Nerd Fitness https://www.nerdfitness.com Level up your life, every single day. Thu, 08 Sep 2022 01:37:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.8.5 The 8 Best At-Home Workout Routines: The Ultimate Guide for Training Without a Gym https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/the-7-best-at-home-workout-routines-the-ultimate-guide-for-training-without-a-gym/ https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/the-7-best-at-home-workout-routines-the-ultimate-guide-for-training-without-a-gym/#disqus_thread Wed, 31 Aug 2022 10:43:00 +0000 https://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=3627340 So you want to start working out, but you don’t want to leave the house? No problem! Our online coaches specialize in helping people get fit from home. If you’re in a hurry, sign-up for our free weekly newsletter and we’ll send you PDFs of our “Work Out at Home” guides! Let’s go over the […]

The post The 8 Best At-Home Workout Routines: The Ultimate Guide for Training Without a Gym first appeared on Nerd Fitness.

]]>
Wonder Woman vacuuming at home

So you want to start working out, but you don’t want to leave the house?

No problem!

Our online coaches specialize in helping people get fit from home.

If you’re in a hurry, sign-up for our free weekly newsletter and we’ll send you PDFs of our “Work Out at Home” guides!

Let’s go over the 8 Best At-Home Workouts so you can start training today: no gym or equipment required!

Let’s jump right in!

At Home Warm-ups and stretching routines

A LEGO and his dog

No matter which at-home workout you pick, I want you to start with one important thing:

Warm-up!

I cover why you should always warm up in an article found right here. It doesn’t have to be much though, give it about five minutes to get your muscles active and your heart rate up.

Arm circles are a great way to warm-up for your at-home workout.

This will help you do exercises properly and help prevent injury. You can run in place, do air punches and kicks, or some jumping jacks.

Here is NF Senior Coach Staci (you might know her incredible story) showing you many beginner options you can use to warm up as well:

If you’re curious, here’s my personal (advanced) warm-up:

Advanced Warm-up Routine:

  • Jump rope: 2-3 minutes
  • Jumping jacks: 25 reps
  • Bodyweight squats: 20 reps
  • Lunges: 5 reps each leg.
  • Hip extensions: 10 reps each side
  • Hip rotations: 5 each leg
  • Forward leg swings: 10 each leg
  • Side leg swings: 10 each leg
  • Push-ups: 10-20 reps
  • Spider-man steps: 10 reps

Our goal isn’t to tire you out, instead we want to warm you up.

That’s step one.

Completing your chosen at-home workout would be step two.

The Count proclaiming the number "2"

Below, you’ll find 8 sequences you can follow along with!

Home Workout #1: Beginner Bodyweight

This at-home routine, as we lay out in our Beginner Bodyweight Workout article, is as follows:

We also turned it into a fun infographic with superheroes, because that’s how we roll:

This infographic will show you the 6 exercises needed to complete our Beginner Bodyweight Workout.

The above is what we call “circuit training,” with the objective being to run through the workout sequence once, then again, then again.

Note: Not a milk drinker?

GOMAD will for sure help you gain weight, as this kid can attest to.

If you don’t have milk in the house for the rows, find something of roughly the same weight with a good handle.

Also, if you want to download this Beginner Bodyweight Workout as a worksheet, you can do so when you sign up in the box below:

It’ll help you track your progress as you begin your training.

Home Workout #2: Advanced Bodyweight

If the beginner at-home workout above is too easy for you, move on to our Advanced Bodyweight Workout.

The Advanced Bodyweight Workout:

  • One-legged squats – 10 each side [warning: super-difficult, only attempt if you’re in good enough shape]
  • Bodyweight squats: 20 reps
  • Walking lunges: 20 reps (10 each leg)
  • Jump step-ups: 20 reps (10 each leg)
  • Pull-ups: 10 reps [or inverted bodyweight rows]
  • Dips (between bar stools): 10 reps
  • Chin-ups: 10 reps [or inverted bodyweight rows with underhand grip]
  • Push-ups: 10 reps
  • Plank: 30 seconds

Not familiar with these moves? Check out the 21 Best Advanced Bodyweight Exercises for a full breakdown.

I warn you, the above sequence will hurt… in a good way. You should be proud if you can get through this three times.

Do you want to get as strong as possible so this workout ain’t no thang?

Sign up in the box below to grab our guide, Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know. It’ll teach you all of these advanced bodyweight exercises!

Home Workout #3: The 20-Min Hotel Routine

Is there anyway to work out in this hotel room?

Sometimes, you just plain find yourself stuck in a hotel room. Maybe you can find the hotel gym, but I bet it’s terrible! It probably has 2 machines, a broken treadmill, and no free weights.

Ugh.

Instead, how about a 20-min workout you can do in the room itself! Utilize the furniture to its full potential.

You can work out in your hotel room like these two people are doing!

Hotel Workout Level 1:

Hotel Workout Level 2:

Set the alarm clock to 15 minutes from now and see how many circuits you can do!

Check out our full post on hotel circuits if you want Level 3!

We have a LOT of business travelers throughout the Rebellion! Learn how they stay fit on the road with the Nerd Fitness Starter Kit!

Home Workout #4: High-Intensity Interval Training

A LEGO Wizard

You don’t have to head to the gym to do High-Intensity Interval Training. You can do a complete routine right in your own home!

HIIT is just following a specific regimen where you vary your speeds and intensity throughout a shorter run, swim, bike, or row.

Unless you have a giant backyard, running at home might be tough.

But you know what doesn’t require a lot of room?

The infamous burpee bodyweight exercise!

Burpees!

To complete a burpee:

  • Start standing up, then squat down and kick your legs out.
  • Do a push-up, bring your legs back in, and explode up into a jump.
  • For a HIIT workout, try to do 20 repetitions, then rest for two minutes.
  • Repeat until you hate yourself.

Check out our full guide on How to Start Interval Training for some more ideas on HIIT workouts.

You can also check out our post “The 20-Min HIIT Workout for Home” for another living-room-friendly interval routine!

Home Workout #5: Attack of the Angry Birds

Little Cute Birds in a row

The Angry Birds Workout is designed to be done when you have 5 or 10 minutes to kill.

Sort of like playing Angry Birds…

If you have time for Angry Birds, you have time for an at home workout.

Here’s how The Angry Birds Workout Plan works: it’s deceptively simple – only four major movements.

If you don’t have time to run through the whole sequence, no problem!

Depending on how much time you have during the day, you can do your whole workout at once, or break up your training into four different sessions throughout the day (with each session being ONE of the exercises).

Here’s a sample day for your No-Equipment Workout:

  • Wake up, do 40 jumping jacks to warm up, and then do bodyweight squats.
  • At lunch, you grab your suitcase (if you’re at work, milk jug if you’re at home) and do inverted rows.
  • After work, you do another 50 jumping jacks and then do your push-ups.
  • After dinner, you do your planks while watching TV.

You could even split it up over two days if needed, but the goal would be to do it the whole sequence at once.

The main Angry Birds Workout article describes in detail Levels 1-6, but here’s Level 3 for you:

Once you’ve done the complete routine, you have my permission to whip out your phone and play the actual game!

Home Workout #6: Train like Batman

Lego minifigures standing in rows. In first row - Batman, The Jo

We love the Caped Crusader here at Nerd Fitness, so naturally we have The Batman Bodyweight Workout for you to try!

Bonus points if you somehow do this no-equipment workout in a cave, as that’s how Bruce Wayne would roll.[1]

This workout is separated into two days for you.

Here’s a video for the first day:

Batman No-Equipment Workout Day 1:

  • Rolling squat tuck-up jumps: 5 reps
  • Side to side push-ups: 5 reps
  • Modified headstand push-ups: 5 reps
  • Jump pull-up with tuck / Pull-up with Tuck-up: 5 reps
  • Handstands against wall: 8 seconds

Here’s a video for the second day:

Batman No-Equipment Workout Day 2:

  • ‘180 Degree’ jump turns: 5 reps
  • Tuck front lever hold: 8 seconds
  • Tuck back lever hold: 8 seconds
  • Low frog hold: 8 seconds

This is a relatively advanced workout already, but if you want to progress to the next level, check out the main Batman Bodyweight Workout for tips on how to do just that.

Batman is stoked you want to do an at-home workout.

Home Workout #7: The PLP Progression

At Nerd Fitness we encourage everyone to get to their first pull-up!

The PLP is a progressive program in which you complete one additional rep of three exercises – Pull-Ups, Lunges, and Push-Ups – every day, for two months.

NOTE: This is NOT a beginner program, and should not be attempted unless you have been training consistently and can do multiple repetitions of pull-ups and push-ups with great form.

Like this perfect push-up:

This gif shows Staci doing a push-up in perfect form.

And this perfect pull-up:

The classic pull-up

Here’s how the PLP Progression works:

Day 1:

  • Pull-ups: 10 reps
  • Push-ups: 10 reps
  • Lunges: 10 reps (each leg)

Day 2:

  • Pull-ups: 11 reps
  • Push-ups: 11 reps
  • Lunges: 11 reps (each leg)

Day 3:

  • Pull-ups: 12 reps
  • Push-ups: 12 reps
  • Lunges: 12 reps (each leg)

How long do you keep doing this?

As originally envisioned by Chad Waterbury, the PLP Workout lasts 60 days.[3]

A man realizing how difficult this at-home workout will be.

Yeah…by the end of it you’ll be doing more than 50 pull-ups.

There are two versions:

  • If you can do 10 straight pull-ups: Start day 1 with 10 reps of each.
  • If you cannot do 10 straight pull-ups: Start day 1 with 1 rep of each.

Complete your required reps each day in as many sets as you need, whenever you need to. The goal is to do it in as few sets as possible, but enough so that you can complete each rep with proper form.

Want to learn more? Check out my results on the PLP Workout.

Home Workout #8: The Star Wars Workout!

Ackbar dressed as a rapper

Do you have access to a hallway that you can commandeer for a bit?

Then you can do our Star Wars Workout!

It’s designed to be done in a very small space, like your home’s hallway…or an escape pod.

The “Padawan” Level of this workout is:

  • 30-second knee or feet front plank (3 Sets)
  • 10 assisted squats or squats (3 Sets)
  • 10 doorway rows (3 Sets)
  • A 60-second Farmer-carry (Farmer’s Walk) dumbbells (or milk jugs) (2 sets)
  • March in place for 3 minutes of intervals (6 sets of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off)
  • 8 elevated or knee push-ups (4 sets)
  • 60-second Doorway Leans (2 sets)

If you want to advance to the Jedi Knight or Master Levels, check out The Star Wars Workout, which will also offer you a full description of each move.

Bonus No-Equipment Workout: The Playground Circuit

Do you have a nearby playground? Why not work out there! If you have kids, you can do it together. Or let them ignore you.

I’ll give you a Level One workout, and a Level Two. Check out The 20-Minute Playground Workout for some Level Three exercises.

Playground Workout Level One:

  • Alternating step-ups: 20 reps (10 each leg)
  • Elevated push-ups: 10 reps
  • Swing rows: 10 reps
  • Assisted lunges: 8 reps each leg
  • Bent leg reverse crunches: 10 reps

Playground Workout Level Two:

  • Bench jumps: 10 reps
  • Lower incline push-ups: 10 reps
  • Body rows: 10 reps
  • Lunges: 8 reps each leg
  • Straight leg reverse crunches: 10 reps

After you’ve gone through a complete set three times, go down the slide!

Can Home Workouts Build Muscle or Help With Weight Loss?

A LEGO penguin

Throughout our Online Coaching Program, we get two common questions for those wanting to train at home:

  1. Can working out at home help me build muscle?
  2. Can working out at home help me lose weight?

The answer to both of these: yep!

Let’s tackle them one by one.

#1) Can working out at home help me build muscle?

You can 100% build muscle mass at home.

Just ask out friend Jimmy here:

Jimmy before and after he did bodyweight training

Read more on how Jimmy turned into Spider-Man from home!

The trick is to follow a progressive overload strategy, as Coach Jim outlines in this video:

With progressive overload, we want to make our workouts more and more challenging, thus putting additional strain on our muscles.

So to build muscle with home workouts, focus on:

  • Increasing your repetitions.
  • Decreasing your rest periods between exercises.
  • Performing more difficult variations (knee push-ups to push-ups).
  • Increasing your time under tension (by going slower).

That will help you build strength and muscle from your casa.

Next up:

#2) Can working out at home help me lose weight?

You can totally train at home for a successful weight loss strategy.

Again, we have a great example with one of our Online Coaching Clients, Sarah the Supermom:

This picture shows Sarah's transformation

The trick here is to couple your home workouts with adjustments to your nutrition.

We’re big believers that you can’t outrun your fork, so any successful weight loss plan will include a focus on building a healthy plate.

That will look something like this:

If your meal plate looks like this, you're doing a lot of the heavy lifting for weight loss.

If you want some help on adjusting your nutrition, I’ve got two great resources for you:

  • The Nerd Fitness Guide to Healthy Eating. This massive resource will help you slowly adjust your nutrition, without forcing you to give up the food you love (yes, you can still eat pizza here and there). No more diets, instead we’ll work on building habits together.
  • Nerd Fitness Coaching. If you want to take it to the next level, one of our trained professionals can help you adjust your way of eating to help you reach your goals. No shame. No judgment. Just a like-minded nerd who will show you the way.

How to Build Your Own At-Home Workout

You can workout in a home just like this!

We just went over 8 workouts you can do at home (plus a workout you can do in a park).

You don’t have to stick to these though!

I have two resources to help you design your own no-equipment workout:

  1. The 42 Best Bodyweight Exercises: This guide will teach you how to perform the best bodyweight exercises – no equipment required! Check it out if you are unfamiliar with any of the movements referenced in today’s guide.
  2. How To Build Your Own Workout Routine: Once you’re comfortable with a handful of bodyweight exercises, use this guide to pull them all together into a full-body workout!

That should get you going on building a workout you can do in the comfort of your own home.

Want more? Alright, eager beaver, I got you.

This beaver is ready to start his at home training.

We built THREE options for people just like you:

1) If you want step-by-step guidance, a custom workout program that levels up as you get stronger, and a coach to keep you accountable, check out our killer 1-on-1 coaching program:

Your NF Coach can help you lose weight and get healthy!

2) If you want a daily prompt for doing workouts at home, check out NF Journey. Our fun habit-building app helps you exercise more frequently, eat healthier, and level up your life (literally).

Try your free trial right here:

3) Join the Rebellion! We need good people like you in our community, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion.

Sign up in the box below to enlist and get our guide, Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know. It’ll help you start incorporating these bodyweight moves into your training.

Alright, your turn: I’d love to hear how your home training is going!

Which workout above did you try? Did you make one of your own?

Leave a comment below with your results or any questions you have on working out at home.

For the Rebellion!

-Steve

PS: If you were going to buy one piece of equipment to utilize in your home, a kettlebell would offer you a lot of versatility:

Coach Matt showing you how to rock the kettlebell swing.

###

Photo Sources: Home Sweet Home 2, good dog, The minifigures of this series are really beautiful, it’s a rap, my friend:), Ekaterina Minaeva © 123RF.com, Hotel Room, af8images © 123RF.com, Tithi Luadthong © 123RF.com, Vintage House Bicycle,

The post The 8 Best At-Home Workout Routines: The Ultimate Guide for Training Without a Gym first appeared on Nerd Fitness.

]]>
https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/the-7-best-at-home-workout-routines-the-ultimate-guide-for-training-without-a-gym/feed/ 338
The Ultimate Guide to Losing Fat and Gaining Muscle (At the Exact Same Time) https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/lose-weight-and-build-muscle-or-do-one-then-the-other/ https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/lose-weight-and-build-muscle-or-do-one-then-the-other/#disqus_thread Wed, 31 Aug 2022 05:48:00 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/?p=2248 There’s an argument in the fitness world that you can either choose to lose fat OR gain muscle. That they just can’t be done simultaneously. To this, I say, “Hogwash!” We have tons of success stories from our online coaching clients who have been able to do both simultaneously: And that’s what we’ll cover in […]

The post The Ultimate Guide to Losing Fat and Gaining Muscle (At the Exact Same Time) first appeared on Nerd Fitness.

]]>
Is Vader on the right track to lose fat and gain muscle? Let's find out!

There’s an argument in the fitness world that you can either choose to lose fat OR gain muscle.

That they just can’t be done simultaneously.

To this, I say, “Hogwash!”

We have tons of success stories from our online coaching clients who have been able to do both simultaneously:

And that’s what we’ll cover in today’s guide!

We’ll do so by discussing:

Plus, I have tons of sweet LEGO photos and silly gifs on their way, which is always a good time.

What’s Body Recomposition?

As Coach Matt mentions in the video above, gaining muscle and losing fat simultaneously is called “body recomposition.”

So yes, the process is indeed possible, as long as you follow the right plan.

…but you don’t have to take my word for it.

Just ask our friend Aksel here (who achieved an impressive body recomp with the help of a NF Coach):

A side-by-side of Aksel's before and after

Read more about his incredible story!

However, as I mentioned in the intro, you’ll often hear that losing fat while gaining muscle is impossible. The argument goes that you should just focus on one or the other, because doing both at once is destined to fail.

Let’s explore this claim.

Losing Fat and Gaining Muscle at the Same Time (The Controversy)

This picture shows two LEGO miners, who don't have much to do with fast weight loss, but look cool.

To understand why losing fat while gaining muscle can be problematic, we need to explore both processes.

Let’s consider the following points:

  • To lose fat, your body needs to be in a caloric deficit. This deficit forces your body to use pre-existing fat stores for fuel.

  • To gain muscle, your body needs to be in a caloric surplus. This surplus provides the energy your body requires to repair and build bigger muscles.

Given this, losing fat (caloric deficit) at the same time one is gaining muscle (caloric surplus) seems impossible.

However, if we go a few steps deeper into the science, it IS possible!

A foe from the Prince Bride not believing you can lose fat while gaining muscle.

To appreciate the nuance here, let’s get into some specifics on losing fat and gaining muscle separately, and then we’ll combine them.

HOW DO YOU LOSE FAT?

a picture of Homer Simpson with Donut

There is a simple answer and a slightly less simple answer when it comes to losing body fat.

The simple answer: “consume fewer calories than you expend or burn.”[1]

Eight words, and one or two of those could probably be thrown out.

When your body needs more calories than the amount you are eating, you are in a “caloric deficit.” Your body doesn’t have the calories it needs as fuel, so it’ll start breaking down parts of itself for its energy requirements.

(If you’re curious, you can calculate your daily caloric needs here).

The hope is that your body will mostly pull from fat stores, though depending on how you are training it will also break down muscle too.[2]

Said again: when you are eating a caloric deficit, your body will pull from both its fat stores AND existing muscle for energy.

Yes, if you're not careful you can lose fat AND muscle while losing weight.

Troubling indeed.

From a physique and health standpoint, obviously we’d prefer that your body doesn’t break down muscle when in a caloric deficit, and instead really focuses on using fat stores instead.[3]

I make this point for a reason: your goal in fitness shouldn’t only be “weight loss,” despite the common vernacular used.

Who cares what the scale says, right?

A scale can be misleading when you're trying to lose fat and gain muscle.

The goal instead is to reduce body fat while also keeping the muscle you have (or even building more muscle).

That leads to a better physique and a healthier body.

This is why there is a big market for devices that supposedly assess your body fat percentage.

By reducing your total fat on your body, OR increasing muscle mass, you’ll end up with a lower body fat percentage (it’s just a simple ratio of fat to everything else).

And lower body fat percentages are where “toned arms” and “6-pack abs” hang out.

Arnold lost body fat and gained muscle to achieve his physique. And maybe some super glue.

We’ll discuss tips on keeping and growing your muscle while in a calorie deficit later in this guide. For now, remember you need fewer calories “in” compared to calories “out” for weight loss to occur, from either fat stores or muscle.

You may be asking, “Steve, what’s easier to do? Burn more calories or consume less?”

Good question.

Numbers will help tell the story: though this is a gross oversimplification – let’s use the ‘widely accepted’ starting point of “3,500 calories equals roughly one pound of fat.”[4]

If you want to lose one pound – or half a kilogram – of body fat in a week (a worthy, sustainable goal for some), you need to create a caloric deficit of 500 calories per day.

Your options to create this caloric deficit include:

  • Consuming 500 fewer calories
  • Burning 500 more calories
  • A combination of the two

Which is easier?

Here are both halves of that equation. 500 calories equals:

  • The number of calories found in a Big Gulp of Mountain Dew.
  • An estimate of the calories required to run five miles.

Yes, you will have to run for a long time to burn 500 calories.

Yep.

When it comes to maintaining a caloric deficit, it really comes down to diet.

It’s significantly more effective and time-efficient to consume 500 fewer calories than it is to burn 500 additional calories.

As Time magazine controversially pointed out – with tons of cited studies – “exercise alone won’t make you thin.” It’s too easy to add more calories in, and requires too much work to effectively influence “calories out.”

We dig into this in our guide to The CICO Diet.

This brings us to our slightly less simple answer on getting in shape:

To lose body fat, you need to watch what you eat, and do so in a sustainable way.

Here at Nerd Fitness, we are firm believers that 80-90% of the fat-loss equation comes down to diet (check out Rule # 4).

Here’s another idea we focus on: EAT MOSTLY UNPROCESSED FOOD.[5]

These image shows some real food, critical if you're trying to lose body fat.

Meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts are all great examples.

These foods are very nutrient-dense and often low in calories compared to their processed counterparts. Which means you get filled up without overeating.

Win-win-win.

Have you ever seen the difference between 200 calories of broccoli and 200 calories of a bagel? WiseGEEK does a great job of displaying this, so we’ll borrow a couple of their photos.

200 calories of broccoli:

A pic of 200 calories of broccoli

200 calories of a bagel:

This picture shows you 200 calories worth of a bagel, which is about 2/3 of one.

That’s why REAL food is the answer to creating a sustainable caloric deficit.

Most people can eat an entire bagel, no problem. Plates of broccoli, with all of the fiber, are much tougher to overeat.

We lay it all out in our Beginner’s Guide to Healthy Eating. It’ll provide tips on how to gradually create habits that get you to a “REAL food” way of eating, including proper portion sizes, tips on batch cooking, and a cameo from Winnie the Pooh.

Pooh knows that to lose fat and gain muscle, he really needs to cool it with all the honey.

With all of this, we advise you to take it slow, so new habits of healthy eating become permanent.

Something you can do for the rest of your life.

It’s a strategy we work closely with our coaching clients on: small nutritional adjustments they feel comfortable making. It’s how some of them have been able to lose 50-100 pounds!

Let me explain again: what you eat will be 80%-90% of the equation for losing body fat.

The other 10-20%? Exercise.

Of course it’s exercise.

That’s a pretty good segue into…

HOW DO YOU GAIN MUSCLE?

Toy Hulk and the wilds trunks of huge plants

If you want to build muscle, you’ll have to lift heavy things and ensure that your body has enough calories and protein to adapt by building more muscle.

In our Beginner’s Guide to Building Muscle and Strength, I summarize it as follows:

  • Lift heavy things
  • Eat a diet based on your goals
  • Rest so your body can recover

Let’s chat about each one quickly.

#1) Lift heavy things

I will always be on Team Strength Training. If you’re looking to build muscle, you’re gonna need to lift heavy things.

This Muppet knows strength training will help him gain muscle and lose fat.

When you lift an object (or your own bodyweight) enough times, your muscles reach the point of failure. This causes your muscles to tear and breakdown.

When your muscle rebuilds itself following the workout, it’ll be bigger and stronger than before. Then you do it again.

And again.

And again.

As long as you are eating enough to rebuild your muscle, you’ll get stronger!

Not sure where to start on a Strength Training practice? No problem! You can download our free guide Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know when you join the Rebellion (our free community) below:

#2) Eat a diet based on your goals

Because your muscle needs to be rebuilt after exercise, the calories are gonna need to come from somewhere. I’ll talk a lot about proper diet in the next section (with a Harry Potter analogy), so I won’t spend too much time on it here.

Just know that eating the right quantity of foods will be a big part of gaining muscle.

#3) Rest

Your body rebuilds itself while you sleep, so make sure you get plenty of rest each night. I’m talking 7-8+ hours. This will help ensure your body has the time it needs to grow stronger.

If you’re strength training and only getting 6 hours of sleep a night or less, you’re really doing yourself a disservice. Go to bed!

Donald knows he has to get plenty of rest to grow muscle. If only that sink would stop dripping.

That’s the short gist of how to build strength: challenge your muscles, eat well, and get some rest.

Let’s narrow in on our second point, “Eat a diet based on your goals.” It’ll become very important when balancing both losing body fat and gaining muscle.

To do that properly, grab your owl, and let’s chat about Hogwarts.

How to Lose Fat WHILE Gaining Muscle (The Science)

Close-up shot of microscope with metal lens at laboratory.

To answer the question of losing body fat and gaining muscle at the same time, I’d like to introduce an analogy from the world of Harry Potter.

Recall the “Sorting Hat:” The Sorting Hat’s job was to determine which of the four houses kids will call their home.

The sorting hat will help us tell the story on calories and losing fat.

It’s almost like a traffic director: “Harry, you will go to Gryffindor! Draco, you will go to Slytherin!”

Your body operates on a VERY similar operation: every day it receives new calories (when you eat), and it needs to decide what to do with them!

For example:

You eat a chicken parm sub with fries and a 20-ounce soda. Your body then has to know where to route all those calories.

To keep things simple, it has three choices. It’ll sort those calories into one of three houses:[6]

A. Burn for Fuel.

B. Rebuild Muscle.

C. Store as Fat.

Right now, when you eat food, your body sorts most of those calories into “Burn for Fuel.”

There’s a number of calories your body needs each day just existing: to keep your liver functioning, your heart pumping, your brain operating, to regulate your body temperature, and so on – it burns a good chunk of calories just keeping the lights on.

A beating heart requires calories, which factors into your calorie needs.

This is your “Basal Metabolic Rate” which you can calculate for yourself in our TDEE calculator.

There’s also “B. Rebuild as Muscle” and “C. Store as Fat,” which I devoted entire sections to above.

This is where the problems arise: When you overeat calories and your body doesn’t need anymore to fuel itself, it takes those extra calories and stores them as fat.

However, our goal is the OPPOSITE of this.

We want to keep the muscle we have (or grow it) while getting rid of the fat!

So let’s imagine a scenario where we pull all this together by strength training heavy AND reducing our caloric intake:

  1. You strength train regularly, and your muscles break down and need to be rebuilt.
  2. You don’t consume enough calories to both rebuild muscle and fuel itself. There’s not enough to go into the “Burn for Fuel” and “Rebuild Muscle” houses.

