weeks or months that you switch up your diet and cut down on calories, your body will start dropping weight. The severe food restriction will seem like its working. But that progress won’t last forever. If you stay at super low calories for too long, your metabolism will slow down and learn to survive on the limited amount of food you’re giving it. You’re barely eating, but the scale won’t move. It can feel extremely frustrating when you have put in all this work for no results.

I learned pretty quickly that my body needed food to lose weight. Yes, I had to change the way I was eating and make healthier choices, but I couldn’t starve myself. Especially if I ever wanted to build any muscle. Healthy dieting is making your food work for you, not getting rid of it all together. I had to undo the damage I had done to my metabolism and increase my food overtime to get back to a healthy place.

Cardio is just an option

It’s so common for people who are new to the gym to just jump on the treadmill. The machines are intimidating and the weight room is full of huge, buff dudes, so we stay in the corner on the elliptical where it feels safe. And runners are skinny right? So I’ll just do this to lose weight. But cardio alone can only accomplish so much when it comes to body recomposition. Cardio is great for creating a caloric deficit and burning fat. It picks up your heart rate, heats up your internal temperature and gets you sweating. It increases the amount of calories your body is able to burn at one time and can even keep your metabolism revved up hours after you leave the gym. That’s all well and good, until you’re just skin and bones with no muscle tone.

Cardio was my way of punishing myself. If I ate too many calories the night before, I would subject myself to over and hour on the stair climber until I felt like I’d burned it off. I thought that’s how all the fit girls on Instagram did it. The thought of it made me dread my workouts, but I told myself it had to be done. As soon as I cut down on my cardio and focused on weight training, my whole world changed. I felt better, looked better. I saw progress so much faster and gained some shape, instead of just looking thin. I got passionate about the gym because weight training had so much variation and room for growth. Weight training is what changed my body and my mind, not cardio. 

Not all weight gain is bad

I worked my butt off to shed over 20 pounds. When you dedicate so much blood, sweat and tears to weight loss, your biggest fear is gaining it back. Success is defined entirely by that goal number on the scale that you spent months working towards. That number is everything and you’ll put yourself through the ringer trying to maintain it.

When my goals shifted to muscle gain, my mindset had to change. I would get frustrated at the gym when I didn’t see any progress, but I would go home and weigh myself to make sure nothing had changed. I was just running in circles. As soon as I was willing to put my faith in body recomposition instead of weight loss, everything changed. If you want muscle, you have to gain weight. Period. But this is a good thing! It doesn’t matter that you’ve gained a few pounds because look at how different your body looks. I put the scale away and tracked my progress by how I felt in my skin. Pretty soon, weight was irrelevant. The muscle definition I finally saw in the mirror was more than enough. Muscle is heavy, strong, formidable and worth celebrating. You’re not that overweight person again just because the scale went up, you’re an entirely new creation.

Create a workout split

My first attempts at putting together workouts was a total mess. I would throw together full body circuits or just focus on the muscles I wanted the most for weeks at a time. All biceps, butt and abs. There was no organization to it and I had no idea what it would really take to build a balanced, full figured physique from head to toe. After learning more about bodybuilding and the science behind it all, I decided to sit down and put together a real workout regimen. 

I split up my muscle groups, ALL my muscle groups, and doubled up the ones that needed it. I stuck to my routine of working out 6 days a week and made sure every part of my body was being activated. Putting it all on paper guaranteed that I was leaving no stone unturned and no muscle underdeveloped.

For example, my workout split right now is shoulders&chest, biceps&triceps, quads&calves, glutes&hamstrings, back, and usually shoulders&chest again. I’ll do a quick ab circuit after my lifts twice a week as well. 

Don’t be afraid of heavy weight

When you get into the rhythm of working out, it’s easy to get comfortable. You figure out the weights you can lift and you just grind through your routine. I didn’t want to get to a point of huffing and puffing, with my heart beating out of my chest every day so I just didn’t. I kept the weight conservative and pumped out my reps. I didn’t get to failure very often, but I thought just going through the motions was enough. But before I knew it, my old weight just wasn’t cutting it. I was getting stronger and I had to push myself harder to keep seeing progress. I had to get uncomfortable and go for the heavy weight.

The squat rack was scary and all those plates looked like they’d crush me, but I pushed myself anyway. I set a goal and worked my way up to it. More often than not, I ended up lifting way more than I thought I could. Putting the extra demand on my muscles forced them to grow and perform better than before. It may leave you panting and laid out on the floor after your set, but heavy weight is what changes your body. No matter how many squats you can do at 130 pounds, the guy over there doing 2-3 reps of 250 is going to have bigger muscles than you. Big muscles are strong muscles and they’re built with heavy weight. Stop worrying about looking stupid or failing. Worst case scenario, you just get up and try again. Believe in yourself and push your limits.

Dream bigger

No matter how much progress I made in fitness, I told myself that it was too late for me to do anything great. There were tons of people that started a decade before me and were already in the pro leagues at my age. I could look good for the average person, but nothing incredible. That is just absolutely not true. 

Go train for that powerlifting meet. Start prepping for that bodybuilding show. Try out for that sports team you love. There is no age limit on health and fitness. Set bigger goals, chase bigger dreams. Don’t count yourself out just because your journey looks different than someone else’s. You set your own bar, you decide the limits of your own potential. Don’t sell yourself short. You won’t know what you can achieve until you try.

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