Establishing a fitness routine is just like any other routine.. It requires desire to make a change, followed by small, daily alterations that accrue and become habits over time.
It shouldn’t involve drastic, unsustainable changes.. Rather, minor adjustments that don’t seem like a lot at first but overtime produce big results.
How many times have you gone to make a big change in your life, gained some momentum, and subsequently burned out? This likely stemmed from you viewing the process as too overwhelming to endure.
My goal is to help you understand how readily you can attain gym confidence. . And offer suggestions on how to infiltrate your life with a rock solid approach.
It all begins with believing you ARE capable of positive change. Behind every consistent gym routine lies intrinsic confidence. Without it, you’ll lose momentum as you don’t feel you’re getting anywhere.
When confidence is working full throttle, you start to see progress. Progress leads to happiness and sustainability. It dissolves self-debilitating thoughts such as “I’ll never be as fit as him” or “I’ll never be able to live that life.”
Confidence, when attenuated and used in a motivating way, has the potential to create a life you never knew you were capable of.
There’s a common misconception that gym attire should consist of old clothing you wouldn’t wear elsewhere. If the gym is somewhere you spend a significant amount of time each week, why not give your gym attire just as much respect as you do the rest of your wardrobe? A current movement in the fitness industry promotes “lifestyle gym clothing,” which can be worn both in and out of the gym for an overall active look.
If you don’t feel incredible in your gym clothes, get rid of them. Seriously! Someone else will benefit from wearing them. Goodwill or Salvation Army is always ready to take them off your hands. This humanitarian approach also helps me justify regular purchases, helping me constantly work to improve my personal style.
When you’re confident in your clothing, you perform better. It’s just that simple. If you’re reading this, you likely understand the effect clothing has on how you feel. Gym wear is no different. Being comfortable in your appearance helps you know you’ve put your best foot forward, and allows you to focus on the task at hand.
Look for moisture-wicking materials that accentuate your performance. These clothes offer enhanced circulation and moisture evaporation, pulling sweat away from your body and onto the clothing. These are commonly branded as “Dri Fit,” “Climate,” and “Heat Gear”
Wear clothes designed for your particular type of training. Cycling shorts for bicyclists, running shoes for runners, compression garments for lifters, etc. Each industry has specific clothing tailored for it, use it to your advantage!
Experiment with compression garments. This technology has been studied to improve blood circulation, therefore facilitating workout recovery! Due to the intimate contact with your muscles, it also helps you identify whether you’re lifting the group you intend to (mind-muscle connection; more below)
What to Avoid:
- Your old high school commemorative shirt – simply, you can do better!
- Shirts you personally cut off. Being the man you are in pursuit of a higher level of men’s fashion, these fall outside the boundaries. If extra ventilation is your thing, many companies offer tanks that expose just as much skin as this home-made cut off, but in a much classier way
Focus on fitted attire; the days of baggy (gym) clothes are long gone! Wear articles that accentuate your physique, but still allow room for breathability and movement
One example: the fitted sweatpant, as an alternative to shorts (on occasion). This design produces similar outcomes as compression garments. It’s also a very clean look, offering a tapered silhouette similar to a pair of chinos you might wear outside the gym.
Additional pieces of fitted gym wear include tanks, stringers (for the bolder man), t-shirts, scoop necks, v-necks, and athletic shorts
Experiment with tucking your shirt in; this is a great way to separate yourself from other men in the gym, stay loyal to your commitment to style, and appear more put together. A tucked in shirt always complements the fit man
What to Avoid:
- Shorts that extend below the knees: Shorter lengths not only look better, but improve your performance with greater range of motion and less heat conduction. Most athletic shorts come in 5”, 7”, or 9”; you’ll need to find the length you’re most comfortable with.
- Oversized, baggy shirts: from a functional standpoint, these hinder your performance as you’re dealing with more layers of fabric. Additionally, you can’t measure progress as well if everything is hidden!
Ideally you cater your workout shoe to match the level of training you’re engaged in. For gym work, cross-training shoes are ideal as they are wider to provide support for lateral movements. When performing squats/deadlifts or other lifts involving level plantation of your feet, go shoeless or invest in a flat sole shoe that doesn’t compress (wrestling shoes, specific weight training shoes, Converse, etc.). For the runner, choose a running shoe as it’s specifically engineered to protect against impact on the ground.
