If I Had To Start the Gym From Zero, This Is What I Would Do To See Progress Fast

Desiree Peralta
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Photo by Sabel BlancoPhoto bySabel Blanco

Despite starting the gym six years ago, it wasn’t until last year that I started having real progress there.

The reasons were not that my body had special conditions, that I didn’t train until the failure, or that I didn’t go every day to workout; it was simply that I didn’t have the correct habits and followed the wrong myths for a long time, which prevent me from seeing real results.

If I had to start the gym again, I would get the same results faster (probably one or two years) than in the last six years of training. That is because now I know exactly what my body needs to achieve results and what advice to follow.

For that reason, here I bring you everything I wish I had done when I started to get my body fit and what you need to follow if you are initiating and want to see results fast.

#1. I Would Learn How To Exercise Correctly in the First Month Instead of Adding As Much Weight As Possible.

If you ask any gym guru as a beginner what you should do, he probably will give you two pieces of advice:

  • First, the only thing that matters is to reach hypertrophy, so you should go to the gym and lift the more you can until you can’t anymore, and you will be good.
  • And second, you should never miss a day if you want to see progress.

The problem is that as a beginner, what really matters at the start is how you do it instead of how much.

Research shows that going to the gym every day when you are starting is one of the main reasons why people end up leaving the gym soon.

So if you go every day and start doing too much, you will get tired fast and probably get injured if you don’t know what you are doing.

Another mistake I made was going to the gym without a clear purpose, I didn’t have any routine, and I just used the machines that were available at that moment.

This made my muscles never get used to a specific routine and therefore could never workout to hypertrophy because I was constantly changing instead of focusing on strength.

You don’t need to dedicate your life to the gym to build muscle and look fit.It will be enough with a good and clear routine and going three times a week, especially if you are starting.

So if I had to start exercising again from zero, the three main things I will be doing to see progress fast is: to find a good routine that I could do three times a week, prioritize mobility instead of weight until I understand how to make exercise well, and know that rest is important too.

#2. Measure Myself From the Start To Establish a Goal.

Taking your measurement is a way to track your exercise, nutrition, and weight management progress. It can help you understand your body condition now, and it can be a way to understand what you need for the future and the effort you have to put in to achieve it.

When I started going to the gym, I did only and exclusively that: start going to the gym. I didn’t have any specific goal, just to be more physically attractive, and I didn’t have any other reference for my progress than old pictures.

This made me feel like I had never progressed. It got to a point where I thought I was going to the gym to get tired, but it had no other purpose.

When I started to take the gym more seriously, I decided to have a professional checkup to see my general condition.

When I had a clear vision of how I was, I had a clearer and more measurable goals: to lose my fat mass percentage (from 34% to at least 25%) and gain more muscle(at that moment, I had 91 pounds).

Having this clear helped me:

  • Find a routine that suits my goals and go to the gym with a clear purpose.
  • Finally see the progress I wanted because as I knew my condition, I could find routines and food that helped me achieve them.
  • Change approach if I don’t see measurable progress in a month.
  • Understand what I really want and need daily to achieve something outside the gym (the food I eat, the amount of sleep I need, etc).

Learning about the importance of measurements helped me also understand that there are three different body types, and what works for one person could not work for me, so I had to learn what approach goes more for my condition:

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Body types, image by Precision NutritionPhoto byPrecision Nutrition

Knowing your body type can show you where your body stores excess fat. This can also help you reduce frustration and let you know if you are on the right track.

#3. I Would Create a Well-Being Routine Outside the Gym That Complements What I Do There.

As I said before, as I was just going to the gym, I didn’t change anything else in my life. I continue my bad food habits, poor sleeping habits, and a sedentary and “normal” life overall.

This caused me not to see short-term results and focus on the wrong things.

However, proper alimentation, a good walk, drinking enough water, and sleeping well are essential to see good results in the gym, and it should be seen as a complement apart from a strength routine.

Several articles explain how sleep affects fitness; it helps our body recover, preserve energy, and repair and build muscle. Also, without good nutrition, we will not see results fast.

For that reason, if I had to start working out again, I would focus more on my life outside the gym than on what I do in those two hours because my well-being outside will depend on the good results I want to achieve there.