Does your body just shut down?

NOPE!

Yep, if you have fat on you your body will pull from it to take care of its needs.
Your body has been preparing for this, by storing any excess calories over the years in the “Store as Fat” house.

This means your body can pull from “Store as Fat” to make sure all the work still gets done, including your daily functions as a human and rebuilding the muscle you tore apart.

Said another way:

If you have fat stores (and we all do), you do not need to be in a “caloric surplus” to rebuild muscle. The calories stored in your fat cells act as this required energy.

There is also evidence that muscle can even be grown while in a caloric deficit.[7]

Meaning bigger muscles with a lower belt size.[8]

This dog just found out it's possible to both lose fat AND gain muscle.

However, if you want to skip all the experimentation and trial and error, you can have a Nerd Fitness Coach do all the heavy lifting for you (not really, you’ll still need to work out).

TIPS TO LOSE BODY FAT WHILE GAINING MUSCLE

Superhero Couple. Male and female superheroes. Cloudy sky.

Let’s bring this all together and create some actionable steps to losing body fat and building muscle at the same time.

#1) Sustain a caloric deficit while eating enough protein

You need your body to burn more calories than you consume, and also provide your body with enough protein to rebuild its muscle.

You can only lose fat if you’re in a calorie deficit.

You need to reduce your calories and be in a deficit if your goal is to lose fat.

Remember the Sorting Hat analogy:

If you’re eating too much, your excess calories are being sent to the “Store as Fat” house.

We want to pull from this house instead. So eat less than you burn consistently.

To help here, I have 3 resources for you:

  1. Beginner’s Guide to Healthy Eating. If you want tips and tricks to create habits based on REAL food, that guide will help get you there.
  2. Determining the Perfect Diet for You.” I talk about the benefits of creating a Mental Model on nutrition like Intermittent Fasting, Paleo or Keto (or Paleolithic Ketogenic) to help navigate all the food choices you need to make.
  3. Count calories: This means learning your total daily energy expenditure, and tracking your other calories through an app (and/or weighing your food).

You don’t have to follow some predetermined blueprint like “low-carb.” You can create your own diet (which is what I do). Learn all about it right here.

#2) Strength train

If you could sell a pill that could be prescribed to every single person on Earth to make them healthier, it would look something like a strength training routine in a bottle.

A one arm push-up can help you lose fat and build muscle, but maybe start with regular push-ups first.

It is one of the best things you can do for your body.[9]

And really, if you want to build muscle, you’re gonna need to lift something! Either weights or your own bodyweight.

You need to challenge your muscles in order for them to get stronger. Now, as we discuss in our article on the correct number of reps and sets, there are multiple ways to do so.

To build muscle:

Lift lighter weights for lots of reps.

Lift really heavy with fewer reps.

The important thing: pick a strategy and get started.

Vada is ready to strength train! And torment her Dad's GF.

Here are 3 paths forward:

  1. Start with a beginner bodyweight workout.
  2. Follow one of our 5 Beginner Strength Training Routines.
  3. Go through our 6 Level Gym Workouts.

To recap: if you train heavy and eat a caloric deficit, your body will pull from its fat stores to both fuel itself and potentially also build muscle. This is a double whammy of AWESOME.

#3) Prioritize protein

Outside of being in a caloric deficit and lifting weights (or yourself), eating enough protein is one of the key components of both losing body fat and building muscle.

Protein is the number one nutrient for creating new tissue.[10]

Sponge Bob knows how to build muscle and strength.

So when you cut out calories to create a caloric deficit, don’t cut them from protein sources.

Studies have shown that participants can gain muscle, even while in a caloric deficit, as long as they eat enough protein.[11]

It’s important enough that I’ll say it again:

If you don’t want your body cannibalizing its muscles while you are in a caloric deficit, you need to eat plenty of protein.[12]

How much protein?

As we point out in our Guide to Protein, roughly 1 gram for every pound of your weight, with an upper limit of 250 grams.[13] Or two grams for every kilogram if you are on the metric system. This means:

  • If you weigh 300 pounds (136 kg), eat 250g of protein.
  • If you weigh 250 pounds (113 kg), eat 250g of protein.
  • If you weigh 200 pounds (91 kg), eat 200g of protein.
  • If you weigh 180 pounds (82 kg), eat 180g of protein.

The gist: don’t skip out on protein. It should be on your plate for every meal (we’ll show you exactly how much in the next section).

If these generalized recommendations stress you out, and you want to know exactly what to do, we can help!

I’ll remind you of Nerd Fitness Coaching, where we help clients lose body fat, gain muscle, and level up their lives. We provide tailored and specific recommendations based on your body and lifestyle, plus accountability and mindset changes to help ensure your new habits stick.

Nerd Fitness Coaching Banner

WHAT SHOULD I EAT TO LOSE FAT AND GAIN MUSCLE?

Toy Dinosaur holding a fork next to a slice of birthday cake on a blue background.

Remember, your eating strategy needs to include two points to lose fat while gaining muscle:

  1. Sustain a caloric deficit.
  2. Prioritize protein so you can build muscle even while in a deficit.

You may be thinking, “That’s all well and good Steve, but what’s that actually look like?

It looks like this!

If your meal plate looks like this, you're doing great!

Taken from our Guide to Start Eating Healthy, which I really want you to read.

The plate is composed of the following:

  • 1-2 servings of protein (¼ of plate)
  • 2 servings of vegetables (½ of plate)
  • 1 serving potatoes, rice, or pasta. (1/4th of plate)
  • 1 serving of fat (size of your thumb)
  • 1 zero calorie or low calorie beverage (water, diet soda, tea)

By sticking to our Healthy Plate strategy above, you’ll focus on “REAL food,” which will help you maintain a caloric deficit over time.

Let’s hone in on protein for a moment, because it’s the critical piece for “building muscle.”

Protein can come from any number of sources, including:

  • Meat (steak, bison, pork).
  • Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck).
  • Eggs![14]
  • Fish and shellfish (salmon, tuna, shrimp).
  • Legumes (black beans, chickpeas).

Not a meat-eater? Read our massive plant-based guide!

A serving of protein is about the size and thickness of your palm.

A serving of protein should be about the size of your palm, like so.

*The 4 oz serving is for an uncooked piece of meat. Cooking reduces about 25% of the weight, bringing it down to about 3 oz.

If you’re curious, here’s how much protein is in a serving of food:

  • 4 oz (113 g) serving of chicken has around 30 g of protein.
  • 4 oz (113 g) serving of salmon has 23 g of protein
  • 4 oz (113 g) of steak has 28 g of protein.

While all of the Healthy Plate above is important, I want you to pay extra attention to your protein intake since we are trying to build muscle.

If you’re having trouble making your protein intake goals, check out our Guide on Protein Supplements for some tips and tricks to up your intake, including some awesome smoothie recipes.

This is the exact strategy I followed to lose 22 pounds and get to single-digit bodyfat percentage WHILE building muscle:

  • Lift super heavy.
  • Eat LOTS of protein.
  • Reduce carb and fat intake.

If you are NOT losing weight, it means you are still eating too many calories. Keep your protein intake high, and reduce your fat and carbohydrate intake.

I cover this in greater detail in our “why can’t I lose weight?” guide.

Eventually, you’ll reach a status where there just isn’t enough fat on you to help with “Rebuild Muscle.” At this stage, you can no longer stay with a caloric deficit. You’ll need to flip to a slight “caloric surplus” to build more muscle.

Which means you’ll have to eat more.

Like this turtle, you may reach a point where you have to eat more to gain muscle.

It’s debatable when this will actually occur, and we are all different. Reaching 8% body fat for men and 16% body fat for women is a good place to start.

I talk about this extensively in our guide “How to Build Muscle.”

It covers ways to increase your calories for muscle gain, from eating plentiful amounts of Paleo foods to drinking enough milk to make Santa Clause jealous.

Santa is drinking milk to put on some muscle. The cookies are just because he likes them.

Go check it out if you’ve been having trouble putting on muscle.

I want to stress that if you are lifting heavy, and not gaining muscle, diet is likely the culprit.

It was my problem for years, and I’ve seen it amongst countless readers of Nerd Fitness who have trouble gaining muscle.

If you want an expert who will tell you exactly when to eat more or less, check out our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program.

HOW TO TELL IF IT’S ALL WORKING (Continuing to Lose Fat While Gaining Muscle)

Now you're ready to start losing fat and gaining muscle!

If you’re trying to improve something, it’s important to track it. This also holds true of body composition.

Most people do this by jumping on the scale. This can be “okay,” but it’s only going to tell part of the story.

If you’re building muscle while losing fat, the scale might not go down. You might even weigh more!

Despite weighing more, you could potentially have a better physique.

Don't just look at the scale. You might have lost bodyfat and gained muscle, but the scale won't show it!

That’s why in addition to jumping on the scale, I would also encourage you to take progress photos.

Take front and side photos in your mirror, wearing underwear or a bathing suit. Each week, take new photos, and record the number on the scale under the same scenario. Two forms of tracking here allow us to get the full picture.

The scale sometimes lies!

If you eat for a caloric deficit, strength train, and prioritize protein, see what happens.

You may find yourself losing some fat and gaining muscle.

If not, track each category:

Data can help tell the story.

Data and numbers will help you know if you're losing fat and gaining muscle. Numbers, not the robot.

…I was thinking of detailed notes.

But an android would be helpful too.

Oftentimes if you’re not seeing desired results, notes and record-keeping can help point us in the direction to make adjustments.

Test your assumptions if things don’t appear to be on track. Here’s our Guide on Tracking Fitness Progress for you to learn more.

The tips outlined above will get you started losing fat while building muscle, but if you’re looking to go a bit further…

#1) If you want step-by-step guidance on how to lose weight, eat better, and get stronger, check out our killer 1-on-1 coaching program:

#2) If you want an exact blueprint for getting in shape, check out NF Journey. Our fun habit-building app helps you exercise more frequently, eat healthier, and level up your life (literally).

Try your free trial right here:

#3) Enlist in the Rebellion! We have a free email newsletter that we send out twice per week, full of tips and tricks to help you get healthy, get strong, and have fun doing so.

I’ll also send you tons of free guides that you can use to start leveling up your life too:

Alright, I think that about does it for this guide.

Did I miss anything? Do you have any tips and tricks when it comes to shedding body fat and building muscle?

Share it with us!

-Steve,

PS: Make sure you read the rest of the articles in our “How to Lose Weight 101” Series!

###

All photo sources are right here: Venting Off, Ekaterina Minaeva © 123RF.com, czgur © 123RF.com, morethanl8ve © 123RF.com, Константин Колосов © 123RF.com, Maxim Maksutov © 123RF.com, Julianna Funk © 123RF.com, jump

The post The Ultimate Guide to Losing Fat and Gaining Muscle (At the Exact Same Time) first appeared on Nerd Fitness.

]]>
https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/lose-weight-and-build-muscle-or-do-one-then-the-other/feed/ 295
Should You Do Couch to 5K? Don’t Make These 5 Mistakes https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/couch-to-5k-crucial-things-to-know-before-you-start-training/ https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/couch-to-5k-crucial-things-to-know-before-you-start-training/#disqus_thread Mon, 29 Aug 2022 05:39:00 +0000 https://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=3332297 If you’re looking to run your first 5K, you’ve come to the right place. In today’s guide, we’ll cover common questions – and 5 mistakes – about the Couch to 5K program: What is Couch to 5K? Why is the Couch to 5K plan so popular? Does Couch to 5K actually work? “Will I lose […]

The post Should You Do Couch to 5K? Don’t Make These 5 Mistakes first appeared on Nerd Fitness.

]]>
Has is Indy so quick to leave temples? He runs races on the weekends.

If you’re looking to run your first 5K, you’ve come to the right place.

In today’s guide, we’ll cover common questions – and 5 mistakes – about the Couch to 5K program:

Before we jump in…

If you’re interested in running a 5k (which you are, ’cause you’re here) you may want to try our new app! It contains a fun adventure that will take you from sitting on your couch to running a full 5k – with plenty of benchmarks in between for you to find your groove. No guesswork needed, just tie your shoes and follow along with the app.

You can sign-up for a free trial right here:

What is Couch to 5K? Why is the Couch to 5K Plan so popular?

young dog sleeping on modern sofa in the living room

“Couch to 5K” is a free program that takes people from their couch to running a 5K race in 9 weeks.

5K is short for 5 kilometers, or 5,000 meters or 3.1 miles.

This running program was invented by Josh Clark of CoolRunning WAY back in the day.

What's older, this clip or Couch to 5K? Hard to tell.

It has since been co-opted and copied by every running blog out there, so we’re going to be referring to a generic “Couch to 5K” program when we talk about it.

(When people ask the question “How long does it take to complete Couch to 5K,” it really depends on which program they pick.

It might be 6 weeks, or 12 weeks, or 9 weeks. The original Couch to 5K plan created by Cooling Running took 9 weeks).

Here’s the Couch to 5K plan a nutshell:

The program utilizes an uber-popular concept called interval training – moving at different speeds throughout a running session – and lays out exactly what to do every day for 6-12 weeks after starting.

What's cool about Couch to 5K is each day you know exactly how you should be training!

By varying your pacing, your body is forced to adapt to different speeds, and your heart and lungs have to adapt to various levels of strenuous activity (and get stronger/healthier as a consequence).

As a result, you actually burn more calories and get better prepared for a race than compared to just training at a constant speed.

In other words, interval training rocks and should be used by anybody who wants to get better at running.

Over the weeks, Couch to 5K slowly ramps up the amount of time you spend running and cuts back the time you spend walking until you’re at the point where you can actually run a 5K without stopping.

Mr. Gump ran like 1,000 5Ks when he crossed America.

“STEVE, I’M INTRIGUED. WHY IS COUCH TO 5K SO DANG POPULAR?”

#1) It’s simple and clear.

Print out a PDF or download an iPhone app and for the next 9 weeks you simply do what it tells you:

Today, do this.

Tomorrow, do that.

Repeat.

We’re all busy. Most of us lead hectic lives. And programs that tell us EXACTLY what to do allow us to follow instructions without needing to figure it out ourselves.

Not that us nerds overanalyze things to the point of giving ourselves anxiety attacks

#2) Most people think running = weight loss.

If you’re brand new to health and fitness, and you’re trying to lose weight, you’re most likely overwhelmed by what you should start with and how you should train.

Are you gonna go sign up for a gym membership, hire a trainer, and start doing squats and deadlifts?

Rebel Leader Steve showing how to do a 420 lb deadlift at the gym.

As much as I would WISH that was the answer (it’s probably the fastest path to changing one’s physique), it’s often a bridge too far for many folks.

So a majority of newbies equate running with weight loss (which MIGHT be true, but MIGHT not, I’ll explain here), and decide to start with a jog around the block.

#3) Couch to 5K is not overwhelming.

It’s a free program (or inexpensive app), and it’s very approachable.

Programs like P90X and Insanity are designed to appeal to people that consider themselves hardcore (whatever the hell that means).

Couch to 5K appeals to people who are overwhelmed at the idea of doing P90X or Insanity or mustering up the courage to go to Crossfit.

Couch to 5K makes you think “maybe I can actually do this…” which is the most important part of any fitness journey: starting.

Homer wants to eat donuts so he is doing Couch to 5K. Is he doing it right?

#4) Everybody wants to “have run a 5K.”

If you’re new to health and fitness and working on setting a good obtainable goal, “run a 5K this year” is a great place to start.

  • It’s a short enough distance that with some training you can pull it off, even if you have to walk some or all of it.
  • There are 5Ks practically every weekend, many of which raise money for charity or are themed in a fun way,
  • It’s an amazing activity to do as a group with friends.
  • Humans are wired for achievements, progress, and gratification – 5Ks are perfectly designed for that.

So in completing Couch to 5K, you train and get to see yourself progress weekly, you get to finish a race and feel a sense of accomplishment, and you go home with a medal you can hang on your wall reminding you of the proud moment.

Humans are wired for achievements like these trophies, which makes running a 5K awesome.

Plus, it might get you in shape!

Maybe…we’ll explore in just a moment.

If you are trying to get in shape, I’ll mention our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program. I know of no better way to transform yourself than through the help of an expert who knows exactly what to do. We’ve helped hundreds of people run their first 5K and helped others train for triathlons!

Does Couch to 5K actually work? Will I lose weight Doing Couch to 5K?

Buddha isn't trying to lose weight. But he's also zen about you trying to.

“Steve that’s all fine and good. But what do you REALLY think about running 5Ks and Couch to 5K?”

Okay, you got me. I got thoughts. I also got jokes (they’re bad).

RANT INCOMING!

Consider this a "warning" on an incoming rant about C25K.

Will the Couch to 5K program help you run a 5k? YES! If you actually stick with it for the entirety of the training program.

Will the Couch to 5K program help you lose weight? MAYBE.

Is Couch to 5K a program that will get you healthy permanently? MAYBE.

Will Couch to 5K make me sexy and look damn good in a bathing suit? MAYBE, but probably not.

Here’s the truth about Couch to 5K: It’s the same truth with popular programs like P90X or Insanity or any other structured workout program:

It totally works and will help you lose weight if you do two things:

  1. You actually complete the program, AND
  2. You fix your diet.

MISTAKE #1: Couch to 5K totally doesn’t work and won’t help you lose weight if you do two things:

  1. You actually complete the program, BUT
  2. You don’t fix your diet.

As sexy as it is to think that just going for a run will help you lose weight, the data doesn’t back it up. In fact, as Time Magazine rightly pointed out years ago and got yelled at for telling the truth, exercise alone won’t make you lose weight.

I believe that to be especially true when exercise is only steady-speed cardio.

Homer is doing Couch to 5K...week 1.

In fact, many people gain weight after starting an exercise routine and get completely demoralized.

What gives?

As we say here at Nerd Fitness, you can’t outrun your fork, and nutrition is 90% of the battle.

If you go for a mile run and then stuff your face with extra calories “because you earned it,” you’re going to gain weight.

It’s not because you have a slow metabolism, I promise. It’s because you’re consuming too many calories.

This is Common Mistake #1: not fixing your nutrition if you’re running for weight loss!

If this were a movie, nutrition would be Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible and exercise is that funny sidekick who helps Tom. Let’s be real here, Tom is doing all of the heavy lifting to make that movie what it is.

Tom Cruise is the heart of Mission Impossible, like nutrition is the heart of weight loss.

Couch to 5K helps people run a 5K.

That’s it.

It’s not designed to help you lose weight or build a body you’re proud of. It’s also a temporary program that lasts a certain number of weeks until you run your 5K.

For Couch to 5K to be successful for you long term, and for it to help you lose weight, it needs to be the catalyst that causes you to build a consistent long term habit of exercise and changes how you think about food.

Remember: you never get to be “done”, so you need to enjoy the journey and look forward to exercising daily.

You also need to train the right way to build the type of body you want! And eat the right way.

That’s priority numero uno.

The Tick knows you can't outrun a bad diet, even with Couch to 5K.

I know nutrition is a really challenging, complex, controversial topic (Keto? Paleo? Ah!), which is why we make it stupidly simple for smart, good looking, modest people like yourself.

In addition to our online coaching program that guides you on making healthier food choices, we also created a free 10-level NF Diet blueprint you can hang on your fridge next to your Couch to 5K PDF.

Print it out, hang it on your fridge, and follow the instructions to level up every 2 weeks! You can get yours free when you sign up in the box below:

Now that we have the “will I lose weight?” stuff out of the way, I have two BIG questions to ask you:

Do you like running?

Are you healthy enough to run?

Do I Even Like Running?

This runner definitely has a strong core!

Bodybuilder Ronnie Coleman said it best:

“Everybody wanna be a bodybuilder, don’t nobody wanna lift no heavy ass weight.”

In other words: “Everybody wants to be in shape, and look great, but nobody wants to put the work in to actually GET in shape and look great.”

And yup, getting in shape is tough; if it were easy we’d all look like Captain America and Wonder Woman.

Instead, 70% of America is overweight and 30+% are obese. Crap.

This brings me back to the most crucial question of this entire 5K process:

Do you even LIKE running?

Batman has to fun whether he likes to or not...part of fighting crime means running 5Ks (ish).

The world is split into three groups:

  • People that like running and want to run.
  • People that don’t like running but eventually learn to love it.
  • People that don’t like running and will never like running.

Here’s that Ronnie Coleman quote, slightly adapted: “Everybody wants to have run a 5K, but many people don’t actually enjoy running.”

Running a 5K is a great achievement and a worthwhile fun goal, but it’s only one way of thousands to “get in shape.”

Many people feel like Andy Dwyer in Parks and Rec when they go running.

An image showing a damaged character from running too much while training with Couch to 5K.

Some people love that feeling of anguish or pushing beyond the limits, and that’s awesome!

But for everybody else, they make Mistake #2: they force themselves to run even though they don’t like it!

So before you start Couch to 5K, think of it as a science experiment:

“I hypothesize that following Couch to 5K will help me run a 5K. I also hypothesize I’ll enjoy the process, enjoy how I feel after a run, enjoy running a 5k, and/or enjoy the achievement of having run a 5k.”

And that’s all this is: an experiment to see if running is the type of exercise you want to continue doing consistently for the next few years.

If 2 weeks into Couch to 5K you’re miserable and hate it: fantastic!

You just discovered that you hate running and are now free to NEVER RUN EVER AGAIN FOREVER. It doesn’t make you a failure.

It means your science experiment produced a result that you can now use to inform future exercise decisions.

Treat your Couch to 5K experience as an experiment to see if you enjoy running.

Again, it doesn’t make you a failure.

It just means you found a type of exercise that doesn’t work for you.

If you discover you LOVE running and how it makes you feel: fantastic! You can now make running part of your regular exercise routine. Combine this with a good nutritional strategy, and you will build yourself a runner’s physique. And you’ve found something you can do for the rest of your life.

If you are running to prove something to yourself, because a friend is doing it, because you’re raising money for charity, or anything else: fantastic! Do Couch to 5K and then decide after if this is the strategy that you enjoy and want to stick with permanently.

Don’t make Mistake #2: If you’re ONLY doing this to lose weight and it’s making you miserable, quit. Don’t run. Ever.

No, you don't have to run if you don't like it. We promise.

Instead, pick an exercise you actually enjoy. But not because the exercise is going to help you lose weight – because doing an exercise you love is a constant reminder of “I’m making healthier choices, and thus I should probably eat healthier!”

If weight loss above all else is your goal, I’d recommend our Beginner Bodyweight routine you can do at home and combine it with our “Beginner’s Guide to Healthy Eating.” I can promise that if you read those strategies and start to implement them in your life, you’ll see results without ever having to set foot on a treadmill.

Phew! Okay, that covers “do you actually LIKE running?”

There’s another massive question you should be asking yourself before you start…

Are You Healthy Enough to Run a 5K?

Being chased by zombies is a good way to get you off the couch and running a 5K.

Just because you WANT to run doesn’t mean you SHOULD necessarily start running just yet.

It could be a fast track to injury, disappointment, and misery!

Those are literally three of my least favorite things. The fourth being brunch.[1]

You won't find Steve chugging mimosas at brunch like this lady.

Back to your health: are you physically ready to run?

If you’re at or close to your goal weight, then starting a running program is a good idea.

Read the section below on “How to not get injured doing Couch to 5K” and get started.

If you are obese or very overweight, I think (power) WALKING a 5K is a great goal for the immediate future.

However, I think Mistake #3 would be running a 5K before properly preparing your body for it! In fact, running prematurely without addressing your weight might cause damage to your joints and ligaments and cause you to backslide a whole bunch.

WHAT I WOULD DO INSTEAD: Focus on healthy eating, building the habit of daily walks, and follow a beginner strength-building routine like the Beginner Bodyweight Circuit.

This will build you a solid foundation of strength, core strength, and endurance.

Download our free Bodyweight Workout Worksheet when you sign up in the box below:

Here’s why you should focus on strength and nutrition before pounding the pavement with hours of running:

  • As you begin to drop weight, a lot of the stress on your joints, organs, bones, etc. will start to decrease.
  • As you strength train, the ligaments that hold your body together will become stronger and more adequately prepared for the rigors of running.
  • As you refine your running form to minimize resistance and jarring shocks throughout your body, your body will learn to become more efficient.
  • When you start to approach your goal weight, you can start to introduce increase your speed from power walking to jogging – with correct running technique (see below) – and staying healthy.

“STEVE, I was all excited to run a 5k, and now you have me demoralized. I’m overweight but I still want to run!”

Okay okay okay, fine! I don’t want to keep you from exercising, I want to help you build momentum and make you antifragile.

Did the hulk get shredded by running 5Ks? Or was it radioactive something or other?

Obviously, you’re going to do what you’re going to do, and if running before you’re physically ready is what you want to do, go for it!

Just do it safely, please! Read the section below on proper running technique!

I would still advise that you focus your efforts on strength training, hiking, long walks on the beach…low impact activities that strengthen rather than deteriorate your body.

But you do you, boo.

If you want any help getting in shape to run your 5K, we got you! We help men and women and self-aware robots with our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program. We offer nutritional guidance, professional accountability, and custom workouts!

How to Start the Couch to 5K Program

If you have to chase a dog, you'll be off the couch and running without even trying.

“Steve I’m in. I read all of that jazz above and I am ready to get started. Whether I’m walking or running, I want to start Couch to 5K!”

If you’re ready to do the Couch to 5K program, you can download the following which I believe is the Original Couch to 5K Program (they’ve made it quite tough to find!).

The reason it’s tough to find is they’re pushing people towards the official Couch to 5K App.

This image shows you the original Couch to 5K plan.

Here’s another which I found on Antrandado.com

This image shows you another Couch to 5K plan.

For us Nerds, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the super fun Zombies Run! app, which uses interval training combined with fun audio cues and video game mechanics throughout your running sessions.

What I would do next after downloading the program? Do the first day of training!

These soldiers are ready to start Couch to 5K. Or fight orcs, whichever happens first.

I would also recommend finding a race that’s 2-3 months from now, and sign up for it even if you’re not ready.

Recruit a friend or two to join you in training and the race!

Doing these things create immediate motivation and accountability.

It’s the strategy that Jaime from Nerd Fitness used to get herself in shape: signing up for races in the future that she wasn’t quite ready for yet.

She also strength trained and dramatically overhauled her nutrition, but she used races as great motivational events to stay on target!

Jamie used an upcoming race as motivation for her weight loss journey.

HOW TO FIND A 5K IN YOUR TOWN: Let me google that for you. Type “5K + [your town]”, and I bet there’s a 5k every weekend for the rest of the year coming up. The Couch to 5K app also lists local races for you.