What to avoid: Sandals and everyday shoes: These don’t provide the support or cushion needed during rigorous exercise, and leave you susceptible for injury.
2. Find the Right Gym for YOU
Commonly, individuals avoid developing a gym routine because they “don’t like the gym.” This is usually based off an experience at a single gym in the past. Don’t let your dislike for one type of gym rule out the entire arena and opportunity for you to become a better person by improving your personal health! There are an immense amount of gym types available, and one is bound to cater to your needs:
- Big box gyms with different foci and types of people (LA Fitness, 24 hour fitness, Gold’s Gym, etc)
- Luxury Gyms (Equinox)
- Small personal training gyms
- Crossfit gyms
- Powerlifting gyms
- . .and more
You’re more likely to establish a consistent routine if you surround yourself with the environment that suits you best, around individuals with like minds and common interests. If it speaks to you, you’re more excited to go and more likely to draw motivation from others. Gyms commonly offer tours and limited trial memberships to try them out, so experiment until you find what works for you. Hint: it shouldn’t be too far away, as a daily commute will always be a deterrent for attendance.
3. Establish a Routine that Works With Your Schedule
If you set unrealistic goals for yourself, you’ll always fall short and subsequently minimize progression. Sit down with a piece of paper or your favorite note-taking app and write out your fixed daily schedule: work, family, other obligations you can’t control. Then carve out a block of time either before, during or after that you know you can dedicate to the gym.
Too often, you may try your best to get there but somehow always have other engagements arise. When you choose a designated time each day rather than try to squeeze it in when you can, you’re much more likely to make it happen.
A common workaround is employing the morning to train, before your day becomes more unpredictable. If work starts too early for you, dedicate an hour after work. Pack a gym bag and pre-workout meal, and go straight from work. This eliminates any risk of going home first and not making it back out!
4. Enlist Help (Trainers, Coaches)
Be honest with yourself: Is fitness important to you, yet you can’t find the time to research, understand, and implement protocols you need to achieve your goals? If so, let someone who does this on a regular basis help you! It’s not an ego blow. . it’s recognizing you can always learn from others. Delegate some of these tasks to a trusted professional in the fitness industry who has the experience and time to offer this to you.
A more recent phenomenon is the concept of online coaching: trainers assess your overall health goals, provide a custom meal and training plan, make modifications as needed along the way, and remain available for questions you have. They also serve as an accountability partner to help you achieve your goals, which is often all that’s needed to motivate and keep you honest. Knowing someone is waiting for you to check in and report your progress is very effective. This may be your solution if you have a busy schedule and don’t necessarily need someone to stand with you in the gym, but are still looking for overall guidance.
5. Research and Have a Plan
Would you go into the grocery store without a grocery list, or take a test without studying first? For most of us, this leads to varied, unreliable results. Don’t walk into the gym without a plan. Have in your phone a list of muscle groups you’re looking to attack on a given day, along with the specific exercises, number of sets and reps you plan to do. Having a general template trumps a randomized approach because it helps you:
- Be more efficient with your time. You’ll no longer wander around looking for exercises that don’t have any particular overarching structure
- Work harder and feel more accomplished. Because you have a set list of tasks to get through that you can check off one by one. Another trick: Give yourself a cut-off time e.g. 1 hour. You’re MUCH less likely to be on your phone or take long rest periods, as you know you have a job to do and won’t be happy unless it gets done. If time is up and you don’t get through your entire list, all good. . you’ll challenge yourself next time to be even more efficient
- Implement greater balance. You won’t risk missing any muscle groups, or undertraining one / overtraining another. You did your homework and laid out a plan from the onset that includes all areas, working toward a balanced physique
Having a coach outsources this task if you don’t want to do it on your own. If you do, there are various places to educate yourself on workouts and exercises including bodybuilding.com and a variety of apps on your phone.
6. Document Progress
Similarly to having a plan, it’s crucial to keep track of progress to convince yourself you are in fact, making progress. Via phone or paper journal, record the weight utilized and number of sets/reps you did. You’ll know exactly what you did last time and give yourself an accurate opportunity to improve.
All too often I used to tell myself, “this is unnecessary, I’ll remember the weight I used.” In reality, it doesn’t happen this way and you risk losing potential growth by using the same weight repeatedly, or even (gasp) lowering the weight! It’s truly worth taking the few extra minutes to record this.