#4. I Would Not Spend Money on Protein Powder or Supplements.

One of the myths I believed when I started the gym six years ago was thinking that supplements were the magic formula to achieve my desired body.

However, without the proper alimentation, supplements will not work as expected.

In fact, supplements are not a substitute for a balanced or healthy diet and could be a distraction from a real healthy lifestyle that could have more benefits, according to research from Dr. JoAnn Manson, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Regarding protein powder, I used to believe that 1 cup of protein was the cure to my lack of alimentation daily. However, getting used to drinking protein as part of your day can act as a rebound effect when you stop everything.

So the best thing you can do is to start learning how to eat properly at the beginning because first, you will save money because you can get all the nutrients you need by eating well, and second, you will maintain that lifestyle even if you are not exercising, so you will not lose weight.

When you are starting, you don’t need a lot of things to see results because your body is exposed to new experiences, so the best thing you can do at the beginning is to learn how to eat and exercise properly, which would be enough.

#5. I Would Never Skip Cardio or a Good Walking Session.

Since I started the gym very skinny, one of the things I didn’t see as necessary to do was cardio. I wanted muscles and good mass, so doing cardio seemed the opposite of my goals.

However, it doesn’t matter what your goals are; cardio is essential in a healthy journey.

First, because running won’t stop your muscles gain, but make you bigger. This article by Zachary Walston explains, with several backed research, how cardiovascular exercise actually improves your muscle gains:

“… A recent study explored whether aerobic conditioning could enhance muscle growth. The researchers speculated that aerobic activity would increase capillary density and subsequent satellite cell response. Satellite cells are the precursors to muscle cells and facilitate muscle repair and growth. The results showed that capillary density increased to a greater extent in the legs that underwent aerobic training before the resistance training intervention.”

And second, because cardio can help you be healthier in general. It can help you manage your appetite, boost your mood, and sleep better.

On a deep level, it can improve cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, reduce blood sugar, and relieve asthma symptoms. The American Heart Association recommends aerobic exercise to help you combat heart disease.

Since I work from home and have my office in front of my bedroom, doing a little cardio session a day is necessary for my physical well-being. Therefore, if I had to start my fitness journey from zero, I would definitely include at least 15 minutes a day of cardio after my strength routine.

#6. I Would Not Get Used to Going With Someone; I Would Learn To Be Alone in the Gym From the Start.

Most of my failures and demotivation in the gym have been because I have not found someone to go with. From day one, I started going with my best friend, then with my boyfriend, and then with professional trainers, but never alone.

It makes me feel uncomfortable or unmotivated when I have to go alone, and I often prefer not to go if I don’t find anyone to go with me.

And this is even one of the reasons why I have definitely left the gym throughout my fitness journey.

If I had to start the gym from zero, I would get used to going alone from day one.

Having a gym partner is good for motivation, helps with some hard routines, and overall happiness that you are sharing this journey with someone you like,but it’s also a problem if that person doesn’t want to go anymore.

When you go alone, you don’t get used to anyone being your motivation but yourself. You learn everything alone because you want a personal goal, and you don’t miss a day because “you don’t have a partner for the day.

Final Thoughts

Many people start the gym without having a clear idea of what they want to achieve, how to do it, and the best way to train, and they think that they only need to go to the gym to be fit.

However, being fit involves more than going to the gym once a day and training hard and requires that you have your mind, habits, and external routines coordinated to see results.

If I had to start from zero, I know I would see results fast because now I know my body and how everything works. And I wish someone else had told me to investigate first and not believe all the things that people say to be fitness.

For that reason, if you are starting out and don’t know what to do, here are the 6 things I would do:

  • I would learn how to exercise correctly in the first month instead of adding as much weight as possible.
  • Measure myself from the start to establish a clear goal and understand what my body needs.
  • I would create a well-being routine outside the gym that complements what I do there.
  • I would not spend money on protein powder or supplements.
  • I would never skip cardio or a good walking session.
  • I would not get used to going with someone; I would learn to be alone in the gym from the start.


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Turning ideas into reality. Programmer by profession, Writer by passion. Writing, productivity, and self-development advice.

Yonkers, NY
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