This is it. The year where you finally get in shape. You’ve got those lovely new Gym Shark sweats, you’ve found that gym around the corner, the bank card is ready to sign up to that Direct Debit. You want to shift that extra weight you’ve been carrying, and you’ve signed up to that HIIT class for the next 6 weeks.
My advice – don’t.
And that’s not just because as a regular gym-goer I hate queuing for squat racks in January.
The reality is you’re simply not ready. We all know you’ll be super keen for maybe 3 weeks, and then spend the rest of the year paying the direct debit to a gym you’ve set foot in maybe a dozen times.
Here’s that time of the post for another teacher-Ben story.
I taught a bright but lazy kid. For the two years he was in my classroom, I’d estimate he’d spent around an hour total on the homework he’d done for me in that time. Maybe two. On the rare occasion he had submitted his homework, it had the distinct whiff of “done-quickly-in-break” (a classic of the genre I was a fan of myself).
As his GCSEs approached, he admirably decided to change the habit of a lifetime and actually start revising. With this in mind, he drafted an elaborate and extensive colour coded revision schedule, with hours of post-school work set aside. It was well-thought out, considered and tastefully made. The colour selection was sublime. However, upon being shown this quasi-cubist masterpiece my immediate thought was not one of hope for his ambitions. This kid had two chances of completing this schedule – slim and no. Despite this thought, I sent him away with what encouragement a sleep deprived teacher can muster and a pat on the back.
A week later, after I asked him how much he had actually studied. To his credit he confessed to doing very little. With further investigation, very little turned out to be nothing at all.
Here is where I confessed to him in turn I knew he wouldn’t meet his lofty goals. I told him that he was way too ambitious with what he was actually capable of from what effectively was a standing start. I told him that if he managed to do just 15 minutes of study in a day, that would be a dramatic improvement on what he had done up to this stage and he might actually be able to do it. Just give me 15 minutes a day this week, then we’ll go to 20 minutes next week.
When he drafted his super elaborate schedule, he was setting his expectations by a theoretical calculation based on his inaccurate perception of his ability, a vague sense of what he could do with his potential, and his current level of guilt around not doing anything. This had led to him calculating way, way out of what was achievable even for the most disciplined of people.
Thanks for the story time Ben – what’s your point?
You are that student. In all likelihood, you haven’t been in a gym in months. You haven’t exercised properly since this time last year. Going to the gym is the equivalent of designing a highly elaborate revision schedule having only submitted a grubby essay last minute in total up to that point.
So if you want to lose weight, if you want to build some muscle, please, please don’t go to the gym. Start with the basics.
If you want to lose weight, simply walk more, and be in a calorie deficit. To do this doesn’t require much from you – complete a walking workout for 30-60 minutes a day (get your heart rate to above 100 BPM) and download a food tracker for free. Walking is the most effective weight ‘fat burning’ exercise you can do. It’s why you’ll see rows and rows of bodybuilders walking on treadmills. Nothing elaborate, no diet plans here. That’s it. Just walk.
If you want to build muscle, you’re probably still not ready for the gym. If you can’t easily do 20 press ups over 5 sets in 5-10 minutes, going to the gym to bench press less than your bodyweight isn’t that useful. Find a basic bodyweight routine online and do that for a month. Before I even set foot in a gym, I did 6 months of prep.
If you want to make changes with the new year, something I’m all for, start small. Really small. Don’t fool yourself, don’t be that person. And for heaven’s sake, don’t put it on Instagram.