You’ve made the decision to get in shape and made the commitment we discussed previously. Now it’s time to get started. Day one is the easy part, it’s the days after when it becomes more difficult to stay with it. Here are some tips on what you should focus on during your first 90 days.
Build a Foundation
The natural temptation is to jump in and go all out on day one. I’m not saying you shouldn’t push yourself from the start, but there are right and wrong ways to go about it. We aren’t running a sprint here. The first 90 days are about building a strong foundation that will support the rest of your journey. Think tortoise and the hare…
Chances are there’s a lot you don’t know about diet, exercise, and fitness, otherwise, you’d have an infomercial. Your beginning should be a time for learning all kinds of things about exercises, nutrition, etc, etc.
Spend time learning each movement and exercise. I knew what a squat was, but I didn’t know the proper way to perform one. I had to learn about foot placement, tightening the core, keeping my back flat, knee direction, how to grip the bar, pushing through the heels, and proper head position. It took multiple workouts to get comfortable with just one exercise so don’t be in a hurry to start adding weight and lifting heavy.
With Crossfit, your coaches show you everything. If you’ve joined a regular gym it might be wise to hire a personal trainer for a few sessions to show you the equipment and teach you how to use it. You might also have an experienced friend that can show you the ropes and help you get started. YouTube is a fantastic resource where all kinds of professionals will teach you for free. Even if you have a coach or personal trainer, tap into this source of knowledge!
Whatever you choose, take the time to learn proper technique and movement and how to do each safely.
As you learn each movement, pay attention to proper technique. Watching an experienced athlete do a power snatch makes it look simple, but when you see it coached and broken down into component parts you can see how complex the movement really is.
Proper technique helps prevent injury, improve efficiency, and allows you to lift more weight. It can take years to get good at some movements so always be learning and improving. A great way to do this is to have someone watch you that has experience coaching. Cell phones also make it easy to have someone shoot a video of you so that you can review it and see what might need work.
Even professional athletes hire coaches and trainers to help them improve technique. Even after years of lifting I still find new cues and pointers that help improve my technique. I visited a different gym once and a coach saw me doing overhead squats with what was close to my max weight. He made one change to my arm position and the weight felt like it got fifty percent lighter!
Developing core strength will help you get stronger while preventing injury. There was no way I was going to be able to squat heavy until I strengthened all the stabilizer muscles that support the rest of the body. Instead, I scaled the weight back on my squats and did a lot of air squats and wall balls. After about 6 weeks I was able to start loading the bar a little heavier and pushing harder.
Take an early interest in learning some mobility exercises. Flexibility is a component of mobility, but true mobility is more about range of motion. Stretching (flexibility) only focuses on muscles that might be short and tight. Kelly Starrett of MobilityWOD defines mobility as “a movement-based integrated full-body approach that addresses all the elements that limit movement and performance including short and tight muscles, soft tissue restriction, joint capsule restriction, motor control problems, joint range of motion dysfunction, and neural dynamic issues. In short, mobilization is a tool to globally address movement and performance problems”.
My squat improved by leaps and bounds when I started working on my hip and ankle mobility. I am able to get into a much better position to lift which allows me to fully use the muscle group in a way that I couldn’t before. My first workout after a lower-body mobility class resulted in a back squat PR.
Kelly Starrett started MobilityWOD by uploading short videos to YouTube every day. He has become the mobility guru and you can find tons of information on his site (free and paid). A YouTube user compiled a list of 194 of these episodes in one place. If you have soreness or tightness somewhere, you can probably find a solution on this list.
Myofascial release has greatly improved my ability to prepare for a workout and to recover from one. I did some heavy deadlifting yesterday and almost couldn’t straighten up afterward. The first thing I did was grab a foam roller and get on the floor for about 5 minutes. Today my back feels great. Here is an article that explains myofascial release and how to use your foam roller. I found it cheaper to get through Amazon than any local sporting goods store.
Just as important to my mobility work is the lacrosse ball. This is great for areas of the body where a foam roller might be too large, or where you want a more concentrated focus on a specific point. I use the lacrosse ball for most of my mobility work with the exception on quads, hamstrings, and lats. Not only that, it’s uber-portable! I always have one in my carry on bag when I fly. I also have two in my gym bag, one in my desk at work, and one in my nightstand.
A lot of what it takes to stay with a program is building inertia (i.e. a body in motion tends to stay in motion…). The best way to do this is to show up. Getting to the gym was always the hardest part of my workout. I was “too tired, too busy, going tomorrow” blah, blah, blah. If you remember my advice a few days ago, then you’ve made a 90-day commitment. Set a target, maybe 3 days per week, and SHOW UP.
90 days will also give you time to build some habits that will help keep you on track. Here are some examples:
- Show up consistently
- Plan your workout days a week at a time
- Put in on your calendar (make an appointment with yourself!)
- Plan your meals for the week
- Choose healthy foods each day
- Cut out as much added sugar as you can
- Get your gym clothes/bag ready the night before
- Plan your workout before you go
- Develop a routine
Each of these things can help remove an excuse to fail. They are what can make the difference between fulfilling your 90-day commitment, or coming up with a reason to not do the work for a few days and then giving up because you didn’t follow through.
90 Days To Success
This is how I gave up eating fast food for almost every meal. Each time I wanted a burger and fries, I told myself just eat healthy for this meal. I didn’t think about how many times I was going to have to make that decision in a week. The same method applies to your workouts. If there is a workout on your calendar today, just go. Don’t think about it, show up. Do that each day and you’ll build consistency, momentum, and develop the habit.
Don’t try to undo years of bad choices and habits in a few months. This is a journey, not a sprint. If you stumble, move on. You can’t change your past, but you can certainly shape your future!
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