I’m thrilled you’re reading this. I get legitimately pumped up about people deciding to strive for good stewardship of their physical bodies. While there are many different forms of exercise that can be beneficial on your journey, I have a special place in my heart for weight training. Not only is it one of the best ways to increase muscle and decrease body fat, but it can also be a fun and challenging endeavor.
The fact that you’re reading this right now means that you’re interested in making a positive change in your health – and I think that’s great. You may have never touched a weight in your life, or you may just be struggling to get back into weight training after a lengthy hiatus. Either way, I’m going to outline three main steps that can help set you up to succeed.
But before I start, it’s important that you hear this:
Don’t be fooled into thinking that you will have to train for hours every day, eat the “perfect diet,” and take all the supplements at GNC in order to reap the benefits of working out.
If you can consistently fit in a few weight training sessions per week and make realistic improvements in your diet, you’ll be well on your way to great results. If you can just GET STARTED and stick with the basics, you’ll begin making progress. You can address the finer details as you go.
With that said, we’ll dive into the three steps to getting started:
Step 1: Commit and Rely on God’s Strength
- If you’re serious about wanting to make a change, you need to fully throw yourself into the idea. Resolve to START. Don’t listen to the part of yourself that doubts you can actually accomplish your goals. Rely on God’s strength during your journey to better health and fitness, and have confidence in the power of Christ (). Pray and ask God to help you be faithful to your new program.
- Don’t worry about the negative opinions of others or what will happen if you fail. If you’re seeking to honor God through your body, it’s important to remember that God, not people, is who you’re working for. On the flip side of this, finding fellow believers that can be an encouragement on your spiritual and physical journey is an enormous blessing (, ). I remember being laughed at plenty of times in high school when people found out that I was trying to “work out.” In reality, I was a skinny guy without weight training experience who was trying to get in better shape. I’m thankful I stuck with it, but I’m even more thankful that God’s word has transformed the way I view physical fitness.
- Commit to your new program for a specific amount of time. Resolve that you will not quit before this time is up (eg – 1 or 2 months). If you can stick to your routine for that amount of time, you have the ability to stick to it indefinitely.
- Write down the reasons you want to lift, and keep these in mind when it gets hard to keep going. Under the umbrella goal of honoring God with your body, you may choose to pursue specific fitness goals. While these aren’t required, they can help give some direction and focus to your workout plan.
Step 2: Plan to Succeed, But Know When to be Flexible
Once you’ve committed to really give this thing a try, it’s time to make a plan. Even with all the motivation in the world, you’re likely to struggle if you don’t make a solid plan of attack. With that said, life is often fast-paced and hectic. Try your best to maintain a consistent exercise schedule, but know that you may have to pull back a little bit at times. Exercise is good, but it shouldn’t be an idol or something that causes you to neglect your relationships. It should be a way to worship God, not something that draws you away from Him. With that said, here are some factors to consider when making your plan:
Figure out the logistics.
Where? If you’re unsure where the best place to work out would be, here are a few options:
- Consider free options if they are available: school or company gyms, a neighborhood wellness center, or an apartment gym. If you already have access to a gym for free, take advantage of it! Some free options are nicer than others and your equipment availability may be limited some places (eg – many apartment gyms). However, it’s better to get started with what is available rather than wait for the conditions to be perfect (ideal gym, “more time,” etc).
- Join a gym. Make sure it has the essentials, but it doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive. Specifically, look for adequate free weight areas equipped with barbells, dumbbells, squat racks, benches, etc. Pretty much all gyms have a variety of machines, which can be a great part of a lifting plan, but you want to make sure that the gym has some good free weight areas. . Try to find a gym that is close to your home, work, or school, so that you can make it part of your regular schedule. Several national chains are as cheap as $10 per month and many cities have great local options too.
- Use an at-home gym or gym equipment. This is often more costly up-front. If you’re planning on using free weights (which is what I highly recommend), you probably won’t want to do this – they can be quite expensive. However, if you can fit it in your budget or you can find used equipment for sale, an at-home workout may be fine for you. As a side note, there are plenty of at-home exercises you can do with your body weight, but the focus of this article is resistance training.
- Workout partners will be addressed momentarily, but consider whether you have a friend who lifts weight or who would like to start with you. Where does this person work out (or want to work out)?
When? Figure out how many days per week you are going to lift, and then choose the time of day you’re going to lift. Depending on your schedule, this could vary some from day to day. I would still recommend choosing at least an approximate time (ie – Tuesdays and Thursdays between the end of work and dinner). Make sure you’re honest with yourself when you’re scheduling. It may seem feasible to wake up at 6 AM and work out before class or work, but unless you’re truly a morning person, that may become very difficult. Plan to work out during the time of day that you’re most likely to be able stick to.