To recap:

  • Pick a race that looks fun that raises money for a good cause
  • Recruit a friend or two
  • Go for your first day of running!

It’s gonna suck, and you’re going to be fine. You’ll get better!

This is exactly what I did years ago when I dressed up like a Caveman with 20 of my friends and raised thousands of dollars for kids with cancer to go to summer camp!

How to Not Get Injured Training For a 5K

This LEGO runs 5Ks while running from people who want to glue him to stuff.

If you don’t learn how to run correctly, you’re doomed to develop an overuse injury and that’s going to negate the whole reason you started running in the first place!

This is Mistake #4: Crappy running form!

When you run, you’re putting hundreds of pounds of pressure on your joints and ligaments with each bounding step down the road.

This is then repeated thousands of times over the course of training and a race.

No wonder nearly every runner has tons of stories of injuries they’ve had to deal with. It can be a brutal activity that can wreak havoc even with good running mechanics.

With poor running mechanics, the results are compounded.

Pay attention to your running technique or things can go wrong!

And not the GOOD kind of “compounded” like compound interest like you learned in 2nd grade with the story about starting with 1 penny a day and doubling it every day for 30 days.

The BAD kind of “compounded” like plantar fasciitis and stress fractures and sore IT bands and torn ligaments and crazy soreness all the time.

We don’t want that.

I’m going to get super granular into proper running technique in this section, so if you already have perfect running form, you can skip this section. But I’d still read it.

Yeah, you should probably read it.

Here are the “5 Steps to Not Sucking at Running a 5K,” thanks to my friend Jason Fitzgerald of Strength Running:

1) Lean From Your Ankles

A gif showing you proper running form for your Couch to 5K (lean forward).

Lean from your ankles, and keep a straight line from your ankle, through your butt, and up to your head.

If you’re standing still with this slight forward lean, you should feel like you’re about to fall forward.

When you start running, gravity will help keep you progressing forward. A proper lean from the ankles keeps your body in alignment and loads your muscles properly and efficiently.

2) Increase Your Cadence

Cadence is your stride rate, or the number of steps you take per minute. It will probably seem weird at first, but you’re putting less stress on your legs with shorter foot strikes.

Your cadence should be at least 170-190 steps per minute when you’re running at an easy, conversational pace. It will probably increase once you start running faster—that’s normal.

“Steve, what the hell do I do with “170-190 steps per minute?”

Great question. Go to Spotify and look for 170-190BPM playlists, like these which I found here:

Not on Spotify? Cool. (But like, why?) To get a cadence, try running to Outkast’s “Hey Ya” and time your strides to match the beat. That’s the cadence you’re looking for:

Research has shown[2] that increasing your cadence and taking more steps (around 180 per minute) provides many of the same benefits of barefoot running: less impact shock that goes up your legs, improved running economy (or your efficiency, which means you’ll run faster with less effort!), and a reduced chance of injury.

You’ll feel like you’re taking way more steps than normal – that means you probably had poor form before and now you’re fixing it!

If your legs get to the point where they’re going this fast, let me know:

3) Foot Strike at the Right Time

When your foot comes down and makes contact with the ground, it should be underneath your body, not in front of it.

This gif shows that your foot should be underneath you while running.

Combined with a quick cadence and a slight forward lean from your ankles, you’ll be distributing impact shock evenly—and efficiently.

This aspect of running form is often skipped over by beginning runners.

Instead of focusing on where the foot is landing in relation to the rest of the body, they focus too much on running on their forefoot. If you don’t first land in the right place, a midfoot or forefoot strike will only do more damage.

As you’re running, a good mental cue is to think that you’re just “putting your foot down” in a straight line underneath your body.

There’s no reaching or stretching your leg out in front of you. Practicing this mental cue will have your leg touching down almost exactly underneath your center of mass, distributing your weight evenly and safely.

4) Land on Your Mid-Foot

While not as important as landing underneath your center of mass, becoming a mid-foot striker has a host of benefits.

This gif shows that your foot should come down mid-foot when you are running.

It can help you avoid a lot of injuries by absorbing impact shock and preventing a severe heel striking running stride.

Heel-striking can’t be entirely blamed for injuries and labeled “bad.”

Even elite athletes heel strike when they run races! It’s not entirely bad— especially if you’re putting weight down on your foot just after you heel strike, instead of directly on the heel.[3]

What you should focus on is having a higher cadence, landing underneath your body, and not aggressively heel striking.

Try to land with your foot flat on the ground, instead of with your toes angled upwards.[4]

5) Symmetrical Arm Swing

Nobody wants to look at you running if you’re flailing your arms wildly all over the place like Elaine dancing from Seinfeld.

Don't do this while running...maybe dancing...maybe. Def not during a 5K.

An ideal arm swing has your arm bent at about 90 degrees and a front-to-back swing (not side-to-side).

Like this gif shows, keep your arms at about 90 degrees while running.

Imagine a pretend line that goes down your mid-line or center of your body. When you run, your hands should not cross over this imaginary line.

Cup your hands loosely together (no clenched fists!) and if you want to use your arms for momentum, pump your elbows, not your hands.

Once you incorporate these changes into your running form, you’ll feel a lot more comfortable and your injury risk is going to plummet.

For extra credit, learn to run softly and quietly. Foot stomping isn’t allowed and gets increasingly more difficult as you approach 180 steps per minute.

A few other things you want to keep in mind:

  • Keep a tall back, chest up. No slouching.
  • Look 30-50 meters in front of you – not head down looking at your toes.

Both are easy cues to keep an athletic posture and good running form.

Go back through and read this section a few more times. We know it’s a LOT to think about while running, but it is incredibly important. If you get a chance, have somebody film you running, and then watch your tape back to see how you’re doing.

I should note that we provide form checks to our coaching clients. Through our awesome app, you can record a video of your running form or exercise technique and send it right to your coach! That way you can know your running and training safely and correctly!

10 Tips and Tricks for Training for Your 5K

After today's guide, you can run like the Flash...kind of.

Although the Couch to 5K Program covers specifically how you should be training, it still leaves out quite a few important things (like technique, which I covered above!).

Once you’ve picked your 5K training program, here’s how to get yourself to ACTUALLY follow through on your training!

#1) Recruit an accountability partner. Have somebody that trains with you (or at least somebody you tell about your training), so that each day you can check in with each other.

A friend can be a great asset in starting Couch to 5K.

Wanna be diabolical?

Give somebody else $100 of your money. And tell them you’ll check in with them after your training every day – if you don’t do your run, they’ll donate $50 of that money to a political cause you HATE.

While you’re building the habit of running, you need to make the pain of skipping your run greater than the pain of doing the run.

Do this enough times until you build up enough momentum and get hooked on that runners high so that you actually look forward to training.

#2) Warm-up before, stretch after. Don’t do static stretches before your runs. It’s not doing what you think it is[5]. Instead, you’re going to warm up your muscles through active movement.

  • Do a dynamic warm-up before you run. Continue this by going for a light jog, high knees, and warming up your muscles through movement.
  • Do the following cool-down stretching routine after you run. Stretching after for the win!

#3) Make it the first thing you do each day. Build the habit of doing your run first thing in the morning when life hasn’t had a chance to get in the way.

Sleep in your running clothes.

Put your alarm clock/phone across the room. Put your running shoes by the door. By hacking your Batcave, you’ll minimize the steps between you and the new habit you’re trying to build.

#4) Strength training makes running easier. Doing 1-2 sessions of strength training per week (on days you’re not running) will help you burn fat, build muscle, and stay injury-free.

Follow our Beginner Bodyweight Routine, no equipment required. We’ll have you training with your furniture instead:

Be careful here, but a table can be great to do inverted rows from.

If you sign-up for our free weekly newsletter, I’ll send you a PDF of the workout so you can track your progress.

#5) Don’t worry about your shoes when you start. Wear whatever shoes you have so that you can just get started building the habit immediately. If you START to love running, read our article on proper footwear and get yourself some better kicks.

Get comfy running a little before you invest in new shoes...because you might not actually like running.

The same is true for “running clothes.” Do not let this be a barrier to entry.

Start running first and make sure you like it before you go spending any hard-earned cash on stuff you’re not gonna use.

Oh, and as Coach Jim mentions in the video below, DON’T RUN IN BRAND NEW SHOES!

Trust us on this one.

#6) Sign up for your race as far in advance as possible. Use 20 seconds of courage if you need to, but commit to the race.

If you don’t sign up, you’re going to be much more likely to back out when life gets busy.

Go sign-up for a 5K right now! Don't be too busy like this cat.

But if you pay for it ahead of time, and get other people to run with you, you’re going to be using positive peer pressure to follow through on your commitments.

#7) Your race time doesn’t matter! Who cares if you’re the last person to finish? Like the Rock taught us, it doesn’t matter.

The Rock doesn't care what your 5K time is!

What’s important is that you finish something that you started. That’s a huge accomplishment in itself.

#8) Start a running club or join one at work – the more people you surround yourself with that are doing the things you want to do, the better. Hang out with runners that are faster than you.

You’re the average of the 5 people you associate most with, so you might as well start associating with faster, healthy runners.

#9) Don’t have an in-person running community? That’s cool! Join the Scouts Guild in the Nerd Fitness Rebellion.

It’s the section of our community that does running, biking, swimming, and other distance-based activities!

#10) Hire a coach. Outside of having a group of friends or co-workers keeping you accountable, a coach who routinely checks in with you and your progress can be a godsend. We’ve helped tons of people build the habit of running!

What Do I do After the Couch to 5k?

What do you do after running your 5K? You eat!!!

You made it through the training, and you ran/walked your first 5K! I’m so proud of you.

Gold star.

A+.

So after successfully completing your first 5K, you may be wondering what you should do next. To run again or not…

Many new runners absolutely love the atmosphere at a race; the number pick- up, pre-race motivational speech, cheering crowds, and crossing that finish line.

Oh, and the post-race beer and meal is the best food and drink you’ve ever tasted.

So after the excitement settles down, you need to ask what you want to do next.

Your three options:

  1. Run Faster: Sign up for another 5K, keep training, and try to beat your previous race time.
  2. Run longer: Maybe you want to run a longer race like a 5 miler, a 10k, or go slay a bigger dragon, like half-marathons or marathons.
  3. Pick a different activity: Going from Couch to 5K to Couch doesn’t help you at all. Temporary changes create temporary results.

Notice there wasn’t a 4th option, the option that usually everybody picks:

“Go back to sitting on the couch”

That’s Mistake #5: not having a plan to CONTINUE exercising after Couch to 5K!

As we say at Nerd Fitness: “Temporary changes create temporary results.”

So you have to do SOMETHING next, otherwise all that hard work and training will have been for naught!

Want help figuring out exactly where you should go from here? I got you!

Pick the option below that best aligns with your goals and timeline:

#1) We have a bunch of NF Coaching clients that are training for 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons, and tough mudders. If you want step-by-step guidance on how to lose weight, eat better, and train for races, check out our killer 1-on-1 coaching program:

2) If you want a fun way to start running 5ks, check out NF Journey. Our fun habit-building app helps you exercise more frequently, eat healthier, and level up your life (literally).

Try your free trial right here:

3) Join the Rebellion! We need good people like you in our community, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion.

Sign up in the box below to enlist and get the Nerd Fitness Starter Kit, including the 15 fitness mistakes you don’t want to make and our guide to the most effective diet and why it works

4) Check out these other sweet running resources:

To recap our guide on the Couch the 5K plan, these are the 5 Mistakes to avoid:

  1. Running a 5K might be a good way to lose weight. It is entirely dependent on your nutrition. The same is true of literally ANY workout program. (Mistake #1: Not changing your nutrition)
  2. Couch to 5K may or may not be a great program for you. It depends on how much you enjoy running, and what you are hoping to get out of the program. (Mistake #2: not actually enjoying running)
  3. Make sure you are fit enough to endure the rigors of running! If you’re severely overweight, let’s get you in shape FIRST before we put stress on your knees and joints for thousands of running steps. (Mistake #3: Running before you’re ready)
  4. Make sure your running technique is solid. It’ll save you years of pain and injury. (Mistake #4: Running with improper form)
  5. Recruit a friend or find a way to stay accountable so you actually do the race!
  6. Who cares about your race time! Just completing the race should be your goal.
  7. Once you finish the race, decide if you want to keep running or if you are going to pick a different activity. (Mistake #5: Not having another goal after completing your 5K)

Okay, it’s your turn. I’d love to hear your experiences when it comes to training for a 5K, and if you enjoyed the process.

Have you DONE Couch to 5K? Did you stick with it?

What challenges did you run into along the way?

Share it in the comments below!

-Steve

PS: I’ll leave you with a final reminder of our 1-on-1 Coaching Program. If you’re blown away by the fact that you don’t have to run to get in shape, but don’t know where else to begin, we got you.

Nerd Fitness Coaching Banner

###

photo credit: mripp Fun run, 632imagine © 123RF.com,Four Bricks Tall Morning run with the Fitbit and Laughing Buddha, clement127 Halloween is coming!!, Flash, and Banquet, Andreas Just a Lego Minifig, Reiterlied Wandering in the North,

The post Should You Do Couch to 5K? Don’t Make These 5 Mistakes first appeared on Nerd Fitness.

]]>
https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/couch-to-5k-crucial-things-to-know-before-you-start-training/feed/ 335
Healthy Eating Ultimate Guide: Start Eating Healthy Without Being Miserable https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/healthy-eating/ https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/healthy-eating/#disqus_thread Tue, 23 Aug 2022 05:33:00 +0000 http://nerdfitness.com/blog/?p=11045 So you want to start eating healthy, eh? Amazing! We’ve helped hundreds of thousands of people like you transform into actual superheroes, and we focus on proper nutrition to do so. These are the exact strategies we teach our Online Coaching clients, and we’ve used these tips to help them lose weight and get in […]

The post Healthy Eating Ultimate Guide: Start Eating Healthy Without Being Miserable first appeared on Nerd Fitness.

]]>
Is this breakfast part of a healthy diet?

So you want to start eating healthy, eh?

Amazing!

We’ve helped hundreds of thousands of people like you transform into actual superheroes, and we focus on proper nutrition to do so.

These are the exact strategies we teach our Online Coaching clients, and we’ve used these tips to help them lose weight and get in great shape without being miserable.

Plus, we use fun LEGO photos and gifs to keep you entertained.

In this Ultimate Guide, we’ll cover everything you need to start eating healthy today:

Let’s jump in!

The Truth About Healthy Eating

What foods make up a healthy diet?

It’s really easy to tell people the following advice: 

“To lose weight, just eat more REAL food.”

“Just eat less fast food and junk food.”

“Try to eat more organic vegetables watered by unicorn tears, farm-to-table meals served by centaurs, and kale omletes made with eggs from chickens that you raised since birth.”  

Okay so maybe people don’t say the last one. 

But it’s not far from what healthy people say to people who can’t seem to get healthy.

In my opinion, these positions are completely out of touch with reality and it makes me plum dog mad.

No one likes being told "just eat better."

For starters, fast food is crazy delicious and dirt cheap, and often the only way that many busy parents can feed themselves and their kids.[1]

Next, applying morality and guilt to food consumption (“I’m being ‘so bad’ by eating this cookie”) creates an emotional rollercoaster – my least favorite kind of roller coaster.

I mean come on, we don’t need to be told that freshly grown fruits and veggies are better for us than junk food.

We don’t need to be told that organic grilled chicken and kale salad is healthier than a Double Whopper with Cheese.

Snape knows he should eat veggies to be healthy. But HOW DO YOU DO IT!

We all know this! 

So rather than “trying harder” to eat healthier we’re going to use things like “science” and “human psychology” and “excessive quotation marks.” 

Cool?

Here’s what you need to know: If you’re just trying to be healthier and maybe lose some weight, there’s no need to start funneling kale smoothies, mainlining chicken and broccoli, and abandoning your loyalty to the Burger King.

You can lose weight and be healthy while still eating these foods occasionally. 

Heck, people have lost weight by eating Twinkies[2] and drinking soda and eating at McDonald’s 3 times per day.[3]

I share this info not to promote those foods, but rather to make a big point:

If you are terrified of giving up all “junk food”…

You do not need to give up fast food if it brings you joy.

You do not need to feel shame for eating ice cream. 

You do not need to use terms like “cheat meal” or “guilty pleasure” when talking about a chocolate chip cookie.

Food isn’t good or evil, my dear friend! 

It’s just food! 

Let’s bring it all together:

If we have certain health goals, we can give ourselves the best chance of success by getting strategic about what foods we say “YES” to, and what foods we say “SOMETIMES” to. 

These YES foods give us more energy and have fewer calories on average than “junk food,” which means we’re likely to eat fewer total calories without realizing it.

And thus, we end up with the Triforce of Awesome:

  • A longer lifespan.[4a]
  • A smaller waistline.[4b]
  • A happier, healthier existence.[5]

Healthy eating can help you be awesome in multiple ways.

So what are these magical foods we’re talking about?

I thought you’d never ask.

What is Healthy Eating?

IS this egg part of a healthy diet? Let's find out!

Removing all the morality and science of food, let’s talk about a realistic definition of “healthy food”:

“Foods I can eat frequently that give me enough fuel to get through the day AND don’t make me miserable.”

Most doctors, websites, and books have generally the same list of “healthy foods”:

  • Protein like poultry, meat, low-fat dairy, and legumes. 
  • Fruits and vegetables.
  • Healthy carbohydrates like rice and quinoa.
  • Healthy fats like almonds and olive oil.
  • Occasional full-fat cheese and dairy.

(A more complete list of healthy foods is below). 

Why is it that these are the foods that happen to end up on every list on every website when it comes to “healthy eating?” 

Why do all sites advise more of less the same foods for a healthy diet?

Simple.

They are full of vitamins and minerals while also being lower in calories than ultra-processed foods that are easily overconsumed.[6]

They also fill us up, making us feel satiated, and keep us under our calorie allotment for the day.[7]

Now you’re starting to get it:

If we can prioritize these foods on our plate even occasionally, we’ll feel full more often while eating fewer calories… 

Which leads to sustainable weight loss and maintenance

This man is stoked he gets to lose weight sustainably through healthy eating...and punching his enemies.

Let me drive this point about into your brain (not literally). 

Each of the following foods contains 200 calories in the quantities shown (courtesy of wiseGEEK):

2/3 of a bagel is 200 calories.This handful of pasta is 200 calories.This handful of turkey is 200 calories.This plate full of apples is 200 calories.

And here’s a huge plate of broccoli, also 200 calories:

A pic of 200 calories of broccoli

In this context, the realization that we might overeat certain foods compared to others starts to become more clear:

  • If we accidentally overeat broccoli, we might eat an extra 20 calories. And who accidentally overeats broccoli?
  • If we accidentally overeat spaghetti, we might eat an extra 500-1000 calories. 
  • If we accidentally eat a family-sized bag of Sour Patch Kids, we might eat an extra 2000 calories (and have no tastebuds left on your tongue)[8].

Which brings me to the next point:[9] 

We humans are terrible at estimating how many calories we eat.

Like, really really bad at it. I bet the proportions of the above foods surprised you. 

We consistently eat much more than we realize, by as much as 47%+.[10]

To make matters worse, we also OVERestimate how many calories we burn through exercise. 

One study showed that Fitness trackers like AppleWatch or Fitbit do not estimate energy burned through exercise accurately, some by as much as 90%![11]

Our Fitbit trackers might not be super accurate when reporting calories burned. Take this into account when referencing your calorie needs.

That’s why we made this fun infographic:

This infographic shows calorie discrepancies from fitness trackers compared to actual calories burned.

So when we “can’t lose weight,” it’s not because we have a broken metabolism. 

It’s not because we have bad genetics[12].

Or that we’re not eating for our blood type.

It’s because we consistently eat too much food without realizing it.

Deadpool tries to match his calorie goals...when not saving the world and whatnot.

Because we always have a ready supply of new energy from recently eaten food, more than we need, our body NEVER has to dip into our stored fat to burn for fuel. 

And when we think we’ve out-exercised our bad diet, we really haven’t.

So it’s time to stop “trying harder” and instead “try differently”:

In order for us to get healthy, we need to find ways to include more foods that fill us up AND taste good.

Luckily, I have that list riiiiight here!

How to Start Eating Healthy (Healthy Food List)

A plate that that contains a portion of protein, healthy carb, veggies/fruit, and unsweetened drink.

There are three big macronutrients that we’re going to focus on as we build our plate like the image above:

  • Protein: building blocks for our muscles.
  • Carbohydrates: our bodies will burn as fuel. 
  • Fats: can be burned as fuel, and also helps with nutrition absorption!

#1) PROTEIN: Priority Numero Uno. 

Protein is amazing. 

Your body uses protein to rebuild your muscles and keep you strong, especially if you are exercising or strength training regularly. 

Protein is both good for you AND highly satiating.[13] 

Protein can come from any number of sources, including:

  • Meat (beef, bison, pork).
  • Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck).
  • Eggs![14]
  • Fish and shellfish (salmon, tuna, shrimp).
  • Legumes (black beans, chickpeas).

Not a meat-eater? Read our massive plant-based guide!

A serving of protein is about the size and thickness of your palm.

A serving of protein should be about the size of your palm, like so.

*The 4 oz serving is for an uncooked piece of meat. Cooking reduces about 25% of the weight, bringing it down to about 3 oz.

When building a plate, aim for the following amount of protein:

  • Dudes: 1-2 servings (6-8 oz or about 170-228 g): two palms
  • Dudettes: 1 serving (3-4 oz or about 85-114 g): 1 palm.

If you’re curious, here’s how much protein is in a serving of food:

  • 4 oz (113 g) serving of chicken has around 30 g of protein.
  • 4 oz (113 g) serving of salmon has 23 g of protein
  • 4 oz (113 g) of steak has 28 g of protein. 

As we cover in our “how much protein should I eat per day?” you can target anywhere from 80% to 100% of your bodyweight in pounds per gram of protein, with an upper limit of 250g[15]:

  • If you weigh 150 pounds (68 kg), target 120-150g of protein.
  • If you weigh 200 pounds (90 kg), target 160-200g of protein.
  • If you weigh 250 pounds (113 kg), target 200-250g of protein.
  • If you weigh more than 250 pounds (113 kg), target 250g of protein.

#2: VEGETABLES: The difference-maker when it comes to healthy eating and weight management.

Vegetables are the key to healthy eating.

They are nutrient-dense: full of all the good nutrients that your body can use to function at optimal performance. 

Next, they are voluminous but calorie-light, which means you can eat lots of them, you’ll feel full, but you’re unlikely to over-consume calories.

A serving of veggies is about the size of your fist.

A serving of veggies should be the size of your first (or greater).

Remember this is what just 200 calories of broccoli looks like (holy crap). This is at least 5 full servings:

A pic of 200 calories of broccoli

Here’s a quick, non-complete list of veggies that can fill your plate:

  • Broccoli
  • Broccolini
  • Cauliflower
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Spaghetti squash[16]
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumber
  • Carrots
  • Onion
  • Asparagus

Target 2 servings of vegetables on your plate – it should take up ½ the plate! 

“But Steve, I don’t like vegetables…yet!” 

That’s cool, I didn’t eat vegetables until I was 22. Now, they’re a main staple of every meal I eat. 

If this is you, read our guide on “how to make vegetables taste good.”

To recap portion sizes of protein and vegetables:

A reminder of the protein and veggie serving sizes.

#3) HEALTHY CARBOHYDRATES: Fuel and fiber! 

These are the foods that can be an important part of a diet, provided you eat them in the right quantities for your goals. 

These foods are also great to consume right after a strenuous strength training workout to help your muscles and liver refill their glycogen stores (their energy tanks[17], essentially). 

Examples of healthy carbohydrates:

  • Rice
  • Legumes, lentils
  • Quinoa
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Yams
  • Whole grain bread (or pasta)

This is a list of REAL food, minimally processed, that also have plenty of fiber[18]

If you’re wondering how fruit factors into this equation, that’s the next section.

Back to healthy carbs: when consumed in appropriate amounts, these are great foods that can help you feel full and give you energy and all that jazz. 

Just make sure you know what an actual portion of these foods are! 

A LOT of people accidentally overeats carbohydrate-heavy foods, even healthy ones, and then wonders why they aren’t losing weight.

To help you get better at eyeballing serving sizes:

Showing you a serving of carbs

1 serving of a starchy carbohydrate is 1 cupped hand (uncooked), or your two hands forming a cup (cooked). 

Here are some images to help you learn proper portion sizes (thanks to SafeFood):

This pic will give you an idea of how carbs should fit on your plate, so you can start eating healthy!

#4) HEALTHY FATS: No longer the enemy!

Fat had a bad rep in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, but now things are swinging wayyyyy back in the other direction.

In some circles, dietary fat is considered a superfood – the healthiest thing on the planet that also does your taxes for you.

Let’s get to the truth:

Fat is neither a superfood nor evil. 

Fat can be part of a healthy diet, and is not evil, to the frustration of Dr. Evil.

It’s just a macronutrient that you can eat that can help you reach your goals in the right quantity, or keep you from your goals if it’s overconsumed.

When your doctor tells you to eat more healthy fats, she’s referring to polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats[19].

Healthy fat can be found in foods like:

  • Avocado 
  • Almonds 
  • Walnuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Almond butter 
  • Peanut butter

Now, science has recently come around on saturated fat too[20] – once completely vilified, but now cautiously considered okay for moderate consumption. 

Saturated fats can come from things like:

  • Whole milk
  • Full fat dairy
  • Coconut oil
  • Grass-fed butter
  • Lard
  • Fatty cuts of meat

Fat can be good for you provided you’re eating the right quantity for your goals. 

However, like carbs, fats can be overconsumed accidentally too. 

To help you gauge: a serving size of fat is roughly the size of your thumb!

A serving of fat should be about your thumb!

THIS is a single serving of almonds (162 calories):

Knowing the correct amount of almonds to eat can help you with your calorie goals.

THIS is a serving of olive oil (119 calories, taken from Runtastic):

Your thumb is about one serving of olive oil

As you can see, if you’re not careful – you can accidentally eat an extra 500 calories of “healthy fats” by absentmindedly eating too many “heart-healthy” fats. 

Many folks in our Coaching Program had us analyze why they weren’t losing weight, even though they “only ate grilled chicken and veggies.” 

When we dug into it, they had been preparing all of their food in an extra 500-600 calories worth of olive oil they weren’t accounting for. 

Homer just realized he eats too much olive oil.

To recap carbs and fats: feel free to include a starchy carb on your plate in the form of rice, potatoes, pasta, or legumes. Healthy fats can spice up a meal, provided you’re using an appropriate portion size

A reminder of the serving sizes of carbs and fat.

