8 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started My Fitness Journey

When you start an exercise routine, I want you to keep these things in mind.

Where it all began for me:

8 things I wish I knew about fitness: Where it all began for me

Like many others, I was an active kid. I would ride my bike until the sun went down, play baseball in the neighborhood’s open field, shoot hoops in somebody’s driveway. I was interested in doing what my friends were doing, gymnastics, soccer, cheerleading, volleyball. Said yes to everything and I tried out for every sport I was interested in, sometimes I made the team, and other times I did not.

Adolescent years brought some bodily changes. I played through them and stayed on track with good grades, always keeping myself buy at practice for whatever activity I was doing.

When I was in cheerleading I spent a good majority of my time with my team, practicing, doing extracurriculars, competitions, football games every weekend. It kept me busy and it kept me moving.

I had a strong desire to be on a team back in high school. It was where I felt the most important and I loved the relationships that I had with teammates. I didn’t make the cut for the high school volleyball team. I didn’t even bother trying out for the cheerleading team because I lost complete motivation (must have been the rollercoaster of hormones). Those years were crucial, if I could rewind to those moments, I would have tried out for everything and kept working hard to get back on a team (where I knew I was happiest). Instead, I decided to find my own friends—not the best people I ever befriended–but friends nonetheless.

These girls were interested in partying, but I was not. I wanted to exercise, I wanted that team mentality, the rigorous schedule, and the higher standard. Soon, I discovered the gym and group fitness at a very young age. I was only sixteen years old when I started working out.

Like a deer in the headlights, I would walk through the line of machines, performing repetitions on each machine. There was no plan or goal, just a desire to use my muscles and expend energy.

My friend and I decided to start working out together. I loved going, but she was less motivated than I. After a couple of months, my friend stopped showing up. I went to the gym alone.

Dale The Group Fitness Instructor

Spin class

I was seventeen when I discovered group fitness classes. The first class I ever took was a spin class with an instructor named Dale. While his long legs thundered rapidly on the flywheel, he talked to everyone in the class. He told us his story. His story was a familiar one, that described being an overweight single guy who just got sick of being “that guy.”

While he spun and bounced around he said he lost over one hundred pounds. He described that exercise was the key to his weight loss success. The instructor motivated us by reassuring the women of the class that they would not get bigger thighs from spinning, and the men that cardio was equally as important as lifting weights. He appealed to the gender conformities that typically occur in a big box gym setting.

I continued to attend his classes as frequently as possible. My love for the gym grew and grew, I didn’t feel as lost as I once had when I first started. Things were getting better. My body was changing. I had developed confidence in my abilities to put together a workout routine.

Putting together my own workout routine felt great, I thought I knew what I was doing, but then I started to get a lot of unsolicited coaching from the personal trainers. The trainers noticed me trying to change my body, and noticed my changing body. The adlib coaching was helpful but also played a role in my body image. I was so young and still working on self-love and self-confidence.

Ten Years Later

Ten years later

At twenty-seven years old I had graduated college, found an amazing place in the corporate world (training new hires and learning about adult education), bought a house, and then it happened! My boyfriend at the time proposed, I said YES, and the wedding planning began the following week.

We had been dating for many years, so choosing a wedding date was easy. The difficult part was our location, we had moved across the country and been living happily in Arizona. Both families still resided in Chicago, so it was inevitable that our wedding would be a Chicago-based wedding.

The lifestyle I had been living included a workout routine, but my job was mainly sedentary in the office. If I didn’t get my workouts done in the morning, it was most likely that I would not make it for any workout. This was when nutrition and eating habits changed a lot for me. I was newly engaged, wanting to look my best for my wedding day, and knew I had some work to do.

I hired a personal trainer six times a month. I’m lifting heavy weights, leaving sore after every visit. My body was changing rapidly and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I wish I could say that I had been following some special diet, but at the time I wasn’t.

Protein was important to me during this time because I was following a body-building type of fitness plan.

After a year I was ripped and ready to rock my wedding dress and head off to an awesome honeymoon.