Together or Alone? Many people benefit greatly from working out with a partner. If you have a friend with similar fitness goals, and you can make it work with both schedules, I’d say go for it! As a word of warning, a partner can either be a great encouragement or discouragement. They can force you to go to the gym on the days you don’t feel like it, but they can also be the negative influence that causes you to quit working out. If you choose to lift with a friend, choose wisely. Alternatively, you can find a fitness “accountability partner” who will check up on your progress even if they aren’t physically with you while you work out. You can do this with a friend via technology or in-person.
What should I eat? You probably already know that nutrition is often the limiting factor when it comes to making progress in fitness. Even if you only asked experts, you could get all kinds of feedback about what the “ideal diet” is. While there is some nutritional advice that approaches the “definitely true” level (eg – eat more vegetables), many topics are still hotly debated. The bottom line is that you need to make changes that you can stick to. This could be as simple as not going back for seconds at dinner, limiting dessert to a couple days per week, or periodically fasting. Start with making one change and once that change becomes your new “normal,” make another change. If you keep doing this, you will gradually improve your food intake in a way that doesn’t feel impossibly restrictive. Many people can temporarily adhere to a stringent diet, only to get completely derailed a short time later.
Get Informed. There will be many practical bits of knowledge you’ll pick up as you become more experienced with weight training, but it can be very beneficial to have a basic understanding of what you’re going to do before you step into the gym for the first time. Here are a few key things you should focus on as you begin:
- Take the time to learn proper lifting technique. It is understandable to want to jump past the “newbie” phase of training as quickly as possible, but it is extremely important that you take the time to learn proper weightlifting form before you start stacking on the weight. There are some people who have worked out their whole lives, but are frequently injured and see little improvement in their physique because they never learned the fundamentals. Learning the right way to lift weights can help ensure your safety and maximize your progress.
- Get the help you need. Some people benefit greatly from an experienced workout partner or personal trainer, but others don’t. Regardless of whether or not you seek out professional help, it’s worth doing some of your own research so you can begin to build up your knowledge base.
- Ultimately, you’ll do a lot of your learning in the gym. I already mentioned workout partners previously, but finding a “workout mentor” is another option. If you’re comfortable with it, try to find someone THAT YOU TRUST who is more experienced than you and willing to help out. However, be aware that there are some “fit” people who are misinformed on some aspects of training or nutrition. You should try to do some of your own research to make sure you’re not getting bad advice.
- While you certainly don’t need to obsess over how many calories you eat and how many calories you burn, it can be helpful to get a general idea of how much energy you use in your daily routine and approximately how much you should be eating based on your goals. You can use the metabolic rate calculator to help you with this.
Step 3: Get Started and Strive for Consistency (this may be the golden rule of fitness – or just about anything you want to be successful at)
- Push yourself and aim high, but realize that meaningful results will take time. Some people respond incredibly well to resistance training for the first time and change their body composition quite easily. For others, it’s a much slower process. Regardless of where you fall on the genetic spectrum, focus on pushing yourself and making steady progress. Each person and his or her body is unique, so it’s not likely that you’ll have the exact same strengths and weaknesses as someone else.
- Find ways to keep your new interest in fitness burning. When the going gets tough, remember the reasons you started lifting in the first place. As Christians, we can remember that God does care about how we take care of the bodies He gave us, but he cares about our hearts most of all ().
- Track your progress! Even if you’re not counting calories and taking body measurements, you should still track your progress in some way. It is encouraging and motivating to look back and see the improvements you’re making. A great way to do this is with progress pictures. Honoring God with our bodies isn’t about seeing how beautiful we can become, but having a way to see that your hard work is positively affecting your physical body can be an encouragement. Depending on your situation, a scale may or may not be helpful. Many people who start lifting weights don’t see dramatic body weight changes, but they look and feel better. Often, they are increasing their muscle mass and decreasing their fat mass, so even though body weight isn’t changing much, body composition is improving.
Always remember that you CAN strive to honor God with your body and make progress towards your fitness goals. Commit yourself to the process, plan to succeed, and then be consistent. Rely on God’s strength, and you won’t be disappointed.
Are you having trouble getting started? What is the biggest obstacle you’re trying to overcome?
Or if you have started, what has been your biggest challenge so far?
13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (ESV)
11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (ESV)
17 Iron sharpens iron,
and one man sharpens another. (ESV)
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (ESV)