As a personal trainer and nutrition coach, I am often asked, “What is the best workout to do for (fill in the blank: abs, legs, to lose weight, to get better at running, etc).” Most of the time, the person asking hasn’t been doing much in the way of physical activity in a while. Maybe they have thought about getting started many times, but they get stalled out trying to decide WHAT to do. What will be most effective?
The truth of the matter is that when you are starting from a place of very little activity (i.e. sometimes you take the stairs instead of the elevator, but nothing much more strenuous than that on a consistent weekly basis) the specific program doesn’t matter. As long as the exercise program you commit to a) includes functional human movements (i.e. task-driven, full-body), b) raises your heart rate, c) forces you to interact with objects that feel heavy for you, and d) gives some focus on waking up sleepy muscles (here’s looking at you abs and glutes), you’ll see great results if you simply stick to it. Master the art of showing up. Three times per week. For about a year. That is all you need to focus on*.
Of course, if you can bring a little curiosity and a sense of humor with you when you show up, that will go a long way But even if you show up in a foul mood. Or sore. Or tired. It will be better to have done something than nothing. It is important to honor your limitations, and it doesn't hurt to let your coach know how your body is feeling on any given day so that they can adjust accordingly :).
What you are really doing in that first year of showing up is building a foundation of habit. The habit is like a mantra, in action: "At least 3 times per week, I dedicate time to moving my body". Carving out space for that in our hectic lives when we are not in the habit of doing it is a challenging task. There are a whole pile of things that will try to usurp the time you carve out for movement: work deadlines, family obligations, summer travel...you name it—we have run into it with our clients. The real task in the beginning is to consistently find that time for yourself. It will serve you better to show up to the gym and just move for an hour than to skip it all together. Why? Because it fulfills the primary goal: Show up, spend time moving.
Protect that time.
Master the art of showing up.
*There are a few exceptions to the “show up no matter what” rule, but that is a post for another day…