Updated: Aug 31, 2021
Currently, I’m 25. I started working out in my parents’ living room to P90X when I was 17. I drove them crazy doing so. I was not sure at the time, but I knew that physical fitness was going to play an integral part in my life somehow. I was right. Fast forward eight years, and I still wake up thinking about how I can transform my health and fitness goals. People probably look at me and think that I have changed since high school. Well, they’re right, I have. My ideas have changed, and my entire life has shifted into finding answers and understanding how health and fitness can transform the human body and mind. I’m still learning, and I have just recently completed my certification for personal training, but here are 5 things I wish I could’ve told that 17-year-old in the living room on a yoga mat:
1. Slow and Steady Wins the Race: We have all heard that saying before and sometimes it just ticks us off, but it is extremely true. When I first started working out, I did it to get perceived as a “ripped” or “shredded” person. I did not do it to learn about health at the time. But I did not get injured or have any painful issues when I first started because I was doing body weight only exercises. Therefore, I was not really challenging the muscle tissue that much. However, a year after P90X, I started weight training in the gym and my technique lacked because I went too heavy too fast and repeatedly felt beyond fatigued. It was a complete 3-5 day strain and stiffness period where I oftentimes was in agony because I overdid it…. Moral of the story, building a strong base when working out and especially with weight training is more important than anything. Instead of 10 pound jumps each week, I started doing 2.5-5 pound jumps on all compound lifts (squat, bench, deadlift) and accessories (like tricep push-down or lateral shoulder raises). This not only helped reduce injury but helped me build proper technique for my goals.
2. Recovery is Super Necessary: Before I started looking into supplementation, I looked at other areas as I could not afford protein powders/BCAA’s, etc. Therefore, I looked into food sources high in protein like Greek yogurt, chicken, beef, eggs, tofu, almonds, chickpeas, pork, fish and low-fat cheese. These food sources contain higher amounts of amino acids, which are found in the muscle tissues to repair muscle fibers after a hard workout. I also looked into hydration. I maintained between 40-60 oz. of water a day on top of green tea, herbal teas and occasionally coffee to keep my hydration in check. As I progressed with my training, I started upping my water intake as well as my electrolytes. Finally, sleep for recovery was essential. I often overlooked this vital key, but sleep was extremely necessary to give my body and muscles the proper rest it needed to recover and more specifically assist my hormonal, digestive and central nervous systems.
3. Supplementation/Vitamins are NOT a Joke: When I first started working out, I did not experience any serious bodily side-effects. However, when I progressed more into my training, I started to experience sluggish mood, poor digestion, hormonal disruption, sleep problems and weaker immune system. When the body is worked, it needs a lot of macronutrients as well as micronutrients to restore cells to do their essential roles, such as melatonin production for sleep. When specific nutrients are not there, problems can occur. Therefore, I started working with a homeopathic Dr to look into vitamins, minerals, and specific supplements to help my body’s recovery and daily responses.
4. Competition Do’s and Don’ts: After 4 years into weight training, I started getting serious about body building. Although I knew a lot, I still had no idea about how competitions worked. I worked with a professional body builder at the time to have a specific meal plan and workout regimen. Unfortunately, I could not make it through my body building prep because I was in college and the stress of school and training was not aiding to my success. I wish I had known prior to that specific goal, that building a stronger base would take me 6+ years with no short cuts. Then I got into competitive powerlifting. It was fun for me and challenged my fitness goals. However, it was still really hard on my body, so supplementation was key to recovery. Also, what became evident with powerlifting was that breaks are not really a thing. Besides deload weeks, I had to squat, bench and deadlift at least 1x a week to maintain strength. Then, I found a coach who helped push me every week and planned a training program with progressive overload and accessories to boost my overall 3 lifts (squat, bench, and deadlift). Without progressive overload, I would only hit one of those main lifts whenever I felt like it and would either miss the top lift because I was not conditioned or it would lead me down the road of strain and injury (no good). I then fell in love with the sport of powerlifting, but it took a lot of internal questioning to see if this was for me. Once I won my first medal and found a good coach, I realized it was something I wanted to pursue.
5. Coaches and Personal Trainers Do Help: Luckily, when I first started working out, I had Tony Horton (founder of P90X) as my trainer, but in real life, I had to learn so much by myself. I had the occasional friend who would assist me, but at most times when I first got into the gym, I was lost. Therefore, I went on Bodybuilding.com website and found Kris Gethin, an acclaimed personal trainer with free videos and downloadable programs. The reason I loved him was because he has a no BS attitude, yet his programs are interesting, pushed me and I saw real results. I also loved the video guides because it forced me to learn better technique. Furthermore, both my personal coaches for body building and powerlifting really helped me open my eyes to both nutrition and training in ways I had never seen before. Especially powerlifting because I had someone in my corner constantly pushing me and telling me what was right and what I needed to improve on. This helped reduce injuries, continue motivation, and win medals. Not all fitness goals need to be competitive ones, but if that is on your to-do list, coaches are a very huge component in succession.
Finally, I still have so much to learn, but so far, these 5 areas of my health and fitness journey have been huge in opening my eyes as well as me continuing my education into this big and bold world.