I realize that was a CRAZY amount of info, so let’s put it all on the same Healthy Plate:

A plate that that contains a portion of protein, healthy carb, veggies/fruit, and unsweetened drink.

  • 1-2 servings of protein (¼ of plate)
  • 2 servings of vegetables (½ of plate)
  • 1 serving potatoes, rice, or pasta. (1/4th of plate)
  • 1 serving of fat (size of your thumb)
  • 1 zero-calorie or low-calorie beverage (water, diet soda, tea)

I know that not all of your meals are going to be perfectly segmented like a bento box. For example: 

  • A fatty cut of meat like chicken thighs means your fat and protein are commingling. Cool.
  • Lentils and legumes mean your protein and your carbs are attached at the hip. Swell.
  • A burrito bowl with chicken, rice, guacamole, and cheese means all of your macros are cohabitating. Neato!
  • Salmon cooked in olive oil and coated in almond flakes means your fat and protein have fused. Stupendous!

This plate and serving size stuff above is just to help you get started thinking about healthy food differently and in proper portion sizes:

  • Trying to lose weight? Reduce your portions of carbs and fats.
  • Trying to gain weight? Increase your portions of carbs and fats! 

Remember, all calories count

I can already predict your next series of questions:

  • “What about beverages?” Simple. Liquid calories count too. So stick to low or zero-calorie drinks like water, tea, coffee, and diet soda. 
  • “How about condiments?” Grilled chicken slathered in 1000 calories of buffalo sauce means you’re still eating a calorie bomb!
  • “But what about things like Paleo or Keto? I thought low carb = healthy?” I address that in the “which diet is right for me?” section. Keep reading.

What’s the Deal with Fruit? Is Fruit Healthy?

Yes, fruit can be healthy, as this LEGO has figured out by cutting into it.

As we lay out in our “Is Fruit Healthy?” Guide, fruit is absolutely healthy and can help you reach your goals – in the right quantities. 

Fruits are full of nutrients, packed with fiber, and can make for a great snack or part of a protein-focused breakfast!

Watermelon can be part of a healthy diet. Just maybe don't eat the kind that dances.

Personally, I blend up frozen mixed berries in my post-workout smoothie.

Just remember that fruit, like every other food, obeys the laws of thermodynamics.

So, simply be aware of the calories (and carb and fiber content if you’re following a lower-carb diet).

Here’s a list of the calorie, carbohydrate, and fiber content of some common fruit:

  • Apple: 95 cal, 25g carbs, 4.4g fiber. 
  • Banana: 105 cal, 27g carbs, 3.1g fiber. 
  • Orange: 45 cal, 11g carbs, 2.3g fiber. 
  • Pear: 100 cal, 28g carbs, 3g fiber. 
  • Peach: 59 cal, 14g carbs, 2.3g fiber. 
  • Strawberries (1 cup): 47 cal, 11g carbs, 3g fiber. 
  • Pineapple (1 cup): 82 cal, 22g carbs, 2.3g fiber. 
  • Grapes (1 cup): 62 cal, 16g carbs, 0.8g fiber. 
  • Raspberries (1 cup): 65 cal, 15g carbs, 8 fiber. 

Fruit is a better, healthier alternative to nutrient-empty food from a vending machine.

Fruit is healthier than what you'll find in a vending machine, plus you'll lower your chance of getting stuck in one.

Where fruit can get you in trouble is if you start to move in the direction of “fruit-like”:

#1) Fruit juices (cranberry juice, orange juice, grape juice): these are high calorie, sugar-filled beverages. 

For example, here are the calories in one 8 oz (or 1 cup)[21] serving of: 

  • Apple Juice: 114 calories[22]
  • Orange Juice: 119 calories[23]
  • Grape Juice: 14 calories[24]

#2) Dried fruit: notoriously easy to overeat because they are so small. Since the water has been taken out, all that’s left is the sugar and fiber. 

Here’s 1 serving of raisins, which is 108 calories and 21 g of sugar:

Since the water is taken out, raisins have a lot of sugar and calories.

If you are saying “oh man, I eat 5x that many raisins when I eat them…” then multiply those calorie and sugar numbers by 5!

3) Fruit Smoothies: Just because it’s a fruit smoothie doesn’t mean it won’t make you fat! Have you seen the calorie count and sugar content of smoothies and ‘green drinks’? Yikes.

  • Green Machine Naked Juice (15.2 oz or 450 ml bottle): 270 calories, 53 g of sugar.
  • Smoothie King Banana Boat (20 oz or 591 ml smoothie): 450 calories, 70 g of sugar.

A man realizing how much sugar is in his drink.

**If you prepare your smoothie at home with a blender, it can actually be healthy since the fiber is intact. Here’s my personal recipe.**

To recap: fruit is healthy, provided you stick to fresh or frozen and not fruit-like food, dried fruit, or canned fruit packed in syrup. 

If you enjoy a small glass of orange juice occasionally, or you pack a serving of raisins in your lunch and it makes life worth living, by all means! 

Just don’t chug OJ by the gallon, drink a 64 oz “real fruit smoothie,” and eat raisins by the handful and then wonder why you’re not losing weight.

Are Cheese and Dairy healthy?

Is cheese and dairy part of a healthy diet? This LEGO is clearly skeptical.

We get questions about these two types of food frequently. 

Let me start by saying I’m assuming you’re not doing Paleo (which says “NO dairy and NO cheese”), or plant-based (which says NO to all animal products).

I’ll also assume you’re not doing Keto, which almost requires you to load up on dairy and cheese to eat enough fat every day! 

Let’s pretend you’re just curious if cheese and/or dairy can be consumed on a “healthy diet:”:

YES, you can still eat cheese and be healthy.

YES, you can still eat dairy and be healthy.

And there was much rejoicing:

Yes, both dairy and cheese can be part of a healthy diet. Rejoice!

Like the healthy carbs and fats listed above, it all comes down to your calories consumed in a day, and if these foods fit into your daily calorie goals:

  1. Want to put cheese on top of your salad of chicken and vegetables? Great! 
  2. Want to eat greek yogurt, a scoop of protein powder, and frozen berries for your breakfast? Amazing! 
  3. Want to eat a bowl of cereal with skim milk (or whole milk) in the morning with your kid before school? No problem.

This is true for higher-fat cheeses or full-fat dairy too – the food just needs to fit into your goals! 

Luckily, all dairy comes labeled, and most cheese will come with a nutrition label on it too. 

Just ensure that you’re choosing appropriate portion sizes. For reference, here are four different servings of cheddar cheese (about 113 calories a serving):

A serving of cheddar cheese is about 113 calories.

And here’s a serving of greek yogurt (120 calories in 142 grams):[25]

a serving of Greek Yogurt

And although nobody in the history of the world has ever eaten just one serving…here is a serving of ice cream:

A serving of ice cream is about the size of a tennis ball, cleverly shown here.

(A scoop of ice cream the size of a tennis ball is about 127 calories, cleverly shown above.)

So, dairy and cheese are both perfectly acceptable healthy food options! Just make sure they fit into your goals. 

If you are NOT losing weight, and you consume a lot of dairy and/or cheese, consider measuring your intake and see if it’s in line with your expectations! 

What’s the Best Diet for Me? Keto vs Paleo vs Plant-based.

Yoda knows a lot about healthy eating (and fixing R2)

“Low fat diets? Low carb diets? No carb diets? I don’t know which one is the BEST diet!” 

“Help me, Steve Kamb, you’re my only hope.”

Okay, you’re probably not saying that, but it’s an excuse to pay homage to Star Wars so I can use the great photo above.

You probably do have questions though about what’s healthier, a low fat diet or a low carb diet.

Low carb diets are all the rage right now, but are they healthy and will they help you lose weight

Will a low carb diet help you lose weight? Maybe!

Maybe.

It may depend on how your body regulates glucose (blood sugar):[26]

Some who don’t regulate glucose well may do better on a lower-carb diet.

Others who do regulate glucose well might do better on a lower-fat diet. 

Studies show that people who follow EITHER a low fat OR a low carb diet will still lose weight, as long as they are in caloric restriction and can adhere to the diet for at least a year.[27]

So, it comes down to: “which diet are you more likely to stick with for a year or longer?”

I personally lost 22 pounds over 6 months on a lower-fat diet (and eating plenty of carbs), but everybody is different.

This means you’ll need to experiment and see which is better for your lifestyle, and your day-to-day well-being.

Experiment with different kinds of diet until you find one that works for you!

But I bet you have questions about the big popular diets too. 

I’ve written a huge guide that covers all popular weight-loss diets together, but we’ve also written individual ultimate guides that cover:

Let’s look at each of these diets and explain why they will help you lose weight, at least temporarily:

Truth #1:  Every diet works in the short term.

Truth #2: Nearly every diet fails in the long term.

Let’s address these two truths individually: 

Why does every diet work in the short term

Why DO diets work in the short term? This ape wants to know so he can eat healthy.

All the diets above have a clever way of restricting calories without you needing to count calories, which leads to weight loss: 

  • Paleo Diet: eliminate everything but veggies, meat, fruit, and nuts. 
  • Intermittent Fasting: skip an entire meal!
  • Keto Diet: remove an entire macronutrient from your diet (carbs).
  • Military Diet: Only eat specific foods in certain quantities.
  • Plant-based Diet: Only eat foods from plants.
  • Carnivore Diet: Only eat meat! Eliminate everything else. 

Of course, there are plenty of benefits from following certain diets for certain groups of people. For example, Larry went Keto and it helped him reduce inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis. 

However, 99% of the reason why these diets result in short-term weight loss is that they get us to eat fewer calories! 

The problems arise when we get to Truth 2: 

“Nearly every diet fails in the long term.”

Put another way: 

Temporary changes create temporary results. 

If somebody “goes Keto” for 60 days, they’ll most likely lose weight, and might even feel better! This is cool. 

BUT! 

(There’s always a but…)

If they spend those 60 days in misery, dreaming of carbs, counting down the meals until they can “go back to eating like normal,” they will put all of the weight back.

The weight loss you obtain through diet will only stick as long as you stay on that diet.

In order for restrictive diets to create permanent results for somebody, they need to be adopted PERMANENTLY! 

For most of us mere mortals, we can’t stick with a restrictive diet for 30 days, let alone a year or a decade. 

For these reasons, I strongly advise you to change how you think about dieting.

You need to determine how likely you are to stick with a restrictive diet permanently:

  1. How averse are you to change?
  2. How likely are you to stick with your changes?
  3. Have you tried a restrictive diet in the past and failed?
  4. Do you have a healthy relationship with food?
  5. Do you have an “all or nothing?” mindset?

Like playing a video game, you need to determine what level of difficulty you are willing to attempt. 

Playing on “Ultra Hard Difficulty” (like Keto) gives you less room for error, but it can also produce impressive results quickly – if you don’t rage quit.

And 99% of people rage quit restrictive diets like Keto.

So what’s the best diet for you? 

I’ll give you the same answer that I give people when they ask me, “What’s the best workout plan?”: 

The best diet is the one that helps you reach your goals, that you ENJOY, and that you’ll actually stick with permanently!

Personally, I don’t follow any sort of restrictive diet

I’m a big fan of small changes that eventually produce big results, like my boy Optimus Prime:

Optimus Prime wants you to eat healthy.

This is why I’ve SLOWWWWLY adjusted my diet over the past decade, so that no change was too drastic and I could stick with it permanently.

It’s not a diet. It’s a lifestyle change. Permanently.

And that’s what I would recommend for you: 

Small, non-scary, permanent changes over a long time period! 

You need to start thinking in terms of “days and years,” not “weeks and months:”

How to Grocery Shop, Cook and Meal Prep!

Marge knows how to buy food to eat healthy, Yoda is just here for moral support.

Okay! Now that you’ve determined your healthy eating strategy, it’s time to take action. 

There are three big steps you’ll want to master if this is your path: 

Step #1: Grocery Shopping!

You can read our full guide on “How to grocery shop”, and we even have a video that keeps things fun too:

Here’s how to grocery shop like a pro:

  • Stick mostly to the outer rim. This means you’re mostly buying meat, fruit, and veggies[28].
  • Read the nutrition label! Just because it says it’s healthy on the front doesn’t mean it is. Read the nutrition label and learn portion sizes. This can help keep you below your daily calorie goal
  • Don’t shop hungry! It may seem silly, but you end up buying way more junk food accidentally if you shop while hangry (a mix of hungry-angry, never a great emotion).
  • Make a list. Before you go grocery shopping, write down everything you should get. You can even put “non-healthy” food items on the list. But then you can only buy what’s on your list! This means no candy in the check-out aisle, or buying Oreos just because they’re on sale! Plan ahead. Stick to the script, sister.

Step #2: Learn to cook!

Once you get cooking you'll feel like the Swedish Chef.

In the next section, we share recipes for basic healthy meals that you can cook at home. 

Here’s why cooking at home is amazing: 

  1. You know all of the ingredients. When you eat at restaurants or pick up fast food, there are often hidden calories in the cooking oils and sauces that are sabotaging your healthy efforts. Because of this, it’s really hard to have an idea of how many calories you’re consuming. When you prepare food at home, you know what you’re getting.
  2. You can recreate healthier versions of your favorite foods. Making homemade tacos or pizza with homemade dough can be a great date-night experience, makes your stomach happy, AND can help you reach your goals!
  3. You save money. If your budget is tight, grocery shopping and cooking your own meals is a great way to balance your budget and free up some cash! Our most successful coaching clients work with their coaches on building the habit of cooking at home.

Now, if you’re somebody who only ever uses your kitchen to heat up microwave meals, that’s no problem. 

You can get by eating healthy with just a microwave!

Here are the guides you should check out: 

Step #3 (BONUS): Meal Prep and Batch Cooking!  

This step isn’t necessary, but if your goal is to make healthy eating a habit for you and your family, batch cooking can be the difference maker! 

By “batch cooking,” I simply mean setting aside time to prepare larger quantities of food at the start of the week, so that throughout the week you already have meals to eat!  

Personally, batch cooking changed my life.

Batch cooking can change your life, as this sheep knows!

And every single success story we’ve featured on Nerd Fitness (like this one) involved some sort of batch cooking (planning your meals for the week ahead). 

Follow these rules, and you will crush it in the Healthy Eating Department[29]!

19 Healthy Eating Meals You Can Cook Today

This LEGO is making a tasty meal of fish and veggies, so he can eat healthy.

“Okay Steve, you have me convinced I should be eating more healthy foods. But I am a nerd and I need specific instructions to follow!”

I got you. 

As a kid raised on LEGO and K’nex, I am the exact same way! 

Clearly we love LEGOs here at Nerd Fitness

Here are options to get the ball rolling on healthy breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners. Use these as inspiration or starting points for your meal planning! 

3 BREAKFASTS (Unless you do Intermittent fasting!)

Breakfast 1: Prosciutto-Wrapped Mini Frittata Muffins (4 muffins)

A Frittata like so can make a great healthy breakfast.

    • Calories: 440
    • Protein: 32g
    • Fat: 24g
    • Carbs: 16g

Breakfast 2: Kale Breakfast Salad (1/4 of recipe)

Who says you can't have salad for breakfast?

    • Calories: 331
    • Protein: 15g
    • Fat: 12g
    • Carbs: 14g

Breakfast 3: Breakfast Meal Prep Bowls (1 bowl)

If you do a little prep work, you can have a tasty breakfast for every day of the week!

    • Calories: 204
    • Protein: 10g
    • Fat: 10g
    • Carbs: 19g

3 LUNCHES

Lunch 1: Spicy Tuna Cakes (4 cakes)

Fish is a great addition to healthy eating, so grub down on meals like this!

    • Calories: 368
    • Protein: 20g
    • Fat: 20g
    • Carbs: 28g

Lunch 2: Chicken Zucchini Enchilada (1 enchilada )

Who says you need tortillas for enchilada?

    • Calories: 154
    • Protein: 16.7g
    • Fat: 7.2g
    • Carbs: 6.1g

Lunch 3: Lettuce Wrap Sandwich (1 sandwich)

If you lose the bread, a sandwich makes a great low calorie meal.

    • Calories: 279
    • Protein: 26g
    • Fat: 19g
    • Carbs: 10g

3 SNACKS (Unless you’re on “Team No Snack”)

Snack 1: Green Protein Snack Pack (2)

Edamame can give you a protein packed snack!

    • Calories: 234
    • Protein: 22g
    • Fat: 16g
    • Carbs: 32g

Snack 2: Avocado Egg Salad (1/4 recipe)

If you made a big batch of this salad, it'll make a great snack for healthy eating!

    • Calories: 330
    • Protein: 18g
    • Fat: 25g
    • Carbs: 8g

Snack 3: Baked Chicken Wings (1/5 of batch)

Chicken wings can be a great low carb or paleo friendly snack for healthy eating!

    • Calories: 440
    • Protein: 34g
    • Fat: 33g
    • Carbs: 1g

3 DINNERS

Dinner 1: Big-o Bacon Burgers (2 burgers)

If you use mushrooms instead of a bun, you can have an easy paleo burger!

    • Calories: 450
    • Protein: 34g
    • Fat: 40g
    • Carbs: 2g

Dinner 2: Vegan Portobello Pizzas (1 pizza)

Low carb and vegan pizza? Woot!

    • Calories: 165
    • Protein: 7.7g
    • Fat: 10g
    • Carbs: 14.5g

Dinner 3: Ground Beef Veggie Skillet (1/4 of dish)

If you mix your beer with veggies, you have a low-carb and paleo friendly meal. Healthy eating for the win!

    • Calories: 261
    • Protein: 29.5g
    • Fat: 1.8g
    • Carbs: 8.5g

All of these meals are nutrient-dense and low in calories, so they’ll give you the best chance at weight management without feeling miserable

Does all that seem like too much?

Watch this video from Nerd Fitness Prime where Coach Justin shows you how to make 7 “No-Cook” meals:

Meals covered in this video:

  • Egg and Avocado Rice Cakes
  • Cheese and Turkey Roll-ups
  • Chicken Pomegranate Salad
  • Shrimp Pineapple Salad
  • Smoked Salmon Wraps
  • Greek Yogurt (with Protein Powder)
  • Two-Ingredient Desserts

Want some more ideas? Check out 26 Easy Meals You Can Cook

Just remember, quantity counts:

  • If your goal is weight loss: Keep an eye on the fat and carbs portion of your plate!  
  • If your goal is weight gain, then you can ratchet up your total calories consumed by increasing your fat and carbohydrate portion of your plate! 

Not sure how to make these meals work or how to adjust them for your goals? 

This is exactly what we do with our Online Coaching Program!

How to Simplify Nutrition (3 Steps)

In the video above, Coach Staci walks you through her step-by-step plan for simplifying nutrition.

Yeah, I’ve thrown a lot at you today.

But as Staci mentions above, you can start off small, with some simple steps. Once you get these down, we can work on adding some more simple habits.

To start eating healthy:

  • Have a glass of water with every meal.
  • Have a vegetable with every meal.
  • Have a source of lean protein with every meal.

That’s it!

When someone joins our coaching program, these are often the steps we have them take. 

Yeah, sometimes they’ll bulk, thinking this is not enough…

A gif saying "is that it?"

…but consistency is where people start to see real progress.

Don’t overlook the power of simple and consistent habits.

Will You Commit to Healthy Eating?

When not fighting crime, Batman eats healthy.

As we start to wrap up this guide, I have one BIG final question for you:

“Why the hell are you reading this?” 

Sorry to be so blunt, but your answer matters! 

If you are trying to eat better because somebody told you to, or because you think you should, you’re setting yourself up to fail. 

You might be excited and motivated to eat healthy today, and that’s great! 

The start of a new activity, even a diet, can be very exciting as these apes know!

But next week, Oscar in Accounting will put cake in front of you at work, and ask you to “live a little” and eat some cake “just this once.”  

And then you’ll discover apps are half-priced at Chatchki’s during happy hour, and you figure “well I already had cake, might as well split some shrimp poppers and extreme fajitas with Meredith.”

This is how it always happens: Motivation abandons us when we need it most. 

And then one “ehh” choice becomes three bad choices which becomes “crap, I failed at my diet! I’m a loser. Okay I’ll just try harder next month…”

If you are committed to this goal of eating healthier, you need a DAMN good reason to start eating healthier in the first place!

Here are some examples you can build off of:

  • “I want to look better naked and start dating again.”
  • “I want to do epic stuff like running my first 5K.”
  • “I don’t want to die early like my dad did.”
  • “I want to find out what I’m capable of.”
  • “I want to feel pride, not shame, when I look in the mirror.”

There are many tough days ahead, many happy hours, and sabotaging coworkers. 

Having a great reason WHY can be the light in the darkness that helps you navigate the maze of temptation.

Frodo isn't afraid of the dark...or eating unhealthy.

In our Nerd Fitness Coaching program, we call this “The Big Why,” and having a reason can be the difference between success and failure:

It’s our Big Why that stops us from living emotionally and chasing instant gratification from a donut or six slices of pizza when we’re sad or stressed.

It’s our Big Why that allows us to say “Yes, I can have a slice of pizza, because I planned for it in my ‘calorie budget’ today. I’m not gonna feel bad about it either, because my breakfast tomorrow is gonna be great.”

It’s our Big Why that allows us to get back on track after a vacation or after just one day of poor eating, instead of letting things slide for a week or a month.  

Have your Big Why, and remind yourself of it constantly! 

Write it down, put it on a post-it note on your bathroom mirror, staple it to your forehead. 

But have a REASON you’re committing to change.

It will be crucial when life starts to get busy next week and you want to give up. So let’s talk about next week (and beyond!)

Healthy Eating: Next Steps!

You now know what it takes to eat healthy!

This guide has provided you with all of the tools you need to start making healthier choices, but if you are looking to go a bit further…

#1) Our 1-on-1 Online Coaching program: a coaching program for busy people to help them make better food choices, stay accountable, and get healthier, permanently.

You can schedule a free call with our team so we can get to know you and see if our coaching program is right for you. Just click on the image below for more details:

#2) If you want an exact blueprint for leveling up your nutrition, check out Nerd Fitness Journey! Our fun habit-building app helps you exercise more frequently, eat healthier, and level up your life (literally).

If you follow our Nutrition missions, you’ll learn to eat healthier while earning XP! Sah-weeeet.

Try your free trial right here:

#3) Join The Rebellion! We have a free email newsletter that we send out twice per week, full of tips and tricks to help you get healthy, get strong, and have fun doing so. 

I’ll also send you tons of free guides that you can use to start leveling up your life too:

Healthy eating will change your life. 

But it needs to fit INTO your life too. 

Small changes, not dramatic shifts!

You don’t have to give up the foods you love, you just need to PLAN for them. 

Learn how to make a plate like we lay out in this guide.

Prioritize protein, and always put a fruit or vegetable on your plate before filling the rest of it up!

This will get you 90% of the way towards a great healthy eating strategy.

And when in doubt, whenever you’re not sure if you should eat a particular food, ask yourself “What would Batman do?”

Ask yourself "What would Batman eat?"

Seriously, this has been studied with children, and it helped them make healthier food choices by giving the decision-making over to somebody they looked up to [22]. It’s called “self-distancing,” and there’s no reason it can’t work for you too. 

Oh, and when you eat a bad meal – who cares?! “Never two in a row,” right? Make the next meal healthy. 

YOUR MISSION, SHOULD YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT: 

Start eating healthy today with literally one change:

  • Try a new vegetable.
  • Cut one soda out of your day. 
  • Prioritize protein in your next meal. 
  • Swap out one high-calorie drink for a zero-calorie drink.

I don’t care what the change is, just as long as you make one!

Okay enough about me, let’s talk about you: 

What’s the ONE change you’re going to make today?

For the Rebellion!

-Steve

PS: Make sure you read the rest of the articles in our “How to Lose Weight 101” Series! 

###

All photo sources can be found right here: Leia eating breakfast, stuffed veggies, stormtroopers and egg, fruit ninja, Caution: Cheese Hazard, Fish soup, Yoda and R2, Happy Monday, almond serving size, olive oil, raisins, serving of cheddar, yogurt, Shopping, dinner on the beach.

The post Healthy Eating Ultimate Guide: Start Eating Healthy Without Being Miserable first appeared on Nerd Fitness.

]]>
https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/healthy-eating/feed/ 996
How Many Calories Do You Burn While Walking? A Hobbit’s Guide to Walking (with Calorie Calculator) https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/walking/ https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/walking/#disqus_thread Thu, 18 Aug 2022 12:00:31 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/?p=13645 There’s two things every nerd should know: How many calories do I burn walking a mile? How far is it to Mordor? Today, we’re answering both of them (and much more).  Walking is a great form of exercise and something we often recommend to folks starting our coaching program. Some have had great success walking, […]

The post How Many Calories Do You Burn While Walking? A Hobbit’s Guide to Walking (with Calorie Calculator) first appeared on Nerd Fitness.

]]>

There’s two things every nerd should know:

  1. How many calories do I burn walking a mile?
  2. How far is it to Mordor?

Today, we’re answering both of them (and much more). 

Walking is a great form of exercise and something we often recommend to folks starting our coaching program. Some have had great success walking, including Megan, who has a daily practice to maintain her weight loss journey.

Megan before and after

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Without further ado, let’s step right in.

How Many Calories Does Walking Burn? (Calorie Calculator)

In true Nerd Fitness fashion, we scienced the crap out of this, and even created a handy calculator for you – simply put your stats in the calculator here:

Calculate Calories Burned While Walking Calculator

Calculate Calories Burned While Walking Calculator

Enter your weight in pounds.
Enter the distance walked in miles. Partial miles is fine (e.g. 1.5)
We used the formulas and information found on this page for this calculator

A few things to remember about the above equation:

There’s a difference between gross calories (total calories) expended and net calories (additional calories) expended! Your body burns most of its calories every day JUST by existing.

  • Gross calories: calories burned while walking PLUS the calories burned just existing
  • Net calories: ADDITIONAL calories you burned thanks to exercise.

(Calculate your calories “in” and “out” with this calculator.)

Also, our calculation is an ESTIMATE. You’re a unique snowflake, and no box or formula can capture your awesomeness/uniqueness. This equation below is JUST a starting point!

Also, if you don’t feel like playing with our calculator (boo), here’s how many calories you burn walking:

On average, a mile burns about 100 calories when walking.

Another point: ANY exercise pales in comparison to a much more important part of the weight loss equation: nutrition.

It’s what Megan credits most of her weight loss journey to.

Megan before and after

If you’ve come this far, and you want to learn more about why walking is so amazing, continue reading.

And you’re damn right, I’ll show you exactly how to walk to Mordor too.

