In the day and age that we live in, people are more connected than ever. For the most part, is a great thing. It has allowed knowledge to be more readily available and support to be closer and easier to find in virtually every aspect of life. The fitness/gym world was not spared from this. In fact, it has flourished on online forums, social media, and other outlets that didn’t exist not too long ago. One thing that has come from this that could be perceived as a negative is that it has made the world so small that you regularly and routinely see people with what I would consider world-class genetics performing acts of strength, agility, flexibility, and endurance. This has led to me seeing in many YouTube videos, Instagram posts, and Facebook status people talking about how “they could never do that.” They say things like, “…the only reason athlete XYZ looks like that is their genetics”, or make up some other excuse to not even get started or try.
This bothers me because while it is true the upper echelon of just about any sport or athletic community was born to do what they do, the average human being is capable of truly incredible things when the mind is set to do something — and they execute the necessary steps to reach their goal. In light of this, I spent a lot of time thinking about things that don’t require talent or world class genetics to do, and arrived at the following list. If you can look yourself in the mirror at the end of the day and say that you are doing most or all of the things on this list, and do it with consistency, I think you might be very surprised just how much progress you can make.
1. PREPARE YOUR FOOD
By far the most important thing you can do for yourself is to prepare your food. There’s an old saying that goes “by failing to prepare, you prepare to fail” and this couldn’t be more true when it comes to nutrition. Nutrition is single-handedly the most important thing when it comes to reaching any type of fitness goal; whether it be muscle gain, fat loss, or just being healthy in general.
Set aside a couple hours 2 days a week, and prepare your meals for the next couple of days. By doing so, it will be much harder to make excuses and fall off the wagon on your nutrition plan.
2. DRINK PLENTY OF WATER
Most people do not drink enough water, and they are doing their body a great disservice by doing so. Being properly hydrated is critical to just about every function in your body, from muscular contraction, to digestion, to allowing your kidneys to filter out toxins from your body. Not only can drinking enough water optimize your body’s every day functions, it has been proven time and time again that drinking enough water can aid in fat loss and increase satiety between meals.
If you’re wondering how much water you should be drinking, I typically recommend that you multiply your ideal bodyweight by 0.8, and the number you get is the minimum amount you should be consuming in ounces per day.
3. BE CONSISTENT
Great physiques are not built in weeks, or even months. Achieving anything worth mentioning is going to take consistency, doing what you are supposed to be doing in terms of nutrition, training, and supplementation day in and day out. Everyone is going to have an off day or a missed meal here or there, but what is important is that you get back on track and make sure your slip ups are as few and far between as possible.
4. TRAIN YOUR BEST
Never just go through the motions with anything. Have a purpose and train like a person on a mission—from the time you step foot in the gym, hit the weights, do your cardio, or whatever else you do to stay active. Your body changes because it adapts to the stress you put it under, so you always have to give it your all when it is time to go to work. Something that I have found that always helps me train as hard as possible is to have a training partner that you train with regularly. By having a good training partner, you have someone to push yourself against, and someone that can call you out when they know you aren’t giving your best.
5. MAKE A GOOD TRAINING PROGRAM
In order to maximize your efforts both inside and outside of the gym, you should take time to research a well thought out training program that lends itself towards the achievement of your goals. If you want to get stronger, look for a strength based program, if you want to get bigger, look for a hypertrophy based program. Most importantly though, find a program that you enjoy doing and works for your body. If you don’t know where to start, there are a multitude of great programs here on bodybuilding.com that have very detailed workouts, progress trackers, and community support!
6. SUPPLEMENT WISELY
While nutrition is king when it comes to making progress and getting your body to change in the way you want, supplementing smartly can definitely speed up your progress. Supplements that I believe should be in every gym goer’s bag include whey protein for after training and BCAA’s for during and after training. If you are trying to gain size or strength, I am also a firm believer in supplementing with creatine, as it has been proven safe and effective through scientific studies time and time again. Finally, while it isn’t necessary, a quality pre-workout can give you an energy boost while you train, as well as supply several performance enhancing ingredients such as beta alanine, citrulline, and taurine. I personally use Labrada’s BCAA Power and SuperCharge! Pre Workout.
7. GET SOME GOOD REST
One of the most overlooked aspects of maintaining a healthy body and making progress in the gym is making sure your body is getting enough sleep. While sleeping, your body is able to recover much more effectively, your brain rests and replenishes neurotransmitter functions responsible for a number of functions in your body, and your body has its main release of growth hormone. Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night, and you should be in good territory.
8. HELP YOUR BODY RECOVER
When you’re performing strenuous physical activity, such as lifting in the gym, you are causing damage on a microscopic level to your body’s skeletal muscle. You’re probably very familiar with this damage, as it manifests itself in the form of muscle soreness. While your body will recover on its own without any help, there are a multitude of things you can do to aid this recovery. Massage, foam rolling, stretching, icing, and Epsom salt baths are all great recovery tools that you can employ to help get rid of your muscle soreness faster, and keep your body healthier.
9. SET, TRACK, & REACH GOALS
When setting goals, make sure you set both micro and macro goals. It can be discouraging to have a long-term goal that will take months or years for you to achieve, and nothing to shoot for in the interim, which is why micro goals are important. For example, if you want to lose 5 inches off your waist, set that as your long-term goal, and then set your micro goal to lose an inch per month. That way, you can enjoy tastes of success while you are on your way to your macro goal. These small successes will keep you motivated and wanting to work, instead of getting discouraged by how far you still have to go. You can also apply the same system to achieving new PR’s in the gym, new levels of consistency with your nutrition, and anything else you want to strive towards.
10. POSITIVE ATTITUDE & ENERGY
This is by far the most important thing on this list. By having a positive attitude, and giving off a positive energy, you will enjoy what you do so much more. No one wants to do something they don’t like, and no one wants to be around someone with a bad attitude. By having a positive attitude about your training and nutrition, you will learn to look forward to doing things that are making you better. By giving off a positive energy, you will be able to promote a healthy lifestyle to others, as they will be drawn to you and want to know what you do.
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