I’ve been strength training now for nearly 7 years, and I’ve come a very long way in that time. However, the journey hasn’t always been smooth and I’ve learned many things over the years that, had I known earlier, might have pushed me towards my goals much sooner. With that said, here are 5 things I believe everyone should know before embarking on their own fitness journeys.
Rest and recovery are super important
It’s easy when starting out with fitness to be impatient. When I first started training, I was super motivated by the progress and changes I saw early on, and I just wanted more. Initially, I only did a few sessions per week because I was new and inexperienced. But, with every session I felt like I was getting results and so I started doing more and more sessions, because if a little bit of training has good results, then lots of training must have even better results. Right?
Well, that’s not the case. It’s one thing to want to train hard, but it’s another thing entirely to train so frequently and so intensely that it hurts to move for days afterwards. At some point, you stop making progress and you run the risk of injury. So, if you want to ensure you can keep making progress throughout your fitness journey, it’s important recognise the importance of sleep and recovery—sometimes you just need to take a step back and have rest.
Don’t be afraid to eat
A lot of people start their fitness journeys with body composition goals at the forefront—myself included—and the initial approach is usually to consume fewer calories. For some people this will be a good approach. However, others who are new to training (like I was), might actually need to eat more than expected. Lots of people have body composition goals that require muscle growth (even for people wanting to “tone” or get lean), and if you haven’t trained before, there’s a good chance you don’t have the muscle needed to hit those goals (I say this from firsthand experience).
You should also make sure you are eating enough for proper recovery to keep progressing (this also ties in with the rest/recovery mentioned earlier). Now, it is important to note that diet and nutrition are different for every individual, and what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. Different goals and lifestyle factors require different approaches, so you should always seek professional advice if you need help creating or following a diet.
Don’t skimp on learning proper movement
This is a big one. Moving safely and efficiently is a huge part of creating a successful fitness journey, and it’s something you should prioritise early on. Injuries can be a huge setback for progress, and it’s much harder to be motivated or consistent when training feels like an uphill battle.
My best recommendation is to find someone who has experience teaching proper movement patterns to make sure you have the knowledge and confidence to safely achieve your fitness goals. If you’re new to fitness or to gyms, it can be hard to know who to go to, so if you’re looking for some help, you can always take a look at our extensive movement library or enquire for a free movement assessment.
Have goals outside of how you look
There’s nothing wrong with having body composition goals—it’s how many people first get into training and fitness. But having goals outside of what your body looks like is incredibly important for the longevity of your fitness journey. Setting performance goals such as getting your first pull up, improving your 5km run time, or hitting a 100kg squat, are a great way to shift the focus from what your body looks like to what it can do. The best part is, these goals allow you to make progress no matter where you are in your fitness journey—as you reach one goal, you can choose to push it further or focus on another movement. Plus, the pursuit of performance goals can just as easily push you closer to your body composition goals at the same time.
Try different things and find what you enjoy
At the end of the day, whatever your goals are, you have to enjoy your training if you want your fitness journey to last. Now I’m not saying you have to love every session (some sessions will always be better than others, and sometimes training is just hard), but if you want to keep progressing you need to be doing something that fits your lifestyle and motivates you to continue.
Some people like powerlifting-based training, other people like a bodybuilding-based approach, and some people like a more Crossfit-based approach (if you’re like me, you might like them all at some point). So, try a few different styles of training, but remember that some styles of training will be better suited to some goals than others (e.g., long distance running is probably not the best style of training if your goal is to put on muscle mass). But again, if you enjoy what you’re doing, you’re more likely to consistently put the work in, and that is what is going to get you the results in the long run.