What Are The Benefits of Walking?

Walking along roads or hiking can burn a lot of calories

We are designed to walk. It’s in our DNA, and it’s a huge part of our emergence as the dominant species on this planet (along with opposable thumbs, big brains, and Nintendo).

Let’s get the basic stuff out of the way:

Every day, it’s recommended by the CDC that we walk around five miles, or 10,000 steps.[1]

Hence the reason why your Fitbit – which I’ll get to shortly – has that 10k step goal as its default number.

Unfortunately, we Americans tend to average HALF that: 2.5 miles or 5,000 steps.

And I’d imagine that people who work outdoors or have more physically active jobs drag that average wayyyy up.

Which leaves us desk jockeys, who don’t walk nearly enough.

Animated gif of man coming home from work and sitting at computer

We use our feet to get us from the front door, to our car, to our desk, to our car, to our front door, to our couch… where we put them up while watching four hours of TV before going to bed.

Not walking enough can be a big factor in the creep-up of weight gain over the years.

You might have questions like:

  • Can I walk more to lose weight?
  • Is walking REALLY good for me?
  • Do I need to do more intense exercise?

Long story short:

You should walk more and it can help you lose weight and be healthier.

Short story long…

Here’s why walking is important:

#1) Walking burns calories without exhausting you. If you walk the recommended mileage each day (5 miles instead of just 2.5), it can lead to a tremendous amount of weight loss over time. You’ll burn an extra 100 calories walking just ONE more mile each day than normal: When that’s multiplied out, it’s an extra 700 calories burned per week, which results in approximately a pound of fat lost every five weeks, or 10 pounds in a year.  You can scale up your distances to get your desired results!

#2) Walking doesn’t add to training stress. If you are strength training regularly, adding in more weight training or running can lead to burnout, breakdowns, and injuries. If you are trying to look like a super-hero, extra cardio sessions (or long-distance cardio sessions) might kill your gains. But you can just walk. You can walk great distances, provided you’ve built up your body’s physical ability, and not get tired or sore – walking (especially outside while soaking in some sunlight) can make you feel better, not worse.

#3) Walking is low impact. Unlike running, which can wreak havoc on people’s joints if they run improperly or are severely overweight, walking doesn’t have those impact issues. If you go for a walk and your feet or joints hurt, you’re doing it wrong – read the next section!

#4) Walking can burn fat. Because walking is low impact and low intensity, your body doesn’t need to pull much glycogen and glucose stores to fuel itself, which happens when you strength train or push yourself into “aerobic training” with higher intensity cardio. Proponents of intermittent fasting suggest walking in a fasted state in the morning before eating anything in order to help burn extra fat. It’s a little controversial, so this will have to be something you attempt and measure for yourself.

#5) Walking relieves stress. Seriously! Put on your favorite playlist, and go for a pleasant walk around your neighborhood or through the woods as the sun is going down. It’s a recipe to forget the worries of your day.

Bonus points if you can get someone to follow you with a boombox:

Man skipping followed by woman holding a boombox

#6) Walking improves mental health (especially in older hobbits). Walking can improve mental health, increase brain size, improve memory, and is correlated with improved, longer lifespans.[2]

How Walking Can Change Your Life

crossing three stepping stones in a river

If you are severely overweight and can’t run or strength train, walk on.

If you are building muscle and bulking up, walk on.

If you are trying to lose weight, walk on.

If you struggle with following a routine, or have failed in the past with weight loss, walk on

Why? I’m a HUGE fan of small habit change and tiny victories – walking is the PERFECT habit builder. If you’re brand new and starting out, go for a walk TODAY and begin your journey to Mordor.

This afternoon, go for a five-minute walk. Tomorrow morning before work, before breakfast, as SOON as you wake up, put on your shoes, and go outside for a five-minute walk. No snoozing, no lying in bed, no checking email or Twitter. Put on your headphones, pick your favorite song, go outside, and start walking.

Here’s why:

  • Walking for just five minutes a day is the start of a new habit.  Every morning for a few weeks, you’ll have to force yourself to walk. Initially, it will take effort and willpower to walk instead of snoozing. However, with each passing day of success, you’ll need to use less effort and willpower to get out the door. After all, it’s only five minutes, right? Once it’s something you do automatically without thinking, you can add on to it by increasing your walk time.
  • Walking briskly outdoors in the fresh morning air can be a great caffeine-free wake up call! If you make walking the FIRST thing you do in the morning, especially if you’re doing it before anybody else is awake, there will be zero distractions and no reason to say “sorry, I didn’t have time.” Of course, we like caffeine too (in moderation).
  • Walking will give you a chance to gather your thoughts and clear your head before the day begins. We’re constantly distracted at home: TV, iPads, smartphones, etc. Walking is so primal – no gadgets, just walking. Many people cite walking as the impetus for their creative or intelligent breakthroughs.   
  • Walking and successfully building a habit will give you a habit blueprint to follow for anything else you’d like to accomplish: “Hey, I was able to make walking a habit, what else can I tackle in the same way?” Slow and steady wins. One foot in front of the other, my friend.

How to Walk Properly

Footprints in the sand

“Uhhh, Steve, I know how to walk. I do it every day!”

Welp, if you’re starting from only walking from your car to the office, we need to make sure you’re walking the right way for when you push that mileage up.

Let’s start with your feet, provided you’re not gonna glue hair to your feet and go barefoot to become a hobbit.

I recommend walking in shoes that have a wide toe box and minimal drop (height at the heel vs height at the toes), as we discuss in our monster post on healthy feet and footwear:

You might not be used to walking with minimal cushioning under your heels, so walk slowly and land softly. Walking on softer surfaces to start isn’t a bad idea either.

We were designed before the invention of big clunky shoes… thus, we should be able to walk without big clunky shoes.[3] If you are interested in going barefoot as a runner, get started by walking short distances first. Your feet will toughen up (though they probably won’t grow hair quite like Frodo and Sam), your joints and muscles around your feet and ankles will strengthen, and your knees will deal with less stress.

When going for a lazy stroll, focus on landing softly, which is much easier when you don’t have thick-soled shoes to cushion your stride: land softly with your heel barely touching before rolling onto the middle (ball) of your foot, and then push off. You might need to take shorter strides than you’re used to if you were a big heel striker with a long stride.

If you’re aiming to walk quickly and up the intensity, shorten your stride and aim to land in the middle of your foot while pumping your arms. This is more easily done when walking uphill (which is also a great way to burn extra calories).

Is Walking Enough for Weight Loss?

Don before and after

Can walking help you lose weight?

You’re darn right it can!

The above photos are from Don, one of our coaching clients. Don credits his daily walking practice with helping him lose 85 pounds!

He’s not our only example of walking for weight loss:

Megan before and after

Megan, who I mentioned earlier, is another client who walks daily to maintain her weight loss.

Case closed?

Of course not!

Both Don and Megan also made adjustments to their nutrition to reach their amazing results.

One of the Rules of the Nerd Fitness Rebellion is that we know “you can’t outrun your fork.” No amount of exercise can counter a bad diet, as your nutrition will be responsible for 90% (not an exaggeration) of your success or failure.

Here’s an example:

  • Let’s say you go for a 5-mile walk, which takes you 90+ minutes.
  • If you then consume a 20 oz Gatorade and a small bag of Fritos (a typical snack for many here in America), you will have already undone all of the calories burned while walking.

Depending on your nutrition and love/hatred for exercise, this is either great news or bad news!

The BAD news: you can’t eat very badly in mass quantities and then expect to lose weight with a bit of exercise every week, even if it’s strenuous.

The GOOD news: Even if you dislike exercise, you can avoid exercise and still lose weight! Instead, put ALL of your focus instead on fixing your nutrition, and then go for a walk every once in awhile.

I’d also consider reading the following:

Oh, and if you want to see if a Nerd Fitness Coach can build you a program to lose weight while doing movements you enjoy (like walking), click on the button below:

The Best Practices for Walking (Tips and Tricks)

Autumn walk way

Here’s how to improve your walking technique:

#1) Focus on posture! Head up! Shoulders back! Walk with a confident stroll – practice this one in the morning if you’re not used to walking like this. It’s also a great way to appear instantly more confident; we nerds and hobbits need all the confidence we can get! Look around at your surroundings with your head up, arms swinging in rhythm.

You can also do some well-placed neck swings and jacket removals:

Zoolander walking and removing jacket

#2) Walk uphill to burn more fat. If you are walking on a treadmill, set it to an incline to increase the intensity and thus increase the amount of fat burned. Just don’t be that person who sets the incline way up, then holds onto both sides and leans their body back to be perpendicular with the incline. Keep good posture, lean forward into the incline, shorten your stride, and pump your legs.

#3) Hiking is a great way to practice walking, enjoy the scenery, and play Lord of the Rings in the woods with plastic swords and capes. Not that you should do that (you totally should). Here’s a beginner’s guide to hiking!

#4) When walking downhill, especially while barefoot (or wearing minimalist shoes), keep that stride short and be careful on how you are walking. Make sure your knee is bent when you land and absorb the impact rather than jamming the impact through your heel, knee, leg, hips, and lower back.

#5) Consider going for fasted walks in the morning. When you wake up first thing in the morning, your body has burned through most of the carb-fueled energy stores during the night. Which means when you go for a walk first thing in the morning, your body is more likely to have to pull from the only fuel source available to it: fat! This is the entire philosophy behind things like Intermittent Fasting or really low-carb diets like the Ketogenic diet.

#6) Get yourself a sturdy walking stick, if only so you can use it to battle imaginary ogres, goblins, cavetrolls, etc. It can also make you feel far more adventurous than if you’re just walking, and help you get up hills and land softly when going back down.

#7) Try Temptation Bundling. Load up an audiobook or your favorite podcast, and tell yourself that you can ONLY listen to the book or podcast while walking.

Is a Fitbit Helpful for Walking? (Which Fitness Tracker Is Best for Me?)

what you need to know about Fitbits and Pedometers to track calories burned walking

If you’re somebody who has been interested – or is getting interested – in walking, you’re probably familiar with step-tracking devices:

Personally, I’m a huge fan of fitness wearables, but not for the reasons you’d think.

For starters, you’re wearing a constant reminder that you are prioritizing movement, which can only be positive. You can even trigger it to remind you to get up and move every hour.

Our Fitbit trackers can help us with analyzing trends and getting in more steps.

It can also allow you to see how many steps you normally take, and thus allow you to prioritize moving MORE.

Although Fitbit has a history of being sued for the inaccurate heart-monitor portion of its devices, I’m less concerned about heart rates and 100% accuracy of step distance, and instead think in terms of personal improvement.

Just like with tracking your bodyfat percentage or your weight, “that which gets measured gets improved,” and that carries over to your total steps. The fact that you’re tracking it means you’re going to be more aware of it, which means you’re going to be more likely to be able to improve it.

And that’s why, in a weird way, I’m not very concerned about the total accuracy of these devices. Even if your scale is off by 5 pounds, or your body fat caliper is inaccurate by 1%, as long as you use the same device and measure in the same way under the same conditions, you can track trends and paint the picture of your health and whether or not it’s improving!

And that’s what these fitness trackers should be used for: a reminder and a trend tracker!

What you SHOULDN’T do: take your fitness tracker as gospel, and use that to calculate down to the calorie and macro how much food exactly you can consume.

What you SHOULD do: track your trend over time, and see if you can improve your average. Use the technology to aid your fitness quest. Use the community portion of the band to compare your stats against friends and get some positive friendly peer pressure to get you off your ass.

Okay, if nerdy fitness technology isn’t nerdy enough for you, let’s go full-nerd.

How to Actually Walk to Mordor

Frodo and Sam are walking buddies and actually walked to Mordor

Did you know it’s 1779 miles between Hobbiton to Mount Doom? [4]. We can actually determine how far Sam and Frodo walked, and then set out on the journey ourselves! It’s one thing to go for a stroll around your neighborhood. It’s another to know that, “If I take one more step, it’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been.”

Sam and Frodo walking out of the Shire

So let’s take a look at how far we need to walk first:

  • 458 miles: Go from Hobbiton to Rivendell.
  • 462 miles: Set out with the Fellowship from Rivendell, through Moria, to Lothlorien.
  • 389 miles: From Lothlorien, down the Anduin, to Rauros Falls.
  • 470 miles: Follow Frodo and Sam on the quest from Rauros to Mt. Doom.
  • 535 miles: From Minas Tirith to Isengard
  • 693 miles: From Isengard to Rivendell.
  • 397 miles: From Rivendell to Bag End.
  • 467 miles: (bonus!) Follow Frodo to the Grey Havens and return home with Sam.

Following this path, you need to walk a total of 1779 miles to get from Hobbiton to Mt. Doom. Then it’s time to destroy the ring and get carried to Minas Tirith by the Great Eagles.

Thorin carried by the eagles

Then you’ll walk 1625 miles back to Bag End (and an additional 467 miles if you’re interested in doing a round trip to the Grey Havens).

Obviously, you don’t need to move at the same speed as the hobbits (18 miles on the first day is no joke! Damn, those hobbits covered some ground!), but it’s still fun to track your walks and your total miles to see where you’d be on your journey.

However, like Frodo and Sam, it starts with the first step.

I’ve created a Google Doc that you can copy for yourself to track your distances to follow Frodo and Sam on your journey to destroy the One Ring.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Open the document, and then click on “file,” “save a copy,” and then you can edit your own copy of the document.  
  • Track your distances with a pedometer, Fitbit, your iPhone or Android phone.
  • Input your distances and work towards completing each section of the journey over months. As you input your distances, it will automatically let you know when you reach each destination so you can get you started on the next one. 5 miles a day on average will have you destroying the Ring within one year.

Oh, and if you’re curious, according to my rough gorilla math, Frodo burned at least an additional 61,0000+ calories (100,000+ gross calories) by walking “there and back again” – you’re welcome[5].

Cast of The Hobbit giving thumbs up

What’s that?

You want some help getting out the door?

You got it – but only cause you asked nicely.

Here are three ways to level up alongside Nerd Fitness. 

#1) Our Online Coaching Program: a coaching program for busy people to help them make better food choices, stay accountable, and get healthier, permanently.

You can schedule a free call with our team so we can get to know you and see if our coaching program is right for you. Just click on the image below for more details:

#2) If you want an exact roadmap on how to get in shape, check out NF Journey. Our fun habit-building app helps you exercise more frequently, eat healthier, and level up your life (literally).

We even have fun missions that will help you walk more, all while you earn XP! Righteous. 

Try your free trial right here:

#3) Join the Rebellion! We need good people like you in our community, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion.

Sign up in the box below to enlist and get our Rebel Starter Kit, which includes all of our “work out at home” guides, the Nerd Fitness Diet Cheat Sheet, and much more!

Alright, your turn:

What questions do you have about walking? 

How have you incorporated it into your daily routine?

And have you walked to Mordor?

Let me know in the comments!

-Steve 

Photo source: fourbrickstall Hiking in Candelario, Lego Frodo, logoboom © 123RF.com, gynane © 123RF.com, arushigakaito © 123RF.com, snehit © 123RF.com, Thad Zajdowicz Keep walking! HMM!, Frodo and Sam

The post How Many Calories Do You Burn While Walking? A Hobbit’s Guide to Walking (with Calorie Calculator) first appeared on Nerd Fitness.

]]>
https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/walking/feed/ 516
Strength Training 101: How much weight should I be lifting? https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/strength-training-101-how-much-weight-should-i-be-lifting/ https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/strength-training-101-how-much-weight-should-i-be-lifting/#disqus_thread Tue, 09 Aug 2022 05:29:00 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=21475 “Do you even lift?” After today’s guide, not only will you be able to say “YUP,” but you’ll also know exactly how MUCH you should be lifting! We’ll help you get big and strong so you can fight back against your older brother when he tackles you in the hallway. As part of our Strength […]

The post Strength Training 101: How much weight should I be lifting? first appeared on Nerd Fitness.

]]>
Do you think he supplements with creatine?

“Do you even lift?”

After today’s guide, not only will you be able to say “YUP,” but you’ll also know exactly how MUCH you should be lifting!

We’ll help you get big and strong so you can fight back against your older brother when he tackles you in the hallway.

Get strong so you don't end up a victim.

As part of our Strength 101 series, we’re going to tell you exactly what you need to know about lifting weights and strength training:

If you find yourself with a billion other strength training questions as you build your own workout, or you’re overwhelmed at all of this and not sure how to get stronger…you’re in good company!

It can be scary enough to keep MOST people from starting, which is actually why we created our Coaching Program.

Your NF Coach will do an initial assessment to calculate exactly how much weight you should start lifting. They’ll then design a program that they’ll adjust regularly based on your progress and schedule.

Plus, with our app, your coach can do regular video form checks to make sure you safely make consistent progress. 

With that out of the way, let’s jump into the nitty-gritty of “How much weight should I lift?

Step #1: Why You Should Lift Your Own Bodyweight First

This LEGO lifts his own bodyweight no problem.

Stop! (Wait a minute…)

Before trying to figure out how much weight you can lift, let’s make sure you know how to do the movement, as flawlessly as possible, without any weight at all.

Why?

Because if you can’t do a movement correctly without weight, how can you expect to do it right WITH weight?

Think about it – if you can’t walk up a flight of stairs normally, would you expect to be able to walk up the flight of stairs carrying a sack of hammers?

No – you would only hurt yourself.[1]

Also, what are you even doing with a sack of hammers?

STEP ONE: learn each movement without any bars, dumbbells, or added weight.

Which might make you say:

Staci, how on earth do I do a deadlift or an overhead press without any weight? And I know I can do a bodyweight squat, but isn’t it completely different doing a barbell back squat?”

Easy – grab either a broomstick (be careful for splinters!), mop handle, or PVC pipe (I use a 1.25” PVC cut in half) and pretend it’s a barbell.

If you’re trying to mimic a dumbbell movement, either grab a short dowel, PVC, or just hold your hands in a fist as if you were holding on to something.

While it’s not the exact same as holding actual weight, it will allow you to practice getting into the correct positions.

Practice the movements in your own home without other people around you (so you’ll be less nervous).

Also, you can videotape yourself pretty easily. I’ve use my computer’s webcam, or my phone camera and a little tripod, then completed the movement with a broomstick.

Now, I can deadlift 455 pounds and I’m a Senior Coach for our Online Coaching Program:

Staci showing you how to deadlift 455 pouds.

If you want a beginner strength training workout to follow:

If you are interested in nerding out about proper form for each barbell movement, start here:

We also HIGHLY recommend you pick up Starting Strength, widely considered to be the Bible of barbell training.

Once you feel good about your form, you can see if you can “pass the bar.”

(Guaranteed to be the nicest lawyer joke you’ll ever read on Nerd Fitness, by the way).

Now, if want a full Bodyweight Workout Program that you can follow along with at home that will help get you prepped to start strength training?

You can download the worksheet to follow along here when you sign up in the box below:

Step #2: How to Start Barbell Training with Lifting the Bar

Coach Staci doing a barbell lunge, an advanced lunge variation.

Once you’re comfortable with each movement with a broomstick or PVC, then you can move to the bar.

Your first gym workout shouldn’t go any heavier than “just” the bar, which means the bar without any added weight.

How much does a barbell weigh?

  • A standard barbell weighs 45 lbs (20.4 kg).
  • A “women’s barbell” weighs 35 lbs (15.8 kg).

Now, don’t be discouraged if this seems really heavy – especially on upper body movements.

When I started out, I could not bench press or overhead press an empty barbell.

Here Staci is pressing just the bar, a could practice for warming up.

If the bar seems too heavy to start:

  1. See if the gym has a lighter barbell – some have a “women’s bar” or a “training bar” that usually weighs 30-35 lbs and 15 lbs, respectively. These are usually shorter, but that’s okay!
  2. Start out with dumbbells – while the movement is not the exact same, it allows you to build up the strength:In the neutral grip press, shown here, you have your hands together during the movement.
    This will help you handle a barbell down the road.
  3. Focus on bodyweight training (push-ups, pull-ups, lunges, squats) until you build the strength to handle the bar.

Now, on opposite ends of the spectrum, if the bar seems really light, I would STILL encourage you to complete your first workout with just the bar.

Why?

According to Mike Rebold from Hiram College, when you start lifting the barbell or dumbbells for the first time you will notice muscle deficiencies (i.e., one side that is weaker than the other). It can often come down to motor units, or the nuerons that help muscle fibers.[2]

Rebold explains:

When you first start strength training and lifting the barbell or dumbbells, your motor units don’t fire as quickly and smaller motor units that don’t generate a lot of force are recruited. As you continue working out and become more trained, your motor units fire more rapidly and your brain recruits larger motor units that can generate more force allowing you to lift heavier weights. This is why the progressive overload principle is important.

That means focus on getting each rep correct, and worry about adding weight next time.

Check your ego at the door!

I would rather see somebody in the gym lifting the bar with proper form than watch somebody with awful form lift 400 lbs.

That makes me…

Nick Offerman Cringes when people try to lift too much weight with bad form

Note: If you finish your first workout with the bar and still aren’t comfortable with the movements, it’s never a bad thing to do your next workout with just the bar again.

If you’re not comfortable with the movement and you start adding weight, not only will you be more likely to injure yourself because your body isn’t ready, but you’ll be more likely to hurt yourself because you won’t be confident under the bar.

Confidence is something that is very important as you start lifting heavier and heavier.

Mike Rebold supports this idea:

Self-esteem is confidence in one’s own abilities. Research has shown that in order to improve one’s self-esteem, or one’s confidence to exercise and lift heavier weights, you must first incorporate and master simple exercises.[3]

This is why we also recommend starting with the barbell or light dumbbells. Because as you master these simple exercises, that will result in your self-esteem being improved and then you will have more confidence to try new exercises and to lift heavier weights. 

Speaking of, if you’re planning on using dumbbells as your main lift (and not a barbell):

Start with 5-10 lb dumbbells to get a feel for things.

If you don't have a spotter, the dumbbell press can be a great chest alternative.

Whether you’re starting with dumbbells or ready to move onto a barbell, it’s important to do it properly!

We check the form of EVERY online coaching client on their workouts so they have the confidence that they’re doing these moves correctly!

We’ve also created a specific sequence of workout routines you can follow along with for free in our guide Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know.

Grab yours free when you sign up in the box below:

Step #3: How To Start Adding Weight to the Barbell

Man with weighted barbell at gym

If you’re looking to start on a beginner program, such as the workouts in our Beginner Strength Training Workouts or our 6 Beginner Gym Workouts, you need to start light!

A few common rep ranges for beginner programs are:[4]

  • 5 sets of 5 reps
  • 3 sets of 8 reps
  • 3 sets of 10 reps

Let’s do an example: your program has you doing 3 sets of 8 on a particular lift.

1) After a proper warm-up routine, start with the empty bar again, and complete the prescribed number of reps (for this, it would be 8).

“But I thought you said we could add weight this time?” you might be thinking.

You can – but no matter how heavy you are going, always start with just the bar to warm up for EACH exercise.

As Staci shows here, keep your arms vertical (as much as you can).

If you watch the best lifters in your gym, you will notice they all warm up with “just the bar” to start, often for multiple sets!

This helps get your body warm, primes your nervous systems and all of your muscles for that movement, and gets you ready to lift heavier weight.[5]

As a beginner to strength training, this is especially important to ingrain proper technique.

2) Add a small amount of weight to the bar. Depending on how heavy the bar felt, start by adding:

  • 2 – 5 pounds for upper body exercises.
  • 5 – 10 pounds for lower body exercises.

When in doubt, add the lower amount.[6] You can always add more! Do another set of 8-12 reps at this weight.

(Note: If you’re doing dumbbell training, instead of adding weight to the bar, increase the weight of the dumbbell. Start with 5 lb. dumbbells, then 10 lb. dumbbells, for example)

3) If you were able to complete those reps both without losing form and without the speed of the bar slowing, add more weight to the bar.

Base the amount of new weight off how it felt – if the last set felt really light, add 5’s, if it felt heavy, add 2.5’s’s.

Here’s a good guideline from NSCA :[7]

If a person can do two or more reps than the goal in an exercise on two consecutive training sessions, then they should increase the load.

4) Continue to do this until your form starts to break down or the speed of the lift gets slower on any of your reps.[8]

The weight you used right before your form started to break down is your starting weight on which you will base all future workouts!

5) If it is a lower number than you expect, that’s great actually!

Don’t try to be a hero your first workout, it is better to start out too light than too heavy.[9]

Remember – we’re trying to get solid, productive sets in, not find our max, so we want all of the reps to be fast and with as perfect form as our body allows.

Since you’re testing out heavier weights for the first time, never be afraid to have a spotter, or to use pins to ensure your safety!

If you don’t want to figure ANY of this out on your own, and you just want somebody to tell you exactly how much to lift, how many sets, reps, etc., I hear you.

I’ve had a lifting coach for years and it’s the best investment I make each month!

Step #4: How Do I Know When to Add More Weight?

Joni doing squats at Camp Nerd Fitness, a great time for all involved.

Once you’ve found your starting weight, you’ll want to start using something called “progressive overload.”

This sounds a lot fancier than it really is.

As Coach Jim explains above, progressive overload means gradually increasing the stress put on your body during training.[10]

In other words, we need to increase something, regularly. Usually, this means the amount of weight we lift.

And for beginners, that can often happen after every workout.

During every workout, our muscles are torn and broken down. Then after every workout – for the next 24-48+ hours, our body repairs itself. If you’re getting proper sleep[11]  and nutrition,[12] it heals back stronger than it was before.

the "crushed it" gif from Pitch Perfect

Conversely, if you do 5 sets of 5 squats at 100 lbs every single workout for months, are you getting stronger?

Most likely not.

Your body is actually just getting more efficient at lifting 5×5 at 100 lbs, burning fewer calories, and using less energy to make that movement happen.

So, how much weight do you add when you’re ready to increase your workouts?

That depends on how difficult the set was last time.

This is where great note-taking comes in (I’m a huge fan of a simple notebook, or Evernote docs on my phone).

Be sure to document each workout with:

Did you go to failure on your last set?

Did your form break down on any of the reps?

You’ll end up in one of two positions:

PATH A: You failed to complete any of your reps or your form started to break down. Do the same weight again next workout, and focus on boosting your form and technique of each rep.

Remember, if you are doing the same workout as last time, but each rep is more solid and with better form than before, you’re still doing better than you were the last workout.

In other words, you’re still leveling up.

These characters know how much to lift, so they can get strong and defeat their enermies.

You don’t necessarily have to go up in weight every workout to see gains.

You could also focus on:

  • Less rest between sets.
  • More control and better form.
  • More repetitions.

All of which means you are getting stronger.

