I used to be a happy-go-lucky type when it came to fitness.
I’d go to the gym, do what I thought was fun or do things that I liked and was good at, and then take a protein shake and forget about it.
While this was fun, it probably comes as no surprise that I made next to no progress. Yep, I stayed the same for years, spinning my wheels.
It wasn’t until I finally got serious that I started to make the progress I wanted to see.
Now I push myself well out of my comfort zone and stretch the boundaries of what I though was possible. I’m well on my way but still have a long way to go, and I know I’ll have to get even more serious to become elite.
Indeed, serious fitness requires that you actually get serious. You just can’t take a whimsical approach to it if you actually want to get seriously strong, fast, powerful, muscular, and lean.
Now if you just want to move your body a few hours a week for health reasons that’s fine. But you’re probably in the wrong place.
Here we want next-level fitness, and next-level fitness means you’re going to have to push yourself past your limits, out of your comfort zone, and into the danger zone (safely and smartly, of course). As they say, growth happens outside of your comfort zone, and the top gun never got to the top by staying comfortable.
So without further ado, here’s the blueprint on how to get serious and bring it to the next level.
Cultivate a Vision
You must cultivate a vision of your ideal self in the future.
In the future, how does your ideal self perform? How does your ideal self feel? How does your ideal self look?
Tie your vision to emotions. Imagine yourself in private or out in public with the health, the body, and the energy you want. Imagine what it will do for you in other areas of your life, imagine how it can transfer to the other areas of your life.
Keep this vision front of mind, and go to work bringing it to life.
Go All In
In order to get really truly fit, you must go all in.
You simply cannot be one fit in and one foot out.
Because getting fit will require lots of time time, plenty of sacrifice, and boatloads of discipline. You’ll train each day for sure, but you’ll also need to eat, sleep, and manage stress to recover. This is a commitment far beyond the gym.
Look, if you can’t or won’t devote a large chunk of your life to your fitness, well then I don’t know what to tell you, other than it just may not be for you.
As I said above, if you just want to work out for health reasons that’s totally fine! I’d rather have everyone do something than nothing at all. Just know that if you want to bring it to that next level, a next-level commitment is imperative.
You wouldn’t take up any serious activity without learning about it, would you?
If you were going to start jiu jitsu, you’d want to learn anything about it that you could in addition to practicing it daily.
If you were going to start restoring an old car, you’d want to study everything relation to restoring cars in addition to your daily garage time.
If you were going to take up the game of chess, you would study the ins and outs of the game in addition to daily practice.
It’s the same with fitness.
Now I’m not saying you need a PhD in anatomy and physiology, but you should definitely know some stuff, stuff like how energy systems work, what modalities are, and how nutrition, sleep, and stress play a role in recovery.
Assess Yourself Subjectively and Objectively
If you’re not assessing, you’re just guessing.
First, take a look at subjective stuff, such as:
- Health history and medications. Past injuries, disease, or medications can interfere with your ability to partake in an exercise program. Consult your physician before starting or modifying an exercise regimen.
- Occupation and recreational hobbies. Know how you move (or don’t move) all day. You want to discover repetitive movements that could be causing imbalances.
- Nutrition. You want to make sure you’re getting proper nutrition to support training.
- Sleep. You want to make sure you’re getting enough deep sleep.
- Stress levels. You want to make sure your stress levels aren’t too high.
Second, measure objective stuff.
- Movement. Assess your posture and the squat, hinge, pull, and push movement patterns to look for patterns of compensation.
- Body composition. Know how much you weigh, know what you’re ratio of lean mass to fat mass is (body composition), and know your girth measurements.
- Strength and power. Figure out your numbers for the foundational lifts to create a baseline.
- Conditioning. Use benchmark workouts. Personally I have several benchmarks I run through to test my conditioning (runs, rows, and MetCons).
- Mobility and Flexibility. Know how flexible you are, and if you can move your joints freely through their full range of motion.
Assessments will help you a. safely enter an exercise program, b. help you identify weak areas so that you can strengthen them up, and c. provide benchmarks to test and ensure progress.
So assess yourself (or get a friendly trainer or coach to assess you).
Get With the Program
Truth be told, a lot of stuff works when it comes to programming, and there is no “perfect” program. A program should just ensure you maintain optimal frequency, volume, and intensity for progressive overload and by extension adaptations to training.
Starting Strength (strength and power for beginners).
Wendler’s 5/3/1 (strength for beginners). I’ve never done 5/3/1 but from my research I’ve gathered it’s the real deal.
Reddit (Wiki) strength programs (strength for all levels).
CrossFit main site programming (all components for the intermediate to advanced). Scroll down until you see the date. Scale accordingly.
CompTrain (all components for the advanced).
Programming, Continued: Figuring Out the What, When, Where, How, and Why
The details are important.
Know what you’re doing. There should be no guessing games when you show up to train. You aren’t showing up and spinning a big wheel of fortune.
Know when you’ll train. What time of day, what days of the week, etc. Important: make sure you’re recovering between training sessions!
Know where you’re going to train. At a gym? At your home gym?
Know how train. Educate yourself on form, technique, sets, reps, etc. and changing certain variables leads to different adaptations. Read this site, read the sites above, and and always be learning something new.
And very important but often neglected…know why you’re training. Why do you want this? What is your overarching why? Keep this why close to heart.
Everything you do should have a purpose and bring you closer to your visions and goals.
Record Everything You Do
How can you know if you’re making progress if you don’t have anything to look back upon?
That’s why it behooves you to record everything.
How Should You Record?
Keep a Training Log on Your Phone or in a Notebook
This is the bare minimum of what you should do. Write it down, but also keep this information organized and easily accessible.
Get an App
Apps are great because they record everything but can also give you real data to go off of.
I use Beyond the Whiteboard, but there are plenty of others you can try as well.
So record everything! And…
Make Sure You’re Making Progress and Getting Better
You should regularly reassess and test to make sure you’re getting better over time.
Test your fitness regularly.
How often is regularly? Enough time to make and show progress. Personally I test my fitness every 2-3 months in many different ways (max lifts, MetCons, runs, and rows).
You should also look back over your training log regularly and see progress: more weight, more reps, more sets, faster times, etc.
Look, it shouldn’t be a guess as to whether you’re making progress or not. If someone questions you on your gains, bust out your training log and show them, then bust out 50 straight push-ups to hammer home the point.
Get Serious…Get Fit
You now have the blueprint…
Time to take action.