21 Nov Getting Started
While I consider myself a powerlifter, I have great respect for anyone and everyone who is willing to get into the gym and give it their all. But let’s face it getting started can be a bit intimidating. Far too often people get overwhelmed right out of the gate by all the information, or more to the point, misinformation on how and where to begin. The truth is that once you’ve made up your mind to get into shape, I mean really decide to change how you look and feel, the rest is fairly easy. Let’s take a go over what I believe are the three most important factors to consider once you’ve made that fateful decision.
Where to Train
Picking the right environment is paramount when it comes to successful training. I’m not a big fan of home gyms for the same reason I’m not a big fan of “working from home,” there are just too many distractions and too many chances you’ll never get your work done. So look for a gym (notice I didn’t say fitness center or health spa) either close to your work or home, check out any online reviews you can find, and see if you can get a free trial membership so you can test it out before you commit. Take the time to consider what you really need, far too often people pay for memberships that include a million-and-one services that they will simply never use. Also, try to get a feel for the personality of the facility, its important to make sure it’s the type of place where you can see yourself going week in and week out, for many of us the gym is our second home.
Solo or Partner?
There are plenty of activities that are great for going it alone, working out is not one them. Aside from having someone to endure the pain with, a good training partner brings many things to the table, not the least of which is safety. While initially flying solo at the gym may go smoothly, at some point you’re going to want to push things and test your limits. On these days having someone to not only watch out for you should you fail but to help you understand why you failed, can make all the difference. In the world of weightlifting/bodybuilding/powerlifting an outsider’s critique of a missed lift can mean the difference between success and failure the next time around. Another, and equally as important reason for a good training partner is quite simple: motivation. We all have different needs when it comes to boosting our will to train, for some a friendly clap and a “let’s go” will do, for others a bit more energy is required. Personally, I need all the help I can get and encourage my training buddies to do their best impression of R. Lee Ermey when spotting me, but that’s certainly not for everyone. Knowing when to push and when to back off your partner is something that can only be developed over time. However, regardless of your intensity level at the gym there will still be plenty of days when you just want to go home after work, get into your p.j.’s, eat Cheerios, and watch cartoons…it happens to the best of us. At times like these a simple phone call or e-mail may be all it takes to get you off the couch and moving some metal, its amazing how a little guilt can go a long way. Simply put, the importance of a good training partner cannot be overstated and certainly shouldn’t be overlooked.
There’s really no reason to get bogged-down in choosing a specific training program on day one, or even day two, its not that important…yet. When you’re just starting out almost anything will yeild results, the keys are consistency and simplicity. Block out a couple of hours a few times a week and get to work on basic movements, i.e. squat, bench press, and deadlift. Make sure to start and finish your routine on a treadmill or stationary bike, too often warm-ups and cool-downs are skipped in an effort to save time. This may not be much of an issue when you’re 18 but as you get older it becomes increasingly more important to help prevent injury and to aid in muscle recovery. At times a new gym can be overwhelming with all its exotic equipment and odd looking machines but there’s no reason to go nuts with fancy assistance exercises, learning the core lifts alone will do plenty to kick your butt so concentrate most of your time on them. Creative supplementary work will become necessary once your body begins to accommodate to your new regimen, no need to rush it. Finally, remember not to get carried away with poundage, the goal is to change your lifestyle and to get into better shape, not to ruin your week with crippling soreness or worse yet, an injury. There’s no shame in lifting with an empty bar, in fact it sends a clear signal to everyone that you’re there to do things the right way, and that’s the best way to gain the respect of your fellow gym-goers.
Shop around and find a gym that suits you best both in services and atmosphere and make sure it isn’t too far out of your way. Seek out a few like-minded folks and keep your training simple. Don’t get caught-up in the hype of majic weight loss pills or crazy looking exercise devices, its all just modern day snake oil. The only thing you really need is the desire for change, and not even the best gym salesperson in the world can sell that to you.
About the Author
Brent Smith is 2002 graduate of Montclair State University, he lives in Maywood, NJ, and works as a clerk at a Manhattan law frim. Brent trains at MidCity Gym in Hells Kitchen as well as Strong and Shapely Gym in East Rutherford, NJ. He competes raw and drug-free in the WNPF (World Natural Powerlifting Federation) in the 181 lb. weight class. Thanks mostly to his mentor and older brother Derek, Brent is obsessed with all things strength and powerlifting related and is a follower of the Westside philosophy. Brent hopes to to compete and help others in the sport for many years to come. Feel free to contact him at BCS102576@Yahoo.com.