PATH B: You were able to get through all of your sets with great form, and without the bar slowing down. Congrats! Consider adding more next week. It’s not unheard of for beginners to add 10-20lbs a week to some lifts (especially squats and deadlifts), though don’t get discouraged if you’re only adding 2.5 or 5![13]

The BEST THING YOU CAN DO: slowly add the smallest amount of weight possible, and progress consistently. This is much preferred to progressing quickly and then hitting a plateau.

Each week, as you add a little bit of weight, you are building strength, confidence, and momentum.

Note: For some lifts, especially the overhead press or bench press, adding just 5 lbs may be too much to go up per workout.

I personally have a set of 1.25lb plates that I bring with me to the gym so that I can still progress regularly.

Remember: You’re going to have shitty days at the gym. There will be days when you can’t add any weight, or you feel like you have to take a step backward.

So many things affect how your lifts are going to feel:

  • A baby crying all night – causing sleep deprivation and resulting in systemic inflammation and decreased GH release = poor recovery
  • Lots of stress at the office.
  • To drinking too much at the big game – causing stomach discomfort and bloating.
  • Just not eating enough for your goalsnot consuming enough carbohydrates and fats to support energy demands or not consuming enough protein to facilitate muscle protein synthesis and recovery.[14]

It’s important to listen to your body over listening to some number telling you what you should be lifting.

You want to make progress every time you walk into the gym, and that means having a specific plan to follow.

Don’t have a workout to follow? Tired of not getting results despite all the effort?

This is what we do for a living! Help people like you get out of ruts and finally get them the results they want.

After doing my own workout programming for 5 years, I hired a coach and it changed my life. Let us help you hit your goals too.

Step #5: How Do I Calculate My 1 Rep MAx?

Deadlifts make a great addition when you build your own workout.

It’s really fun to find the maximum amount of weight you can do for one repetition (one rep max) every once in a while.

However, as a beginner who is just starting strength training, it’s better that you start with getting the movement right and adding weight slowly before trying to find a one-rep max.

I would suggest you follow a program for at least six weeks before even attempting “a heavy single”.

Why?

Even if your form is as good as you can get it now, you will get far better, learning how to make tweaks and corrections as you go.

When you first start out, you’re still getting everything down, so your one-rep max won’t be a “true” one-rep max.

Plus, when you train, you’re training everything in your body.

Some things, like muscles and bones, get stronger, while others, like your nervous system, get more efficient.

The more you do something, the better you get at it. And in the beginning you’ll get better very quickly.

It’s unwise to attempt a 1 repetition maximum when you’re learning the movement.

This is one of the classic blunders! The most famous of which is “never get involved in a land war in Asia.”

Vizzini from Princess Bride knows you shouldn't do 1 rep maxes as a beginner

But only slightly less well-known is this: “Never attempt a 1-rep max as a beginner.”

Even if you can do it with proper form with lighter weights, as soon as the weight gets close to your 1 rep max your form will start to break down, and you are more likely to hurt yourself.

Some words of caution here from Mike Rebold, an expert in exercise physiology:

During 1RM testing, fatigue will happen! One-repetition maximum testing has been found to overload the neuromuscular system resulting in lower motor unit activation, less force production, and ultimately more fatigue. This level of fatigue experienced by the lifter can be enough to result in injury, especially if the lifter is a novice (i.e., beginner).

When your form starts to break down, you need to have the experience behind you to finish (or bail out of) the lift safely.

If you watch any weightlifting or powerlifting competition, sometimes the lifts are not the prettiest lifts you’ve ever seen.

However, the lifters are experienced enough to handle this, and know how to bail if something goes wrong.

As a beginner, you are not.

Team NF’s Steve worked with a coach for 4+ years to finally get his 420 lb. deadlift:

Rebel Leader Steve showing how to do a 420 lb deadlift at the gym.

If you want to work with a coach that can help you perfect your form and train to hit 1-rep maxes too, we’re here for ya! We’re slightly biased, but having a coach in your corner is an absolute game-changer.

Step #6: what is a respectable amount to be lifting?

Camp was great, for lots of reasons, but mainly because we benched.

The simple answer? The weight that’s right for you.

You are not competing against the guy next to you; you’re competing against the YOU from last week (like racing your ghost in Mario Kart).

Lifting at the gym can be like racing against yourself in Mario Kart.

As far as what you can strive for, there’s no easy calculation or formula.

While some people have put out strength standards, it’s truly up to your body, your body type, your background as an athlete, your genetics, and many other factors.[15]

You should be lifting the amount that’s right for you today. In your next workout, you should be trying to lift more (even if you can’t do more weight, try doing one more rep, or with less rest between sets) than you did last time.

That’s it.

As a part of this journey, I want you to completely forget about strength standards and forget about everyone around you.

I don’t care if the guy (or girl) next to you is squatting 500 lbs for sets of 10.

If you’re squatting 50 lbs, and that’s the weight that is challenging for you, then that’s the weight you should be lifting.

These are the BIG mistakes you need to avoid:

Never EVER try to outlift the person next to you.

Never EVER adjust the weight to impress someone.

No one’s judging you based on the weight on the bar, and if they are, they aren’t worth your time or energy.

To recap “How much should I lift?”:

  1. The strongest lifters do a dynamic warm-up first.
  2. The strongest lifters warm up with “just” the bar.
  3. The strongest lifters focus on getting their reps in, and aren’t ashamed that they’re lifting less than the guy next to them.
  4. The strongest lifters take time to get things right, even if that means lifting less weight than they know they “can” do.
  5. The strongest lifters started off doing a beginners program just like you.

So remember – start slow, add weight slowly, and stay conservative.

It’s amazing how much even adding just 5 lbs (2kg) a week adds up to! It’s far better to play it safe in the beginning than to find yourself injured and frustrated before you have a chance to progress.

Do You Even Lift?

Hopefully, this article EXCITED you about strength training, and you now know exactly how much to lift. 

For people looking for the next step, we’ve got 3 options you want to check out:

1) If you want to follow a strength training program that’s specific to your goals, check out our popular Online Coaching Program.

You’ll work with a certified NF instructor who will get to know you better than you know yourself, check your form, and create a workout strategy that will evolve alongside you.

2) If you want a daily prompt for doing workouts at the gym (or at home), check out NF Journey. Our fun habit-building app helps you exercise more frequently, eat healthier, and level up your life (literally).

Try your free trial right here:

3) Join the Rebellion! Join hundreds of thousands of people like you. It’s free to join, and we have a dozen free guides for you when you sign up in the yellow box below.

Let’s get these questions answered so you can get back to getting stronger!

What are your other big questions about lifting weight and how much you should be lifting?

-Staci

PS: Be sure to check out the rest of Strength Training 101 series:

###

photo source: Strongman, Four Bricks Tall: Scenes from an empty lot in Brooklyn, vol 1., hxdbzxy © 123RF.com, Lego Lifting.

The post Strength Training 101: How much weight should I be lifting? first appeared on Nerd Fitness.

]]>
https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/strength-training-101-how-much-weight-should-i-be-lifting/feed/ 297
How to Start Working Out (Consistently) https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/how-to-start-working-out-consistently/ https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/how-to-start-working-out-consistently/#disqus_thread Wed, 03 Aug 2022 05:37:00 +0000 https://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=3908847 So you’re having trouble working out consistently? I get it.  Life is busy and hectic. You probably wear multiple hats in your life. Hopefully, one of them is a pirate hat: If you are having trouble exercising regularly, know that you aren’t alone.  Not being able to work out consistently is one of the top […]

The post How to Start Working Out (Consistently) first appeared on Nerd Fitness.

]]>
LEGO Rugby players in action.

So you’re having trouble working out consistently?

I get it. 

Life is busy and hectic. You probably wear multiple hats in your life.

Hopefully, one of them is a pirate hat:

Cartman from South Park as a pirate.

If you are having trouble exercising regularly, know that you aren’t alone. 

Not being able to work out consistently is one of the top issues facing our clients in Nerd Fitness Coaching. Luckily, there are some tips and tricks that help them, which we’ll share with you right now too. 

Here’s what we’ll cover today:

Let’s jump right in!

Step 1: Why You Miss Workouts

As I mention in the video above, it’s okay to stumble – everyone misses a workout now and again.

Life happens:

  • Your job might need you to stay late. 
  • Maybe your spouse can’t pick up the kids today.
  • Or perhaps you just lost track of time while playing video games.

A black and white gif of hands using a video game controller.

These things happen, so don’t freak out whenever you miss a workout.

“Wait, wait, wait Jim! I thought this article was about consistency – then you start off saying it’s OK to miss a workout?”

What I’m saying is to not beat yourself up over it. I’ll see people be so tough on themselves for one missed workout, that it spirals downward and then they’re doing NO workouts.

It’s unnecessary, and it’s not sustainable.

Here’s something I remind my clients: If being tough on yourself helped with workout consistency, it would’ve helped by now.

So first of all, forgive yourself.

A gif of Woody saying "You'll be fine"

Then, I share with them a saying we have here at Nerd Fitness:

“Never Two in a Row.”

As Rebel Leader Steve mentions in the video below, it means aim to not miss two workouts, back to back:

It’s a mantra you’ll hear throughout the Rebellion (our community!). 

Here’s the justification: as I mentioned, missing one workout is nbd. 

However, two workouts in a row could be the start of a trend. If you’re not careful, after a few missed workouts, you could just stop exercising altogether. 

That’s the real danger.

So we aim to not allow the trend to start in the first place.

Takeaway: If you miss a workout, it’s fine. Just try not to miss the next one.

Step 2: Building a Workout Plan

 A statue of Ben Franklin

Here’s a great quote from Benjamin Franklin:

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.

When it comes to working out consistently, we need to define what “consistently” actually means.

For that, it’s time to build a workout routine.

As Coach Staci mentions in the video above, we want to focus on three key questions when programming our training:

  • What type of workout are you doing?
  • When do you plan on doing your training?
  • Where will this workout take place?

All three questions are important, but we’re going to focus on “when” right now.

Determining “when” you’ll train is easily the most important step for working out consistently.

That’s why I want you to place your workouts in your calendar!

A Calendar that says "Start Work" and "Finish Work."

Schedule your workout like it’s the most important meeting of the day!

(A reminder that you ARE important!)

That’s what I have my clients do in our 1-on-1 Coaching Program. It goes a long way to helping them stick to their workout schedule. 

So if you plan on training first thing at 8am, have a calendar reminder go off at 7:50am. 

It’ll make a difference. I promise. 

What days should be workout days?

For that, I have a couple of resources to share with you:

  1. How to Build Your Own Workout Routine. Our MASSIVE guide will teach you exactly how to create a training schedule, including what exercises to do and when to take rest days. If you want to get your hands dirty by building your own workout, this is the way to do it.
  2. Nerd Fitness Journey. Our fun habit-building app will tell you exactly when to workout, with video tutorials for every exercise covered. No need to create a plan, just open up the app and check your missions for the day. Plus, you’ll build your very own superhero as you go, which is totally sweet. You can try it out for free right below:

Step 3: Why “All of Nothing” Hurts Workout Consistency

A LEGO Firefighter on a bullhorn.

Another one of the best things you can do to improve your workout consistency: have a backup plan.

Let’s say a pipe bursts at your gym, and it’s closed for the next few days.

Does that mean you should stop working out until they resolve their plumbing emergency?

A gif of Mario and Luigi being forced down a drain.

It could be a while…

No!

It just means you’ll have to work out at home, in a nearby playground, or maybe you just focus on long walks for the next few days.

That’s why it’s always good to have a backup for any regular emergency like:

Remember, just because your initial plan falls through, doesn’t mean you have to completely throw in the towel.

Or as I jokingly tell my clients, just because one tire goes flat, doesn’t mean you should slash the other three.

A man slashing a tire

Just do the best you can to get back on the road.

Step 4: The Key to Getting in Regular Exercise

A picture of a LEGO dog sitter.

If I have one single piece of advice on how to get in more daily movement, it would be this: do something you enjoy.

Every workout doesn’t have to be a slog.

You can schedule things you enjoy like:

We 100% endorse this game.

If you enjoy the activity, you’ll be WAY more likely to exercise consistently.

For more tips here, here are 40 Ways to Exercise (Without Realizing It)

Here’s another trick to start enjoying your workouts – do them while listening to some of your favorite music, or a podcast you enjoy.

Heck, you can even flip the TV on in the corner and watch your favorite show while you train.

We call this “Temptation Bundling” and I’ve seen it help a lot of my clients:

  • If you only listen to your favorite podcast when you run, eventually, you might start looking forward to running.
  • The same thing could happen with music. If you start to associate your favorite tunes with building up a sweat, one day you might actually enjoy building up a sweat.
  • Let’s say you only watch The Great British Bake Off while on your elliptical. If that’s the case, you’re going to start protecting your time exercising (“Don’t bother me now”).

Don’t overlook the power of coupling activities you enjoy with your workouts. 

Step 5: How to Build Workout Accountability

Two Legos about to workout together.

Another strategy we can deploy when improving workout consistency: accountability and support.

There’s nothing quite like being accountable to another human being when it comes to exercising regularly.

There are a few ways we can create workout accountability:

#1) Tell Friends and Family

Share your goals with your loved ones, then let them know the times you’ll be working out.

This will help for a couple of reasons:

  • We’re more likely to follow through with action if we commit ourselves in front of others.
  • If we don’t show up for a workout, they may politely call us out on it.

A Police Officer at the door saying Someone saying "I Know You're In There"

#2) Join an Online Community

In the 21st century, it’s very easy to find a group of people who are on a similar mission.

If you want to exercise regularly, I’d wager you aren’t the only person on the internet working towards that goal.

So join a digital community! That way you can get in on some group accountability.

We regularly hold group challenges through our app, Nerd Fitness Journey. I’ve been told by countless Rebels that they’re more likely to get their training in if they know everyone else in the community is doing it too.

Heck, I did burpees in the snow because everyone in the Rebellion was doing a burpee challenge.

Jim doing the burpee challenge

If you want to try out some of these experiences, you can sign-up for a free trial to our snazzy new app right here:

If you want some next-level accountability, I have to mention the ultimate power-up: hire a coach.

It could be a personal trainer in a gym, or you can go digital with an online coach.

Either way, having someone you check in with weekly (who will also program your workouts) is one of the best ways to exercise consistently.

If you know a coach will ask you about your workouts, you’re going to be more likely to do them.

If you’re interested in learning if you’d be a good fit for one of our online coaches, you can click on the big yellow button below:

Step 6: The Problems With Exercise and Workout Motivation

In the video above, Steve outlines the problems with motivation

I think all of my clients should watch the video. 

That’s because I’ll often hear them say “I need more motivation to workout” or “I’m just not motivated to exercise.”

This is the wrong frame of mind.

Action creates motivation, not the other way around.

For example, let’s imagine a new client. They don’t particularly like working out and they aren’t very motivated to do it.

But they do it anyway.

Then, after a few weeks of successful workouts, they’ll start to recognize the trend they’ve begun.

A gif of Anakin saying "It's Working!"

Our coaching app tracks all the training we assign, so I’ll often see my clients rejoice when they’ve “hit 20 workouts!” 

It feels good to recognize they’re making progress, which often makes them more motivated to exercise.

So they keep working out. 

The problem: getting started in the first place can be tough.

That’s why you should start with ANYTHING that breaks the inertia.

Coach Matt breaks it all down for you here:

As a beginner, your first step is the most important. And often the hardest.

In our Beginner’s Guide to Starting Your Fitness Journey, we recommend your first workouts be something simple to get started: a walk.

It could be a half-mile around the block. Or it could be to the mailbox and back. 

The exact amount doesn’t matter, but being intentional is. That’s how we work to build consistency.

So do a short walk today. Then another one the day after tomorrow. Then a third two days from then.

Boom, three workouts in one week, all by just walking. 

Step 7: How to Find Time to Workout

A picture of three hourglasses.

I’ll be real with you: no one is sitting around, twiddling their thumbs with time to kill.

If you’re going to make time to work out, you’ll need to figure out what activity in your life you can change or eliminate:

  • Maybe your two-hour nightly TV ritual can come down to an hour.
  • Maybe you start biking home from work instead of driving.
  • Maybe you catch up with your spouse over an evening walk instead of a drink.

This is why scheduling your workouts in your calendar can be so critical – it helps you see what needs to be moved around to get your training done.

Also, it’s okay to experiment here.

A god doing a science experiment

If you create a schedule, and you don’t hit it all, it’s okay. 

Perhaps you just created an unrealistic schedule.

If so, then modify the workout:

  • Try a 30-minute workout instead of an hour.
  • Try two workouts a week instead of three.
  • Go around the block once instead of twice.

Again, we’re not worried about the amount of time here. Instead, we’re concerned about you hitting your workout schedule consistently. It’s okay to scale down to do that.

Once you’re rocking and rolling, we can always scale it up if it seems right.

If you want some tips on how to gauge your adherence to sticking with your workout schedule, then check out How to Track Your Fitness Progress.  

Start Working Out Consistently

This runner definitely has a strong core!

There you have it, my friend. 

To recap…

Here’s How to Work Out Consistently:

  • Step 1: It’s okay to stumble (Forgive yourself). Everyone I know misses a workout here or there. It’s nothing to feel shame over. 
  • Step 2: Have a plan! Without scheduling your week’s workouts, how do you even know if you’re being consistent or not?
  • Step 3: Have a backup plan! (Lose the “all or nothing” mindset). If your first plan falls through, nbd. Just move onto the next one. “Some” workout is always better than “no” workout. Do the best you can.
  • Step 4: Make it fun. Your workout doesn’t need to be something you dread. If you like hiking, go hiking. If you like swimming, go swimming. Any movement is beneficial and should be encouraged. No one said you have to hate it.
  • Step 5: Find an accountability partner. Going alone is almost always harder. If you can find a friend or coach to team with, it will make working out consistently easier.
  • Step 6: Embrace “action” not “motivation.” If you have to wait around for motivation to start working out, you might be waiting for quite a while. You’ll become motivated after you act.
  • Step 7: Don’t find time, make time. Your schedule won’t magically free itself. Look at your calendar and start prioritizing.

That’s it.

The most important thing you can do now today: START!

If you wanna win a race, you need to start it!

Not tomorrow. Not next Monday.

Today!

If you don’t know what to do, look at the next free spot on your calendar. Then schedule a walk.

Then schedule it a couple of days later.

Then the following week.

BOOM! You just started a plan for working out consistently.

As always, if you need any help here, we gotcha. 

Here are three ways that Nerd Fitness can help you exercise regularly:

#1) Our Online Coaching Program: a coaching program for busy people to help them make better food choices, stay accountable, and get healthier, permanently.

As I said, this is the ultimate way to build workout accountability. Not only will a NF Coach build your workout, but they’ll check in with you too to make sure you’re able to do it.

If you can’t? 

No problem, they’ll work with you to create a new plan.

You can schedule a free call with our team so we can get to know you and see if our coaching program is right for you. Just click on the image below for more details:

#2) If you want an exact roadmap for working out consistently, check out NF Journey. Our fun habit-building app tells you exactly what days to exercise, what days to rest, and helps you track it all so you know if it’s working for you.

Interested?

Try your free trial right here:

#3) Join the Rebellion! We need good people like you in our community, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion.

Sign up in the box below to enlist and get our Rebel Starter Kit, which includes all of our “work out at home” guides, our Strength Training 101 eBook, and much more!

Alright, I want to hear from you now:

What’s your biggest issue with working out consistently?

What tips helped the most?

Are we missing any helpful suggestions for a beginner?

Let me know in the comments!

-Jim

###

Photo Source: Rugby Player, Bruce Emmerling © 123RF.com, Firefighter, Dog Sitter, Bicycle, Toxic, choneschones © 123RF.com, Morning run with the Fitbit

The post How to Start Working Out (Consistently) first appeared on Nerd Fitness.

]]>
https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/how-to-start-working-out-consistently/feed/ 83
How to Build Muscle as a Woman: The Ultimate Guide for Gaining Weight the Right Way https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/how-to-build-muscle-as-a-woman-the-ultimate-guide-for-gaining-weight-the-right-way/ https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/how-to-build-muscle-as-a-woman-the-ultimate-guide-for-gaining-weight-the-right-way/#disqus_thread Wed, 15 Jun 2022 12:00:00 +0000 https://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=3621676 If you are interested in learning how to gain weight the right way, you have come to the right place!  My name is Staci Ardison. I overcame an eating disorder, discovered a love for heavy strength training, and now I help women like you get stronger for a living. Believe it or not, I’m 50 […]

The post How to Build Muscle as a Woman: The Ultimate Guide for Gaining Weight the Right Way first appeared on Nerd Fitness.

]]>
Staci's life has been transformed by her quest to growth muscle.
If you are interested in learning how to gain weight the right way, you have come to the right place! 

My name is Staci Ardison.

I overcame an eating disorder, discovered a love for heavy strength training, and now I help women like you get stronger for a living.

Believe it or not, I’m 50 pounds heavier in the photo on the right (and WAY stronger, and healthier, and happier!).

I’m currently a lead coach here in the Nerd Fitness Coaching Program, where we train women to pick up heavy weights, get strong, and build confidence.

Speaking of picking up heavy weights, here I am deadlifting 455 pounds:

Staci showing you how to deadlift 455 pouds.

This is what I LOVE to do.

In this Ultimate Guide to Building Muscle as a Woman, I’m going to be covering:

Alright, let’s do this.

Why Building Muscle is Difficult for Some Women

A group of different LEGO women ready to build muscle.

As Steve covered in “How to build muscle” and “How to bulk up for men,” the principles of weight gain are all the same regardless of your sex or gender:

“If you want to gain weight, eat more calories than you burn regularly. Want to put on the right KIND of weight? Exercise and eat the right way too.”

Now, there’s plenty of nuance to this when comparing men and women:

  • Due to our natural hormones, it’s generally more difficult for people with typical female anatomy to gain muscle than people with typical male anatomy.[1]
  • We have a lot of factors (such as hormonal birth control) that have been proven to make it even harder as well.[2]

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible!

It just means we have to work harder for it.

Mary isn't happy, but will build muscle anyway.

Ugh, I know.

Now, one thing I want to touch on quick: if you see a woman who is absolutely jacked and at an extremely low body fat percentage, I guarantee she has been working her butt off for a very long time with the goal of building muscle.

It’s not something that happens overnight, or by mistake.

In addition, some women with larger amounts of muscle mass choose to take steroids to help assist them in gaining muscle, because we simply don’t have the hormones naturally to get to that size.

So if you’d like to build muscle, but not as much as a professional bodybuilder – don’t worry, it’s not something that happens by accident.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about body fat and body types:

As we point out in that body fat percentage guide, we women can look very different at any weight depending on our body shape and how much muscle we have. It comes down to our own personal goals!

This picture shows different body fat % of women.

This guide is going to primarily focus on two things:

  1. How to eat to gain weight and build muscle.
  2. How to strength train to build muscle.

We’ve helped thousands of women with our online coaching program, many of whom are trying to gain weight and strength train for the first time in their lives.

Everybody is on their own journey, at their own pace, and everybody will end up with different results too!

Should Women Build Muscle? (7 Reasons Women Should Grow Muscle)

This woman built lots of muscle on her journey to became an astronaut.

If it can be harder for women to gain muscle (compared to men), why go through the trouble?

I’m glad you asked!

Here are the top 7 reasons why women should strength train:

#1) When you’re stronger – everyday life is easier. No need to call for help to get that 50lb bag of dog food off the top shelf, or carrying an air conditioner unit up a flight of stairs. LIFE is easier when you’re stronger. 

#2) Less injury risk – when you build strong muscles, you’re also building stronger bones, ligaments, and tendons, making you less prone to injury doing things you love (like playing in a quidditch league).[3]

#3) Helps combat age-related muscle loss,[4] allowing us to remain independent longer as we age:

#4) Muscle is harder to maintain, which means you need to eat more just to hold on to it.[5]

#5) Reduce pain – having a strong body makes living easier on your joints, as well as allows you to hold a better posture, and reduce back / hip pain.[6]

#6) Appearance – this is a personal preference! Some women like to have a lot of muscle, and some don’t. While you can’t spot reduce fat, you can choose to build more muscle in specific areas, changing your body shape. Growing up, I was an extreme pear shape, but due to strength training, I now have more of an hourglass shape. 

You can see that Staci has changed the way she looks from strength training!

#7) Live longer – want to spend more time on Earth? Strength training and growing muscle will help you do just that.[7]

How to Eat to Gain Muscle as a Woman

This woman knows gaining muscle relies on a proper diet...like seafood!

As we said above, gaining weight comes down to thermodynamics and science.

Every day, we burn a certain number of calories just existing, which is called our BMR (basal metabolic rate). We then factor in our daily activity level, and get a number that is called our “total daily energy expenditure.” You can calculate yours below.

The Nerd Fitness Calorie Calculator:

Total Daily Energy Expenditure Calculator
Male/Female
Use age in years.
Use pounds (lbs). If using metric system, multiple kg times 2.2 for lbs.
Use inches. If using metric system, divide cm by 2.54 for total inches.
Your BMR is an estimate of the total calories burned a day, while in a state of rest.
For "Activity Level," veer toward the side of less active. Studies consistently show that people are not as active as they self-assess.
Your TDEE is an estimate of the total calories burned during a single day, when exercise is factored in.

(Click here for our Metric calculator).

(Note: we have used The Mifflin-St Jeor Equation to create this calculator! [8]).

Since we want to gain weight, we want to take our TDEE and add 250 calories to it to get our daily goal. This should result in gaining about half a pound per week.

Now, although eating ANY EXTRA calories from any source will result in weight gain, our goal is to gain the RIGHT kind of weight, in a healthy way.

And thus, we’ll be focusing our efforts on a “healthy muscle building” strategy.

We could easily add more calories each day, and gain weight quicker, however, the slow method gives you the best chances at gaining mostly muscle, with minimal fat. The faster you try to gain weight, the higher the percentage that will likely be fat – so starting off at half a pound per week is a great place to start!

A small addition of calories, will help you gain muscle with minimal fat gain as well. So slow and steady is the ticket.

In addition to the number of calories we’ll be adding, we also want to pay attention to the type of foods we’re eating.

As we cover in our “Healthy Eating Guide,” we’re going to build muscle by consuming the three big macros in the correct quantities:

  • Protein: rebuilds muscle after you break it down.
  • Carbohydrates: provides your muscle with fuel and body with energy.
  • Fat: helps your bodily functions and can also be burned as fuel in the absence of carbs.

