Puberty was not kind to me. I was a late-bloomer and I exited high school very lanky and insecure. I was 18 when I started working out, and all I knew was that I wanted to get jacked ASAP. What’s the first thing I did? Jump on a treadmill hahaha. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes, and I’ve learned from them. In retrospect, there are few things I wish someone had told me:
1. Skip the supplements, bro.
I went from 0 to 60 when I started working out. In addition to signing up at a gym, I tried different supplements because my friends kept telling me they were the secret (the wrong one) to building muscle. About a year in, I realized very quickly how unhelpful and unnecessary they were. I learned about functional eating, which transformed into balanced eating, and now I’m a f*cking dietitian! I firmly believe that whole foods > supplements especially for athletes/recreational exercisers.
2. Work with a professional.
I didn’t know what the heck I was doing so for the first 6 months, I just did cardio to grow muscle (that’s not how that works). Being the typical poor college student, I could not (did not want to) pay for a personal trainer. I read endless books/articles and watched countless exercise videos to learn. I finally got a clue and worked with a CPT who taught me all the basics. That is one investment in my health that paid huge dividends. I learned about form and safety which have carried me through every workout since.
3. You have to put the “work” into “workout”.
I like working out. But most of the time, it’s a struggle to drag myself to the gym. This was especially true when I first started when I would barely go consistently. And there are many days now that I want to walk out as soon as I walk in especially after work. Exercising and being healthy takes work. There’s no way around it. There’s a saying: “don’t get upset with the results you didn’t get from the work you didn’t do”. Try new things and push yourself harder than your last workout. Discipline is everything when it comes to success at the gym.
4. Don’t skip leg day. (Or back day. Or shoulder day).
5. Be patient: it takes time (but it’s so worth it).
This is a tough one. How do you convince someone just starting out that it’s worth all the pain and hard work? I guess pictures of hot buff guys helped me. It’s like getting braces. It sucks for those two years but afterwards, you get beautiful teeth! I focused on my end goals and that fueled my motivation and discipline at the gym. It was and is so worth it.
To be clear, I accept the certain amount of vanity in my life. I’m still impressed when I see a strong guy or girl work out. But I’m more impressed when I see people work out consistently. They’re saying, “my health is worth it. I’m going to make it a priority.” To me that is sexy as hell. Keep your eyes on the prize, friends.
Thomas Ngo RD