Progress should also be documented via photos as they’re able to capture body changes the naked eye can’t always see. You don’t have to feel wrong doing so, or send these to anyone. It’s simply another metric to assess change over time. You’ll be amazed what your body is capable of!
Additional aids for documenting progress:
- Weigh yourself on a scale: remember to do so first thing in the morning after using the restroom for the most accurate reading
- Body fat measurements: while most body fat devices are inherently inaccurate, using the same device over a period of time allows you to see relative change and if you’re headed in the right direction
7. High Level of Focus
“When focused in the present, you’re able to extract more from your experience. You begin to live a fit lifestyle rather than exercise as a hobby. ”
When focused in the present, you’re able to extract more from your experience. You begin to live a fit lifestyle rather than exercise as a hobby. You start to respect it more, focusing on improvement and finding ways to become better through fitness. Then, it trickles out to the rest of your life; not only do you feel better, but the discipline you’ve attained in the gym establishes discipline at work, relationships, and other passionate pursuits.
- UNPLUG! Put your phone on Airplane mode. This helps you avoid excess time replying to texts, checking social media, etc. This also minimizes your overall time in the gym, so you can handle the rest of the day’s obligations AND feel great about your workout. A more effective yet less time consuming session, and plenty of room to handle the rest of life’s pursuits: too good to be true, or an ode to one of life’s oldest affirmations, ‘quality over quantity?’
- Get in the zone with your favorite type of music or podcast. I specifically recommend bluetooth headphones to promote complete range of motion without a bothersome cord, and allowance for your phone to be stowed out of sight. See how this is all flows together? If personal development via podcasts is your thing, it might be the best (or only) time of day for you to absorb this information. I do some of my best thinking in the gym, so having a stream of new information coming in at that time is highly influential
- Apply mind muscle connection: a meditative element of lifting weights. Invoke such immense focus as you go through an exercise, to make sure you’re contracting the right muscle group and to its fullest extent. Muscle development improves as a result. Try to catch yourself next time; are you really focused on the contraction of the muscle all the way through? If not, do you notice yourself limiting your range of motion and overall contractive force as a result?
While the nutrition industry is far too dense to cover in this article, I want to briefly mention how crucial this is to your overall routine. While an exact percentage can’t be identified, it’s commonly accepted that nutrition plays an overwhelmingly large role in your physique and overall health. Overlooking this element may be the reason you aren’t seeing the results you’re looking for. Do your research, get help when you need it, and incorporate sustainable habits into your daily life:
- Drink MORE water!
- Eat MORE protein than you’re used to, and less fat
- Eat with intention: prepare your meals ahead of time with the nutrients you need, rather than guessing what’s for lunch
- Don’t deprive yourself from your favorite, guilt-filled food. Instead, implement in moderation and fill the rest of your diet with nutrient-dense meals
If you spend a significant amount of time in the gym / incorporating fitness into your life, it’s important to have individuals to share your experiences with. This doesn’t mean you need a workout partner, although they can be very helpful. Having a partner might not be conducive to your lifestyle: someone else has to be available on your exact schedule, your target muscles always have to be in sync, and you may enjoy your alone time after a long day of engaging with others!
I’m most comfortable having buddies in and out of the gym who I know are also working hard. We discuss fitness, ask questions, and generally support each other’s goals. Make friends at the gym who understand your lifestyle and intentions, get their contact information and stay in touch regularly.
Just be bold, introduce yourself and let them know you see them working hard. Mutual respect goes a long way, and you’re not likely to be shut down saying hello. If you are, that probably isn’t someone you want to surround yourself with anyway, and at least you gave it a try. Life’s too short not to take a few chances!
10. Mental Game
Finally, mental toughness is arguably the most important skill to master when developing confidence surrounding a gym routine. First, clarify your intentions and why you want this in the first place. Intrinsically driven, not to please anyone else, is a good place to start. Then, you have to be convinced in your heart that you’re giving it your best effort in order to feel good about it.
At the root of this, you must remember it’s you against you, not you against the other guys in the gym. Are you better than you were a year ago? If so, you’ve already won.
I firmly believe if you apply this calculated approach to your current health regimen, or use it to start a new one, you will achieve levels of personal fitness you haven’t seen in yourself before. You WILL become more comfortable in your approach (in case you forgot, it’s always difficult in the beginning..keep pushing) and develop some serious confidence. You certainly won’t regret it, as your entire life, both physically and mentally is enhanced!