Let’s look at each of these individually:

PRIORITY #1: PROTEIN

Protein can come from any number of sources, including:

  • Meat (steak, bison, pork).
  • Fowl (chicken, turkey, duck).
  • Eggs![9]
  • Cheese and dairy.
  • Fish and shellfish (salmon, tuna, shrimp).
  • Legumes (black beans, chickpeas).
  • Other vegetarian protein sources here.

As we cover in our “How much Protein do I need?”, claims for the amount of protein required for muscle growth vary wildly from source to source (and athlete to athlete).

While meat sticks do have protein, try and stick to something less processed.

Here is our recommendation:

  • If you’re of healthy weight, active, and wish to build muscle, aim for 1 g per pound of body weight (2.2 g/kg).
  • If you’re an experienced lifter on a bulk, intakes up to 1.50 g/lb (3.3 g/kg) may help you minimize fat gain.

Let me simplify it for you:

“To build muscle, target at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight (2.2 grams per kg).”

If you’re curious, from our healthy eating article, this is what a portion of protein looks like:

A serving of protein should be about the size of your palm, like so.

Here’s how much protein is in a serving of food:

  • 4 oz (113 g) of chicken has around 30 g of protein.
  • 4 oz (113 g) of salmon has 23 g of protein
  • 4 oz (113 g) of steak has 28 g of protein.

Want to get more protein? Consider protein shakes.

PRIORITY #2: CARBS

After protein, we’ll be filling up our plate with calories from carbs (and fats).

Here are foods full of carbohydrates you can prioritize:

  • Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Oats
  • Legumes and lentils
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Yams
  • Regular potatoes
  • Whole grain pasta
  • Whole grain bread

To help you get better at serving sizes:

Showing you a serving of carbs

1 serving of a starchy carbohydrate is 1 cupped hand (uncooked), or your two hands forming a cup (cooked).

Here are some images to help you learn proper portion sizes (thanks to SafeFood):

This picture will help you determine proper serving sizes for carbs!

In addition to consuming carbohydrates from these sources, it’s okay to consume plenty of fruit while trying to build muscle!

For reference, here is roughly 200 calories worth of an apple (thanks to WiseGEEK):

This is about 200 calories of apple.

You can read our full “Is fruit healthy?” guide to learn more.

PRIORITY #3: FAT! 

Fat is a macronutrient that can help you reach your calorie goals (in the right quantity), as fat can be high in calories. Plus, you can eat lots of it without feeling full. Helpful if you’re trying to put on weight.

Healthy fat can be found in foods like:

  • Avocado
  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Almond butter
  • Peanut butter

Science has recently come around on saturated fat too.[10] Once completely vilified, but now considered okay for moderate consumption.

Saturated fats can come from things like:

  • Whole milk
  • Full fat dairy
  • Coconut oil
  • Grass-fed butter
  • Fatty cuts of meat
  • Lard

To help you gauge: a serving size of fat is roughly the size of your thumb!

A serving of fat should be about your thumb!

For reference, this is a single serving of almonds (162 calories):

Knowing the correct amount of almonds to eat can help you with your calorie goals.

THIS is a serving of olive oil (119 calories):

This shows the serving size of olive oil, which is very dense calorie wise.

As you can see, you can eat an extra 500 calories of “healthy fats” by eating lots of “heart-healthy” fats like nuts or adding more olive oil to your meals.

PRIORITY #4: VEGETABLES!

Last but not least, you need vegetables in your diet.

As you start to eat more food, your stomach, intestines, and other bodily functions will thank you for consuming more high-fiber vegetables! 

A serving of veggies is about the size of your fist.

A serving of veggies should be the size of your first (or greater).

Here’s a quick, non-complete list of high-fiber veggies that can fill your plate:

  • Broccoli
  • Broccolini
  • Cauliflower
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Spaghetti squash[11]
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumber
  • Carrots
  • Onion
  • Asparagus

BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER: A HEALTHY MUSCLE-BUILDING PLATE

If your meal plate looks like this, you're doing a lot of the heavy lifting for weight loss.

This plate and serving size stuff above is just to help you get started thinking about healthy food differently and in proper portion sizes.

TO RECAP, HERE’S HOW TO EAT TO BUILD MUSCLE:

  • Calculate your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) and add 250 calories over your number.
  • Consume 1-1.5g per pound (2.2-3.3g per kg) of body weight in protein every day.
  • Consume the rest of your calories from foods composed of carbs and fats.
  • Always eat vegetables so that your body can actually PROCESS all this extra food. I like to aim for half of my plate of vegetables.
  • If you are not gaining weight, (and you’re hitting your protein goals), add more carbs and/or fats to your meal.

It really does come down to the following:

If you are not gaining weight fast enough, you’re not eating enough. Increase your portions of carbs and fats!

Whenever we work with coaching clients who struggle to build muscle, this is the area we target: adding more carbs and fats to each meal.

8 Strength Training Exercises For Women to Build Muscle

This woman knows exactly how to build muscle...she does it by lifting that sword and shield!

Years from now, you’ll look back and thank “Past You” for starting strength training today.

And don’t worry, I’m going to tell you exactly what to do so you can start strength training TODAY!

Here’s why strength training is so important: when you eat a caloric surplus (more calories than your body needs each day), the extra calories have to go somewhere.

  • If you don’t do any exercise, your body will choose to store the extra calories as fat for later.
  • However, when you strength train, your muscles are broken down. Then they’ll use the extra calories to rebuild themselves bigger and stronger over the next 48 hours!

“Staci that sounds great, but I’ve never strength trained before, and I don’t know what I’m doing…Halp!” You might be saying into your computer or phone.

Fear not! I’ll help. Strength training doesn’t need to be scary or overly complicated.

Gonzo knows he has to eat protein to match his strength training goals, but he doesn't eat chicken, for obvious reasons.

Simply put, “strength training” means two things:

#1) “Movement of any weight against “resistance” (including your body weight) – Doing ANY exercise that pushes your muscles outside of their comfort zone, forcing them to rebuild stronger to prepare for the next challenge.

#2) Progressive overload: doing slightly more than last time (lift a heavier weight or do 1 more rep) consistently. Your muscles will have to constantly adapt and rebuild themselves stronger. This is called “progressive overload.”

Coach Jim breaks down different strategies for progressive overload in this video:

This means if you drop down and do ONE push-up or knee push-up right now…

Knee push-ups like this are a great way to progress to a regular push-up!

Technically, you’ve strength trained.

Now do that and then do a bodyweight squat…

Do a proper bodyweight squat to work out your legs

Boom, you just did a strength training workout.

Here’s what you need to know about strength training:

  1. Strength training is one of the BEST things you can do for yourself.
  2. Strength training will help you put on muscle while eating in a surplus.
  3. While you can’t spot reduce fat, you can focus on building more muscle in specific areas, which can help you attain a specific look you’re going for.
  4. If you don’t like the gym, you don’t need to go, ever. But I hope you do. Because that’s the easiest way to start training with weights.
  5. Regardless of your fitness level, body fat percentage, strength level, or biological sex, you have every right to be in the free weights section in the gym, training with heavy weights, with everybody else. The people in the gym who are very strong with a lot of muscle started somewhere, too!

I used to be a CrossFit instructor, and my favorite thing about CrossFit was that it destigmatized barbell training and heavy lifting for many women.

Crossfit is great in that in shows it's okay for women to lift heavy weights.

In order for us to strength train and build muscle, we’re going to approach this intelligently. 

We’re not going to pick up small dumbbells and do lots of reps.

We’re not going to sit down at various machines and scroll through our phones while doing leg curls.

Instead, we’re going to:

  • Get very strong with compound movements that recruit LOTS of muscles to work together.
  • Do our workouts quickly and get out of there. The workout should take no longer than 45-60 minutes.

This is how we efficiently build muscle in the minimum amount of time. What are the exercises that we’re going to target?

1) The Push-Up: The best exercise you could ever do for yourself when it comes to using your bodyweight for push muscles (your chest, shoulders, and triceps):

2The Bodyweight Squat: This exercise serves a dual purpose: it is the foundation for building strength AND helps build proper mobility. If you are going to ever do barbell squats, you need to work on hitting proper depth with a bodyweight squat first!

3The Inverted Bodyweight RowUntil you can get your first pull-up or chin-up, these exercises are GREAT to start building your pull-muscle strength (your back, biceps, and forearms).

4) The Pull-Up and Chin-UpOnce you can support your body’s weight above the bar, the world becomes your playground. No strength training routine should be without pull-up or chin-up work! (Click here if you can’t do a pull-up or chin-up yet):

And now we’re into the best weight training exercises:

5) The Barbell SquatProbably the best exercise when it comes to building strength and muscle throughout your whole body. It also burns crazy calories and makes life better. This is a MUST:

6) The Barbell DeadliftMaybe the best exercise of all time. Actually no, it IS the best exercise of all time. It’s certainly the most primal: “pick the weight up off the ground. Done.”

This is a very technical lift, so make sure you read our article on how to deadlift with proper form:

7) The Barbell Bench PressLie on a bench, squeeze your shoulder blades to keep your back tight, and then lower a barbell until it almost touches your chest. Pause, and then press it back up towards the sky. Repeat! And get strong.

8) Barbell Overhead Press: Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and lean back by pushing your hips forward. While keeping your entire body tight, press the bar overhead.

Once the bar passes your forehead, move your body back under the bar by driving your torso forward and back into a standing position. At the top of the lift shrug your shoulders slightly and lock your elbows.

These are some of the best compound exercises you can complete in order to build muscle. Want more muscle? Great! Get stronger at these movements!

One quick note: when I first started lifting, it took a while to build up the strength to be able to bench press or overhead press with the 45-lb bar. If your gym doesn’t have a lighter bar, dumbbells are a great option!

Your mission, should you choose to accept it:

Commit to trying ONE of these movements in the next week. Use 20 seconds of courage, recruit a friend who has lifted or trained before, and try your best.

We know you can use this guide to start building muscle...you got this!

I have three options for you next:

  1. Select one of the muscle-building routines for women in the next section.
  2. Build your own workout routine using these exercises!
  3. Work with me and our coaching program to follow a custom strength training routine for your goals.

5 Muscle Building Workout Routines For Women

No matter which version of wonder woman it is, she always knows the fastest way to build muscle (fight for justice).

I’m going to walk you through three different levels of strength training, and by the end of today, you’re going to know exactly how to get started.

My advice: do 2-3 strength training routines per week, with 1-2 days off in between. As the saying goes: “muscle isn’t built in the gym, it’s built in the kitchen!”

The Swedish Chef knows how to eat to build muscle (lots of food), which is why he's always cooking.

So your goal should be to do a strength training routine, and then make sure you eat a caloric surplus so that your body has enough calories to rebuild your muscles bigger and stronger!

LEVEL 1: BODYWEIGHT TRAINING

Here’s a beginner bodyweight training routine you can do in the comfort of your own home:

  • 20 Bodyweight squats.
  • 10 Push-ups.
  • 10 Walking lunges (each leg).
  • 10 Dumbbell rows (use a milk jug or other weight).
  • 15 Second Plank.
  • 30 Jumping jacks.

We also have a downloadable worksheet of this beginner’s workout that you can print out and hang on your fridge to track your progress! Get it when you sign up below:

LEVEL 2: DUMBBELL WORKOUT

If you have dumbbells at home or access to a gym, you can pick our Level 4 workout from our 6-Level Gym Workout Routine.

So your Dumbbell Workout is 3 circuits of the following:

  • 10 goblet squats (holding the dumbbell like a goblet with 2 hands):

The goblet squat is a great way to build muscle for women.

  • 10 push-ups (or knee push-ups):

This gif shows Staci doing a push-up in perfect form.

As you get lower, like this, the row will be harder to do. Great way to progress into a pull-up.

(By the way, these are two GREAT exercises towards getting your first pull-up)

LEVEL 2: BEGINNER KETTLEBELL WORKOUT

If you have a Kettlebell at home, here’s a 20-Minute Beginner Kettlebell Workout you can do:

Do 3 circuits of this Kettlebell Workout: 

  • 8 Halos (each side)
  • 10 Goblet Squats
  • 8 Overhead Presses (each side)
  • 15 Kettlebell Swings
  • 8 Bent Over Rows (each side)
  • 6 Front Rack Reverse Lunge (per side)

If you like this Kettlebell workout and want to follow along on a worksheet, simply print out our Kettlebell Workout and bring it with you:

LEVEL 3: BARBELL GYM WORKOUT

Here’s a Barbell workout you can follow from our Level 5 Gym Workout Routine.

BARBELL BATALLION WORKOUT A:

  • 3 sets of 10 barbell squats

  • 3 sets of 10 push-ups

This gif shows Staci doing a push-up in perfect form.

  • 3 sets of 10 bodyweight rows:

Start with inclined inverted rows for your pull-up workout. Then drop lower for more required effort.

BARBELL BATALLION WORKOUT B:

  • 3 sets of 5 barbell Romanian deadlifts (video pulled from our courses in Nerd Fitness Prime)

  • 3 sets of 10 bench presses:

  • 3 sets of 5 pull-ups, assisted pull-ups, or negative pull-ups:

A box can be used instead of a chair for a pull-up.

PICK A WORKOUT, GET STARTED!

The whole point is to do challenging movements that really make your muscles work, and then try to do ONE more rep, or lift a SLIGHTLY heavier weight next time! 

Don’t sweat the small details and instead use 20 seconds of courage to get started!

Track your workouts by writing down what you did, and then do what you can next time.

If you really want to level up quickly, LEARN HOW TO DO SQUATS AND HOW TO DO DEADLIFTS. These two exercises changed my life!

Squats and deadlifts helped me build muscle and changed my life.

“Staci, that’s still too many choices! Can you just tell me what workout routine to follow?”

Okay fine! Here’s what I would do if I was you.

Still overwhelmed? Check out our coaching program. We get to learn your story, and then build a program and strategy around your goals that you CAN do.

Christina learned to do pull-ups with NF Coaching

10 Tips for Building Muscle as a Woman

This woman is on her way to build muscle and to find water.

I interviewed multiple other coaches on our team and asked for their best advice on how to build muscle as a woman.

Here’s what they said:

Susy (Coach, BS in Psychology, Certificate III & IV in Fitness, 5+ years of experience)

Tip #1: Food is your friend when you are looking to build muscle and get stronger – your body will need fuel, so you may need to eat more on the days that you work out!

Tip #2: Strength and muscle building requires structure to your workouts – you progress through getting better at specific movements, so make sure that you enjoy the style and structure of your workouts so that you can be as consistent as possible.

Tip #3: Your progress will always be fastest if you avoid injury, so correct form and listening to your body is super important. Your muscles will fatigue and feel sore, but joint pain and sharp, stabby pain means something isn’t moving quite right.

Kerry (Coach, NASM-CPT, 6+ years of experience)

Kerry is one of our great female coaches here at Nerd Fitness.

Tip #4: Fall in love with the process. Getting stronger is a journey, one that is both rewarding and challenging. So no matter where you are starting from, take the time to celebrate each small step along the way towards a more badass version of yourself!

Christy (Coach, BS in Applied Health/Fitness, National Personal Training Institute Graduate, Precision Nutrition Certification, 6+ years of experience)

Christy is one of our great coaches and loves everything Star Wars, as shown here.

Tip #5: To get strong, you gotta lift weights. When lifting weights to get strong, you gotta be okay with testing your boundaries every now and then.

After exercising with your current weight, for the next training session…stop…and try a few reps with the next weight UP to test it out! It might surprise you how much more weight you can lift!

Here are some other tips to help you build muscle.

Tip #6: Boost your testosterone naturally: Consume enough saturated and monounsaturated fats, keep your sugar intake low, and make sure you’re getting enough Vitamin D and Zinc.

These are items linked with boosting your testosterone naturally.[12]

Speaking of testosterone – I know you may think of this as a “male” hormone, but it plays a huge part in women muscle building,[13] fat loss,[14] increase bone mass,[15] and many other health-related issues[16](remember: estrogen is made from testosterone).

Yes, women need plenty of testosterone too.

Men make about ten to fifteen times what we make naturally,[17] but it doesn’t mean we don’t need it too.

Another way we can help our testosterone levels is to watch our cortisol levels.

Cortisol is a hormone that is promoted by stress and reduces free testosterone levels (in addition to signaling for your body to store fat).[18]

Want a way to naturally lower your cortisol levels? Try meditation.[19]

Tip #7: Not getting bigger? Eat more food.

Focus on more fats and carbs. They are the easiest ways to increase your total calories.

You can check out our Guide to Build Muscle for more specific tips on how to eat more food.

If you're not bulking up, eat more, like Kirby here!

Tip #8: Make sure every meal has a solid protein source.

Protein is needed for building muscle, so prioritize this above all else when you sit down to eat.

Having trouble getting it all down? Buy a blender!

A blender can help you obtain more calories for weight gain.

Steve drinks two smoothies a day to reach his protein goals and you can check out our Guide to Protein Shakes for his personal recipe.

On the go with no blender? I like to keep protein powder with me in a small Ziploc bag – that way I can grab a bottle of water, rip off the corner of the Ziploc bag, and use that as a funnel to get the powder into the water bottle. Then, just replace the cap and shake and you’ve got a protein-filled snack!

Tip #9: Get more sleep! When you build muscle, your body is working overtime, burning extra calories. It’s going to need some time to recover. Remember, muscle is built when you rest, not when you actually lift.

Go to bed!

Tip #10: Start today!

Gaining muscle comes down to eating right and strength training. Let’s get you lifting today!

Try some push-ups and squats as we discussed in our strength training section. Tomorrow we can work on eating right and lifting more.

The most important step you can take today is to begin.

Like Bugs here, we want you to start! No matter what you do, take one small step today!

Let’s give you some more tips to get you going.

Building Muscle: Next Steps!

Climbing mountains is a great way to build muscle (man or woman).

If I can narrow down building muscle for women, it would be three main points:

  1. Get stronger by picking up heavy stuff or doing more challenging bodyweight movements.
  2. Get bigger by eating lots of food.
  3. Recover faster by sleeping enough and giving your muscles days off to rebuild.

That’s it. You can do this.

We know that you are ready to start your muscle building practice today!

If you made it this far, and you want more specific instruction and guidance, we have a few options for you:

1) If you are somebody that wants to follow a tailor-made program designed around their life and goals, check out our popular 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program.

You’ll work with our certified NF instructors who will get to know you better than you know yourself, check your form, and program your workouts and nutrition for you.

Nerd Fitness Coaching Banner

2) If you want an exact blueprint for growing strong, check out NF Journey. Our fun habit-building app helps you exercise more frequently, eat healthier, and level up your life (literally).

Try your free trial right here:

3) Join the Rebellion! We need good people like you in our community, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion.

Sign up in the box below to enlist and get our guide, Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know. It’ll help you begin your journey on building muscle.

Lastly, I’d love to hear from you!

PLEASE leave your questions, eating or strength or otherwise below so we can answer them and become best friends and practice karate kicks in the garage:

How can I help you get bigger and stronger?

What part of this journey are you still struggling the most with?

What are your favorite bulking up foods!?

Share with your friends in the comments so we can all go buy it in bulk at Costco.

-Staci

PS: Make sure you check out the rest of our Strength Building Articles!

###

Photo sources: Women’s Day 2015, Sea spray, The Viking, The Evolution of LEGO Wonder Woman, Apocalyptic Motorcycle, Person Mountain,

The post How to Build Muscle as a Woman: The Ultimate Guide for Gaining Weight the Right Way first appeared on Nerd Fitness.

]]>
https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/how-to-build-muscle-as-a-woman-the-ultimate-guide-for-gaining-weight-the-right-way/feed/ 80
How to Exercise With Your Kids (Work out as a Family!) https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/how-to-exercise-with-your-kids-work-out-as-a-family/ https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/how-to-exercise-with-your-kids-work-out-as-a-family/#disqus_thread Wed, 15 Jun 2022 05:53:40 +0000 https://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=3807272 So you’ve got kids running around the house…  And you need to work out, but can’t seem to distract the little monsters any longer? No problem! Many of our coaching clients have to train at home with their kids around. Today, we’ll show you how to get them involved! Here’s what we’ll cover: 5 tips […]

The post How to Exercise With Your Kids (Work out as a Family!) first appeared on Nerd Fitness.

]]>
This picture shows a LEGO on a bike with a stroller attached.

So you’ve got kids running around the house… 

And you need to work out, but can’t seem to distract the little monsters any longer?

No problem!

Many of our coaching clients have to train at home with their kids around. Today, we’ll show you how to get them involved!

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Let’s jump right in!

How to Workout With Your Kids (Video Tutorial)

LEGO Maggie doing the iconic James Bond intro.

Quite a few of our Nerd Fitness Coaches are parents, so they know firsthand how challenging it can be to train while you have a three-year-old running around in the background.

When I asked them for advice for this guide, the most common response I received went something like: 

“Training with kids running around is going to be chaos. That’s okay. Do the best you can.”

In other words, it might be challenging to hit personal records (PRs) in your deadlift while also watching over a four-year-old.

This doesn’t mean “Don’t bother working out.” 

It just means you should forgive yourself ahead of time if all doesn’t go according to plan.

A funny scene of a disaster with Leslie Nielsen.

If you want proof of how working out with kids can be “a hot mess,” watch Coach Matt exercising with his young children. 

The video is all sorts of adorbs. 

THE BEGINNER BODYWEIGHT WORKOUT (KIDS EDITION):

When working out with kids, remember:

#1) Meet kids where they are. For young kids, invite them to be a partner. Maybe they can count your reps, tell you when to start, etc. 

On the other hand, older kids might be able to participate more fully, and maybe even train alongside you. 

No matter what, it’s a good idea to invite kids to join when and IF they want, without requiring it. 

#2 ) While every kid is different, here are some very general guidelines from Coach Matt’s experience:

  • 2-6 Years Old. These kids are often way more interested in just playing, wrestling, etc. So doing a specific workout may be challenging. However, these kids may still want to be a part of things, so look for ways to get them involved. 
  • 7-12 Years Old. At this age, they can start handling a little more structure. They will probably really enjoy “skills” training (more on this below), as well as many play aspects.
  • 13+ (Depending on the Kid). They may be ready to step in and join you more fully in a workout if they want to.

#3) Consider a focus on skills/practice. It can be really frustrating to have a timed exercise or workout interrupted. 

A gif of Stewie from Family Guy shouting for attention.

Instead, consider thinking of it like “practice time” of building a skill. You can practice for a couple of minutes, take a break, come back to it, etc.

Kids might respond better to “skills” training instead of “exercises” too. Together, you can practice:

  • Crawling
  • Jumping
  • Swinging
  • Getting up and down off the floor
  • Dancing
  • Throwing/Catching

This might go over better than “let’s do squats” or “push-ups.”

#4) There are lots of different ways to get workouts in throughout the day:

  • Short workouts: a lot of times Coach Matt finds himself squeezing a workout in 10 mins or less.
  • Accumulation: take little micro-breaks throughout the day to do a couple of reps of some bodyweight exercises. Kind of like “exercise snacks.” 
  • Longer workouts: maybe creating that time and space for your training is still important. If possible, defend this time and let the kids move in and out of the frame as they are interested.
  • “I go, you go”: you may snag a workout set in, then play a game with your kids, then go back to the workout set. Breaking it up like this can make them still feel engaged and give you a little more time to train.

#5) Whatever happens is okay! Remember, do the best you can, and it’s perfectly fine if your workout gets cut short because your kid starts drawing on the walls.

The 8 Best Exercises to Do With Young Kids

A kid holding himself up with one arm on a jungle gym.

If your kids are light enough, you can actually use them as makeshift weights during your workout.

Just be careful, and if anything feels unsafe, don’t do it.

But if things DO feel good, here are some exercises you can do along with kiddos (or using them as weight).

#1) Bodyweight Squats (with Child) 

Matt has his kiddo resting on his shoulders, almost like a safety squat bar would.

This is much like a normal bodyweight squat, but with your kids sitting on your shoulders.

Coach Matt recommends having your kid’s legs come forward, and for you to grab them, almost like you would with a safety squat bar.

Before attempting this, make sure you can do squats with comparable weight! 

#2) Lunges

Much like the bodyweight squats above, but instead do a lunge:

Same idea as our bodyweight squat, your kid will rest on your shoulders as you do your lunge.

Since you’re engaging one leg at a time, this can be really challenging with a kid on your shoulders.

#3) Touch the Sky

This gif shows both Matt and his kid going from a squat to standing tall, arms up.

As Coach Matt explains, getting young kids to do squats and push-ups might be tough.

But kids do like to jump! 

For “Touch the Sky,” sit in a squat or frog position. Then stand up tall, arms reaching towards the sky.

Bonus points if you jump up!

This will train many of the same muscles as you would with squats.

#4) Jumps

Coach Matt performing jumps with his kids, a great exercise to try.

Another good squat substitution to try with kids is long jumps!

You probably want to try this on some type of soft surface (or in your backyard), like the tumbling mat Coach Matt uses. As long as it’s safe, jumping can be really fun with kids.

Make a game out of it, by pointing to a line (or marking one with a soft object) and seeing who can jump over it. You’ll not only train your lower body with jumps, but you’ll also build some explosive power.

#5) Push-ups

You have a few options here. 

The first is to have your kid crawl on your back and use them as a weight:

This is a gif of Matt doing push-ups, with his kid attached to his back.

Feel free to do knee push-ups here too if it’s a little too challenging.

The next option is to include your kid in the workout by giving them high-fives between reps:

At the top of your push-up, stick your arm out and give the kid a high-five!

Lastly, you can have your kids crawl under you between repetitions, trying to worm their way from one end to the other:

Once at the top of your push-up, have your kid crawl under you, like so.

#6) Bear Crawl

A fun exercise to do with your kids is to crawl around like a bear with them latched on!

Coach Matt crawling around with his kid on his back.

Crawling is a great functional fitness exercise that will help you stay mobile on the floor. A kid on your back will up the intensity of the workout. 

Bonus points if you make growling and roaring noises.

#7) Goat Bag Hinge

This exercise has your kid clenching onto the front of your chest, while you push your hips back.

This exercise will have you strengthening your hinge muscles, kind of like you would in a kettlebell swing or deadlift

Stand tall, clenching your kid, chest to chest. Have them hold onto you too.

Push your hips back, again, like you would in a kettlebell swing. When your torso is parrell-ish to the ground, come back up, driving through your heels. 

#8) Balancing

One leg balances can become a lot more challenging when your kid is trying to push you over:

A gif of Matt's kid trying to push him over as he balances on one leg.

Another idea is to stand on one leg, then have your kid push you, and use that force to jump onto your other leg. Attempt to only use one leg at a time to balance:

Use the force of your kid to jump from one leg to the other, as shown here.