Returning back to reality from wedding bliss was shell-shocking. My routine and my eating habits went a little haywire, but I always stayed vigilant on my fitness journey. I never let go of the workouts, but my body stopped responding to the same foods in the same way.

8 things I wish I knew about fitness: Change

Change Is Necessary

Here are eight things I wish someone would have told me when I started working out:

  1. You do not have to work out seven days a week to see significant results. Exercising excessively in this way is not healthy for your body, your mind, or your overall health. The amount of fatigue that you feel from performing this many training sessions is counterintuitive for burning fat and seeing great results. Instead, lift heavy weights, do your best, and you really only need 30 -45 minutes of cardio.
  2. Sleep is important. Sleep is so important to your overall health and happiness. Without the proper amount of sleep, your body cannot recover properly. Recovery and muscle growth happen during rest periods.
  3. There are no amount of crunches that will give you a six-pack. Most women do not have six-pack goals when going to the gym, but the guys do! Working on your core is necessary for aging, balance, and stability, but six-packs are made in the kitchen.
  4. Forming a 5-day split plan for the weight lifting routine is important and will help you stay on track with your personal goals. Do not skip leg day! Training the biggest muscle group in your body will give you the biggest calorie burn for at least 48 hours after. Plan leg day for a Monday, after you have rested for the weekend and have all your energy and power.
  5. Find your grit. Falling down and always choosing to get back up is important in a weight loss and fitness journey. If you have a bad day, a lazy day, or a day when you eat too much or a big piece of cake, it’s ok! Just get right back to it the next day. Your grit is that undying determination to win to succeed to better yourself and to push through adversity.
  6. Find grace in all of this hard work. When your plate is really full with work, family, scheduling, activities, LIFE, allow yourself some flexibility. It’s okay to back down and take some rest time, some chill time.
  7. Find balance in your daily life. Grinding away at your weight loss goals, your exercise routines, your job, your family, trying to be the perfect parent is too much! Rethink what really matters, and everything else will have to come after that. Being a little bit selfish while you find your balance is okay.
  8. Be patient with yourself. Did you know that weight loss takes time? Doing this in a healthy, sustainable way is going to take time. As you slowly work at it, you learn new tips and tricks, you get stronger, you get smarter, and you get wiser. 45 pounds should take about six months and stay off if you do it right!

Macronutrients are so important when you are trying to lose weight, manage weight and gain muscle.

There are many macro calculators out there that make it “easy” to figure out. These number crunchers are lacking one major component, the human component. The calculator doesn’t know if you are sedentary, how many steps a day you take, if your metabolic rate is already in great shape, or if you have a rare condition that causes complete laziness.

Learning about the biggest segments of our nutrition, (Fat, Carbohydrates, Proteins) what they do, how much you really need, how these major players help your body to absorb the proper micronutrients from food, is SO IMPORTANT.

Food - macronutrients

My passion in life has always been based on food. Food feeds us, fuels us, and takes our bodies on a journey of health and prosperity, or disease and depression.

What we put in our mouths absolutely matters.

Without protein, our bodies cannot repair muscles and bones. Protein also helps make hormones and enzymes, another vital role of protein is simply energy.

The body would never be able to produce fat on its own. Fat or fatty acids need to be eaten.  

We must eat fats, they help our bodies absorb vitamin A, D, and E (fat-soluble) meaning they can only be absorbed with the help of fats.

Without Carbohydrates, our bodies would not receive the fiber, starches, and glucose that it needs to function. Complex carbs in fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain products are less likely to spike blood sugar. Excessive carb intake is unnecessary to live a balanced healthy life.

One thing I learned very early on in my life is that candy, cakes, refined sugars, are very bad for your body and for your teeth. Most of us do not examine the number of sugars that are present in our food, or in our drinks.

It is a secret weapon brought on by the food industry and big pharma to keep people addicted to food, sick, needing doctors and dentists, and churning a profit for the big companies. Sugar is the biggest enemy to weight loss, overall health, and longevity.

If you want to cut out something completely, cut out the refined sugar!