10 Workout Games to Play as a Family

This picture some Stormtroopers and mini-stormtroopers play fighting.

Being able to lift your kid a few times for some exercises is great. But Coach Matt highlights that anything over 10 repetitions, probably isn’t happening.

The kids will get bored, whine, or revolt.

That’s why you might be better off playing some games with them. 

Here are 10 fun and active games to play as a whole family:

#1) Ninja Training

This is easy: just ask your child: “Want to train like a ninja with me?”

If they’re into it, start practicing some of your jumps and crawls!

You can also hoist them up and help them hang from something (ninjas always have to climb up buildings), which would work if you have a pull-up bar:

Coach Staci showing you the bar hang

Don’t have a pull-up bar? We makeshift clever replacements in our guide to building a home gym.

Some house parkour might also be in the cards here. 

#2) Chase (Cops and Robbers)

Here, you’re gonna build some type of fort. When playing this game, Coach Matt stands up his gymnastic mat tall and together, then places his kids in the middle.

Their job? Escape!

Run and track them down and send them back to jail (or your makeshift fort).

Feel free to teach them the phrase, “You’ll never catch me alive, coppers!”

#3) Freeze Ball

This might require a purchase, but foam dodgeballs are a great way to play with kids.

Have the different colored dodgeballs result in a different outcome:

  • Red: if you’re hit with the “fireball,” hop five times in a row.
  • Blue: if you’re hit with the “iceball,” you need to freeze for five seconds. 
  • Green: if you’re hit with the “earthball,” it’s time to place your chest to the ground, like you would in a burpee.

#4) Animal Walks

Have someone call out an animal. Then everyone has to walk around like that!

Walking to Mordor is much tougher if you need to crawl like a snake for part of the journey.

#5) Hot Lava

With this game, you’re more or less building an obstacle course in your house, trying to jump from furniture to furniture…because the floor is now lava.

Here are some ideas on creating home obstacle courses:

Another fun way to start this game: start counting down from 5 out loud.

After “1” shout “hot lava” and if anyone is still on the normal floor, it’s time for them to start playing like Gollum when he finally got the ring:

A scene of Gollum falling into lava from Return of the King.

This is a fun standing game to ensure spontaneous activity.

#6) Jump/Duck

This game is pretty easy: take an imaginary sword and swing high or low at the kids, or have them come at you with their imaginary weapon.

Just swing high or low at your kid, and have then duck or jump respectively.

You need to either jump if they’re coming low or duck if they’re coming high.

This is really simple, but lots of fun, and can be done with a group of people.

#7) King of the Log (Balance Challenges)

Much like the balance exercises we showed you earlier, but as a game!

Find some territory (a mat, some comfy carpet, grass) and try to push the other off it. Let your kiddos team on you for a more even match.

#8) Wolf & Rabbit

Create a mark or identify a “safe place” within a short sprint away. 

Have two people face each other, but keep enough distance that the “Rabbit” feels comfortable reaching safety.

The Rabbit stays frozen until the Wolf makes a move. Then the Rabbit attempts to sprint to safety before the Wolf can tag it.

#9) Ninja Red Light, Green Light

If you’ve ever played “Red Light, Green Light” this is similar, although it involves some sneaking around, because ninjas.

A gif of a ninja doing ninja stuff.

“The Mark” walks around aimlessly, taking turns liberally, while the Ninja tries to sneak up behind and tag them. 

If the Mark faces the Ninja, the Ninja must freeze. 

Otherwise, the Ninja is free to tag the Mark.

#9) Commando

This game is kind of like Ninja Red Light, Green Light.

  • You have a Counter (normally the adult).
  • You have Runners (kids).

The Counter picks a number from five to ten, then counts down.

Before doing so, they announce “Fast” or “Slow.”

  • Fast, you would count “5, dot, 4, dot, 3, dot, 2, dot, 1.”
  • Slow, you would count “5, dot, dot, 4, dot, dot, 3, dot, dot, 2, dot, dot, 1.”

So twice as many “dots” are said allowed.

While the Counter counts, they move about (carefully) with their eyes closed. They make sure to turn around a lot to keep the Runners on their toes.

When the Counter reaches “1,” they freeze and open their eyes.

Any Runners caught in the Counter’s eyes has to do a silly “croak.”

This dog does a good "play dead" in this gif

Working Out at Home With Kids

Coach Matt is a father of 5, yet he’s still able to train with little ones in the house.

How’s he do it?

Here are 4 tips on how to train with kids at home:

  1. Use every minute. Yep, that means you might be breaking up your workout. This is fine.
  2. Talk to your partner. If there’s another parent involved, share with them your goals. Maybe one of you can watch the kids while the other works out.
  3. Involve your kids.  You can always do some exercises with your kiddos. Who knows, you might even help them find a love of working out.
  4. Play some games. You can try one of the 10 games we mentioned above, or even a more traditional sport might be fun if they can handle it.

If you’re juggling working out with your kiddos around, give the video a watch.

How to Workout as a Family (Next Steps)

This picture shows a family on the beach looking into the sunset.

The most important thing about working out with your kids: have fun!

If kids see you having fun, they might want to join you.

If you make your exercise together enjoyable by including some game elements, they might want to keep doing it.

That would be great!

If you need more ideas, here are 40 ways to exercise without realizing it

However, if your kids are not into it, that’s okay. Just try to sneak in whatever workout you can, when you can.

Do the best you can. 

The most important thing you can do now: try an exercise or game with your kids!

You’ll never know how your kids deal with your workouts, until you try it out.

So pick one of the exercises or games we highlighted and give it a whirl.

If it devolves to chaos, you can always try again with a different workout or strategy.

Again, just do the best you can.

This girl is ready to strength train. Are you?

If you want some more help, Nerd Fitness is here for you.

We have three options on how to continue with us. Pick the option that best aligns with your goals:

Option #1) If you want a daily prompt for doing home workouts, check out NF Journey. Our fun habit-building app helps you exercise more frequently, eat healthier, and level up your life (literally).

Try your free trial right here:

Option #2) If you want a professional coach in your pocket, who can do video form checks, provide feedback, and adjust your workouts based on the equipment you have available, check out our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program

For example, let’s say you find yourself stuck indoors and you want somebody to custom-build you a workout program based on the equipment and furniture you have. That’s where an online coach is a game-changer! 

Personally, I’ve been working with the same online coach since 2015 and it’s changed my life. You can learn more by clicking on the box below: 

Option #3) Become part of the Rebellion! We need good people like you in our community, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion.

Sign up in the box below to enlist and get our Rebel Starter Kit, which includes all of our “work out from home” guides.

Alright, I want to hear from you and your experience with working out with your children! 

Are you a parent who is now learning how to exercise with your kids?

Any tips or tricks for training with screaming kids in the background?

Any fun games we missed?

Let me know in the comments!

-Steve

P.S. If you have older kids, they might be more into doing a workout right alongside you. If so, have them pick a routine from The 7 Best At-Home Workouts and try it together!

###

Photo Source: Cargo bike family, The clones are working hard, Family looking into sunset, Untitled, Simpson…Maggie Simpson.

The post How to Exercise With Your Kids (Work out as a Family!) first appeared on Nerd Fitness.

]]>
https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/how-to-exercise-with-your-kids-work-out-as-a-family/feed/ 123
How to Find a Good Personal Trainer or Coach: 5 Mistakes to Avoid! https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/how-to-hire-a-good-personal-trainer/ https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/how-to-hire-a-good-personal-trainer/#disqus_thread Wed, 15 Jun 2022 05:38:00 +0000 https://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=956782 Before you fork out some cash for a personal trainer, read this guide! It’ll help you spot the difference between a bad personal trainer and an AMAZING trainer.  And trust us, having the right trainer can make ALL the difference in the world. There’s nothing worse than spending 6+ months in a gym (and thousands […]

The post How to Find a Good Personal Trainer or Coach: 5 Mistakes to Avoid! first appeared on Nerd Fitness.

]]>
Two Legos about to workout together.

Before you fork out some cash for a personal trainer, read this guide!

It’ll help you spot the difference between a bad personal trainer and an AMAZING trainer. 

And trust us, having the right trainer can make ALL the difference in the world.

There’s nothing worse than spending 6+ months in a gym (and thousands of dollars) with a trainer, only to step on the scale and realize that you haven’t made any progress.

It’s…

someone singing "The Worst"

I’ve worked with good trainers and bad trainers over the past 16 years, have worked with the same online personal trainer since 2014, and we have a team of 15 personal trainers on Team Nerd Fitness.

Long story short, we know our stuff, and we’ll give it to you straight.

Whether or not you want to check out our 1-on-1 Online Training Program, this guide is going to help you with all the details.

In this guide we’ll cover the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to personal trainers – both in-person and online:

What do you need from a personal trainer

As Coach Matt explains in the video above, the first question you need to ask when hiring a personal trainer: do they match up with your goals?

And yep, that means we’re going to have to pick some goals in the first place!

So start by picking your goals and then determine if the trainer you’re paired up with is the right fit for you. Like dating, you can meet somebody who’s amazing but not right for you.

A gif of Chandler saying "kill me"

If somebody is a competitive marathon runner, they might not be a great powerlifting coach, and vice versa.

So, start with your goals for finding a personal trainer:

  1. Are you trying to lose 300 pounds? 20 pounds? Get to 10% body fat?
  2. Are you trying to get stronger or hold your first handstand?
  3. Do you want to become a competitive powerlifter?
  4. Are you looking to run your first 5k?
  5. Do you just want to get in shape, feel better, and enjoy exercise?

These goals will largely determine the type of trainer you’re looking for.

MISTAKE #1: Not making sure your trainer has expertise in the area you want to train in.

Expertise in one area does not necessarily make them a good fit in another!

After that, you’ll want to think about what you NEED from your personal trainer:

  1. Are you looking for a powerlifting coach to show you the basics (squat, deadlift, bench) so your form is right? Just a few sessions up front and a few later down the line to confirm you’re on the right path might suffice.
  2. Are you new to working out or looking to kick start your first 2 months of training with 2 sessions per week to keep you disciplined?
  3. What type of person are you? Do you need more hands-on guidance throughout your workouts, or more space to take ownership and thrive on your own? Do you need somebody who will cheer you on or do you need tough love from somebody to call you on your bullshit?

Once you set proper expectations with what you want and how long you need a trainer for, then you can pick out one that hopefully will work for you.

How to find a good personal trainer

A personal trainer stretching out a client.

Once you find a trainer you are considering working with, the next step should always be an in-depth conversation.

MISTAKE #2: Blindly accepting what your trainer tells you without making sure you fit together! 

They SHOULD be listening to you completely and hear your full story.

They SHOULD ask about any past issues with injuries or experience with exercise. If you’re injured or have any deficiencies, they should know this so they can create a great program for you.

They SHOULD ask you about your nutrition. If they don’t ask about your nutrition, you’re going to be wasting your time.

They SHOULD practice what they preach. They don’t have to be an Olympian, but should have a healthy lifestyle.

They SHOULD tell you about their expertise and how they can help you. They should be able to share past successes of clients with you or point to their credentials and history of success.

They SHOULD set proper expectations. You won’t get ripped in a month, but they can let you know it could take many months to get in shape or build the right kind of habits.

That’s what to look for. These are the things we specifically focus on with our 1-on-1 online coaching program. We love helping people in a way that fits their lifestyle, at a pace that they feel great about, while actually having fun.

What are the Signs of a bad personal trainer?

Our Lego friend is terrified of bad personal trainers.

Beware the “entertainment exercise” trainers with a routine that isn’t catered to your goals.

MISTAKE #3: Thinking a workout is more effective because it’s confusing.

Many trainers just try to confuse you with needlessly complex movements, and put all their clients through roughly the same cookie-cutter plan.

Why? because they know it makes them look knowledgeable without actually needing to do something effectively:

“Now balance on this bosu ball while doing these dumbbell squat lunge curls and standing on one foot with your tongue out! Muscle confusion!

I hope you saved some energy for the row machine.”

Make sure the training from your PT matches your goals!

Tough workouts are great, but remember that while it’s easy to get someone tired (“go do 100 burpees!”), it’s harder to help someone slowly improve and build momentum.

Sure, it might elevate your heart rate and tire you out, but if it’s not building towards your goals in a way that you couldn’t do at home, what are you paying for?

They might also have just obtained a basic certification and stopped their education there, relying on ‘conventional wisdom’ rather than doing the research and building the experience.

If your trainer says any of the following phrases, run for the high hills:

  • Yeah you don’t want to squat too low – it’s bad for your knees.”
  • “Use this machine; it’s safer for you than free weights” (unless you have an injury)
  • “Yes, you should be using mostly your back. That’s why it’s called the back squat”
  • “These (ab) exercise will burn fat from your stomach in no time” (You can’t spot reduce fat.)

I have overheard all of these sound bites from real trainers in real gyms, and it made me weep like the Native American in the 1970s pollution ad:

Your trainer should be results-focused, not focused on scheduling you a new session and keeping you around.

I often see clients working with trainers for months and months and that client never looks any different.

The trainer is just interested in cashing another check.

Remember, your personal trainer works for YOU: Don’t let them build a program that doesn’t actually fit your needs!.

Do they adjust your workout to take care of any pre-existing injuries you may have, or do they just give you a cookie cutter workout?

Are they encouraging or helping you succeed in the way you want to be encouraged, or are they scrolling through Instagram models on their phones while you’re doing your sets?

Are they putting in the time so they can see you get results, or are they putting in the time so they can check the box and collect your money?

You’re paying money for this person’s expertise and attention – it’s not too much to ask to find somebody who takes those things seriously.

Getting in shape requires you to go when you don't feel like going

What certifications should a personal trainer have?

A personal trainer high-fiving a client.

There are a wide variety of personal trainer certifications and other “credibility indicators.”

The more traditional path – a degree in exercise science or kinesiology may mean the trainer in question is knowledgeable about the human body.

However, that doesn’t speak to any experience they may or may not have coaching in real-world circumstances.

6 of the most popular personal trainer certifications are:

  1. NSCA: National Strength and Conditioning Association
  2. ACSM: American College of Sports Medicine
  3. NASM: National Academy of Sports Medicine
  4. ACE: American Council on Exercise
  5. NPTI: National Personal Training Institute
  6. CrossFit

T-Nation provides a rundown of the pros and cons from a trainer’s perspective that we feel is also useful insight from a client’s perspective. Be sure to check them out if you want to learn more about what’s behind your trainer’s certification.

CrossFit certifications are completed in a single weekend. While a CrossFit certification does not make a trainer bad (there are plenty of excellent CrossFit coaches out there!), it does not guarantee excellence either.

Here are our thoughts on CrossFit.

A certification from NPTI – the National Personal Training Institute – is a credential gained from going to a full school on personal training (rather than attending a class or taking a test).

While no certification can fully promise excellence, we believe trainers with NPTI certifications are worth your consideration.

CAVEAT TO ALL OF THIS: Plenty of trainers who have NO certification are incredible, and plenty of other trainers have the most elite certifications and are terrible trainers.

MISTAKE #4: Blindly accepting a trainer’s credentials or discounting a trainer without certain credentials.

Certifications can be a starting point, but it shouldn’t be the determining factor.

One of the most important things to look for in your trainer isn’t a credential or certification at all, but real experience and an enthusiasm for helping you reach your goals.

For example:

Looking to powerlift or get into Olympic lifting? Look for someone who has successfully competed in their fields, or someone who actually coaches athletes who do compete!

Need to lose a lot of weight? Ask a trainer to share with you success stories from people who are like you.

In our view, finding a trainer with proven experience and a track record of performing or coaching (or both) in the area of your goals is the most valuable step you can take to ensure quality.

The credential is only a starting point.

Trainers aren’t cheap, but the benefits can be priceless.

Remember, you aren’t paying simply for their time with you. You’re paying for the years and years they’ve spent learning, training, and coaching.

It’s the years behind the certification that makes their time so valuable, so expect the cost of a trainer to be significantly more than the cost of a basic membership at your gym.

How much does a personal trainer cost? Are Personal Trainers Worth it?

This Lego wants to know how much personal training costs.

The cost of a personal trainer can vary dramatically depending on:

  • Where you live (in an expensive city, small town, etc.).
  • The quantity and duration of your training sessions.
  • What kind of training you are looking for.

But you want specifics.

The average North American trainer charges $55 for an hour session.[1]

That’s an “average” so let’s break it down a little.

Here are the prices for working with a trainer in various capacities at my generic commercial gym in the NYC area (definitely on the more expensive end):

  • 4 sessions per month: $95 per session = $380/month
  • 8 sessions per month: $85 per session = $680/month
  • 12 sessions per month: $79 per session = $948/month

This is what one can expect to pay for personal training near NYC.

Is this pricing more or less than you expected?

Here is how much a personal trainer costs at:

  1. Global Gyms: Most big box gyms offer personal training:
    • LA Fitness: you can expect to pay about $60 per session.
    • 24-Hour Fitness: it’ll be about $80 per session.
    • Anytime Fitness: as little as $35 a session.
  2. Luxury Gyms: If you go to a more upscale gym like Equinox, expect to pay “luxury” prices of $110+ an hour.
  3. In-Home Personal Training. If you don’t want to head to the gym, you can actually have a personal trainer come to your home. The cost on this could be all over the place, but a rough average would be about $65 for an hour session.

Different trainers will have different qualifications and expertise, leading to vastly different training experiences.

This can be really important.

MISTAKE #5: Thinking “more expensive” automatically means “better results.” 

Cost is not the right metric. VALUE is the right metric!

Depending on your goals and the results you’re after:

  • $30 per session might be overpaying for a crap trainer who gives you a generic workout and doesn’t care about you. 
  • $100 per session might be a STEAL if it’s an amazing trainer that gets to know your life and your personality, motivates you in the way you need to be motivated, and helps you get past a plateau when you stall.

That’s why remembering your “get in shape” goals is critical when buying a personal trainer.

If you’re looking to do 5 sessions to improve your powerlifting technique, that’s different than hiring a trainer to be with you in person 3x a week to get you to the gym.

HOW TO THINK ABOUT HIRING A TRAINER

You’re not just paying for an hour of somebody’s time.

You’re paying for their years of experience, schooling, training, and expertise.

You’re paying to outsource ALL of your fitness questions to somebody who knows what they’re doing.

Somebody who gives you the confidence you’re training correctly.

This Muppet knows strength training will help him gain muscle and lose weight.

So instead of “I am paying this trainer for 1 hour, this is too expensive,” what you’re really paying for is confidence, momentum, and (hopefully) results.

As somebody who has worked with an online trainer since 2014, I would pay any amount of money to my coach (just don’t tell him that) because I love getting results after years of struggle.

How does an in-person trainer compare to our online coaching program?

Our pricing comes in at a less-expensive price than 4 sessions per month with a trainer.

In addition to building you a workout program for the month, we also help you with your nutrition, mindset, and goals, and answer all the questions you have.

There are very real pros and cons to hiring an online personal trainer, so make sure you read that next section.

So a trainer can be AMAZING and worth every penny, IF you have the right one who also takes an active role in your nutrition.

After all, workouts only make up 1-3 hours per week.

What about the other 165? That’s where the progress happens! And your coach should be helping you there too!

SHOULD I HIRE AN ONLINE PERSONAL TRAINER? WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF AN ONLINE PERSONAL TRAINER?

This Lego athlete is ready for his personal training.

Warning: I’m going to be slightly biased in this area, but I’ll share the honest pros and cons of online training:

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been working with an online trainer since 2014, and it’s allowed me to prove an internet troll wrong and then lose 22 pounds in 6 months while getting super strong!

Here are the Pros of Online Personal Training:

#1) Freedom to fit your schedule. With an online personal coach, you can train when and where you want to fit your schedule – your coach builds the workout program for you ahead of time, so you can fit it in at your convenience.

Compare this to a traditional coach, and you’re at the mercy of their busy schedule. If they only have time Friday morning at 8am, and you’re not a morning person, conflict ensues.

#2) Persistent worldwide accountability. I’m borrowing this phrase from a NF Coaching Client, Jeff (his success story is great). No matter where in the globe you are, your online trainer comes with you.

Which means the accountability never stops. If you travel for work, your coach can plan for that and build you a special travel routine. Getting relocated for work? No problem – your coach will still be there.

#3) Nutritional guidance. With most traditional personal trainers, you engage with them only during your scheduled visits: they help you work out and that’s about it.

With an online personal trainer, you’re connected whenever you have access to the internet. And I would imagine that MOST online coaching programs, work with you on the most important part of the equation: eating healthier!

AKA everything that happens in the 23 hours outside of the gym.

#4) More cost-effective. Most in-person personal trainers are expensive, especially if you work out with them two or three times a week.

That’s because if your trainer is working with you, they can’t work with anybody else at the same time.

When you work with an online coach, because you aren’t training with them 1-on-1 in the gym, they can provide more cost-effective guidance.

When you factor in their availability via chat and their help on habits and your nutrition, you’re looking at a life-changing experience if you find a coach that fits your personality.

#5) It might be the only option. With so many gyms closing because of the pandemic, you might not even have much of a choice here. Here’s our guide to staying in shape (while staying inside) if you need to train from home. 

When comparing online coaches versus regular coaches, I’m going to share the cons as if you have the option between a GREAT online coach and a GREAT in-person coach.

Neither of those is guaranteed.

Here are the cons of an online coach when compared against a real-life equivalent:

#1) Your coach can’t do the work for you. There’s nothing stopping you from skipping a workout and lying to your online coach that you did it. Nobody wins in this scenario, but I can totally see it happening.

So yeah, an online coach can’t pick up the weight for you, and they can’t yell at you to put down the donut. You have to do the work!

#2) No real-time feedback and instant form check. If you’re learning how to powerlift, or you’re going for a particular heavy lift, having a coach right there is HUGE.

They can tell you to move your squat slightly wider. They can guide you through the movement and consistently remind you – even when tired – to keep great form.

Although we do form-check videos, where we have coaches and clients send clips back and forth to each other, it’s not the same as having somebody critique you in real-time.

If you’re looking to nail a particularly challenging lift, or learn a dangerous gymnastics move, working with a trained professional in person is invaluable.

#3) The value of sunk cost. If you pay for a month of online coaching, there’s nothing inherently motivating you to go to the gym when it’s cold and you’re tired – your coach can’t yell at you, and you’re not letting anybody down in the moment when you don’t make it.

Compare this to working with a real coach in person.

You paid $100 for a session, and if you don’t show up, that money is *POOF* gone. So you tell yourself, “I already paid for this, and my coach is gonna be mad, I should probably go.”

And then you go. And you’re so glad that you did.

Wayne stoked he made it to the gym today to meet his personal trainer!

Although your online coach can notice that you haven’t signed in on your app, and they can ask what’s going on, this is after the fact compared to an in-person coach getting stood up.

There’s a lot to consider when debating in-person training vs. an online personal trainer.

I wouldn’t say one format is clearly better than or superior to another. It really depends on what you’re after and the circumstances of your situation.

MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: I’ve been working with an online trainer since 2014, and it’s truly been life-changing for me.

I had some goals that had evaded me despite a DECADE of effort, and it took a great coach to coax out the right strategy. It’s how I say (jokingly) that I went from Steve Rogers to Captain America.

And it was my coach’s programming that got me a 420-pound deadlift at a bodyweight of 172 pounds:

Rebel Leader Steve showing how to do a 420 lb deadlift at the gym.

I’m not gonna set any powerlifting records, but I’m healthier, happier, and stronger each and every month, and I’m damn proud of that.  

For somebody that can’t afford a top-of-the-line professional coach for each session, having an online coach to build your programming and guide your food choices is a verrrrry close second.

How to hire a personal trainer

It's now time to buy stuff!

HERE’S MY ADVICE: Give your new personal trainer 5 sessions before making a decision that things aren’t working out (sessions are often sold at a discount in a package).

The first session is often exploratory, explanatory, and introductory, and the trainer needs to test your limits and movements to build upon that.

This isn’t a “get fit quick” strategy, but rather one that could take months and months for you to find the right person to aid you on your journey.

Don’t expect miracles in a day!

A few words of wisdom if you do hire a trainer:

DO NOT USE YOUR TRAINER AS AN EXCUSE: Too many people will hire up a trainer and give no effort in the gym or the kitchen.

Then, when they fail to see results they can turn to their friends and say “man, my trainer is terrible, THAT’S why I’m not losing weight/getting stronger/etc.”

This happens so much more often than you’d think. A trainer is a guide, like Morpheus.

Morpheus is kind of like a personal trainer, he'll show you the way but you have to do the work.

You have to take the pill and walk through the door yourself.

MAKE CRITICISM CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM: Often when the trainer asks them to do something (walk every day, throw away junk food, eat a vegetable), the client/trainee comes back with 1,001 reasons why they can’t do that.

No compromise or discussion of possible solutions. This stinks.

Instead of saying “no,” offer an alternative solution and negotiate a plan: “I don’t really like broccoli, do you have a way to make vegetables taste better?”

In other words, don’t look for problems, look for solutions.

IF YOU ENJOY WORKING WITH YOUR TRAINER: Let them know and continue working with them.

The more information you can give them on your progress, the easier it will be for them to alter your program as you go on.

IF YOU DON’T ENJOY WORKING WITH YOUR TRAINER: That’s okay too. Not all relationships end in marriages.

Some first dates suck, and some trainers aren’t what you need.

I think you can be honest with them and let them know that it’s not a good fit and you will not be continuing to work with them.

Good trainers at this point will ask what they could have done better.

Trainers who are simply after your money may guilt trip you or beg you to stick around. Try somebody new and keep the search going.

REMEMBER: this is a lifelong quest, and you’re on the hunt for a great guide to help you on your journey.

They won’t do the work for you, and they can’t work miracles.

Have proper expectations, do what you’re told, and this could be the best investment you’ll make in your entire life!

Trainers in the Rebellion, what did I miss?

Those who have had experience working with Trainers, any wisdom to share from your experience?

One final note: Going to a gym is intimidating, especially if you’re starting out.

If you are in a location where there aren’t any great trainers, you don’t have access to a gym, or you’re just not ready to work with somebody in person, consider checking out our Online Coaching Program!

Schedule a free call to learn more by clicking on the image below:

Nerd Fitness Coaching Ad

If you have questions about what you need to look for when it comes to training with a coach in person, or even questions about working with an online trainer, leave them in the comments below so I can chime in!

-Steve

###

photo: Decathlonwikimedia: high five, BicycleWikimedia: stretching, Amazing playground: bicycles and football

The post How to Find a Good Personal Trainer or Coach: 5 Mistakes to Avoid! first appeared on Nerd Fitness.

]]>
https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/how-to-hire-a-good-personal-trainer/feed/ 301