Many of you at this very moment are having $29.99 drafted from your checking account on a monthly basis for a gym membership you never use. You may have signed up at the beginning of last summer or even at the dawn of this new year. The intent was either to lose weight, tone your stomach, build muscle or simply bulk up as to look great in a fitted, tank top. However, the first day you entered the facility, you became intimidated looking around at all of the equipment and all of the ‘fit’ individuals exercising on the weight room floor. As a newbie, you felt slightly embarrassed to be standing inside of the gym. Your mind began to filter thoughts that you were ‘too out-of-shape’ to even be standing inside of an athletic club. Your confidence was shot by your first gym experience, and therefore, you no longer attend.
It was October 2012 when I signed up for my first, adult, gym membership. Prior to that, I would accompany my father to Baltimore’s downtown YMCA facility to occasionally lift weights during my summers in college. Unlike a lot of guys in their twenties, building muscle and maintaining bulk weight was never a priority for me during those years. As a result, I worked out when I wanted to and cared less about my body frame. However, two years ago, I reached a point in my life where I did not like how my body looked in pictures or standing naked in my full length mirror. I was bombarded on a daily basis with photos of half dressed guys on Tumblr and Instagram who were obviously in great, physical shape. My metabolism had begun to slow down, and I was experiencing that ‘skinny-fat’ phase. My chest, arms and legs were still small, but didn’t have any tone. My stomach wasn’t hanging over my belt, but that entire midsection was flabby and thicker than the other areas on my body. Doing a series of sit ups and push ups twice each week was no longer combatting my poor eating habits or lazy lifestyle choices. Knowing that my metabolism would continue to decrease, I decided to take control of the way my body would develop.
When I first signed up for my gym membership with Merritt Athletic Club, the timing was perfect. I was mentally and emotionally drained by what I considered to be a lack of progress in my ‘online career’. Extremely frustrated by my inability to control my life circumstances, I knew that if I started working out consistently, I could control my physical build. Though I publicly announced that I was going to begin lifting weights and working out regularly in the fall of 2012, it was seven months later that I even began sharing my progress photos. Not only was I using this time away from my online platform to develop my body, but exercising regularly also helped me release a lot of the stress I felt regarding my lack of career success. The fact that I was now placing myself in a new environment on a regular basis, truly helped me ignore my feelings of sadness and frustration. I had developed a new focus that had absolutely nothing to do with my professional goals or romantic interests. This is how working out began to easily filter into my lifestyle. Going to the gym became a normal part of my daily routine.
THE SAME CAN HAPPEN FOR YOU…
When I started my journey to gain weight, build muscle and lose my stomach fat, I decided to also surrender my fears of judgment. I knew going into the gym for the first time in 8 years, I was going to have to start from the beginning. I did not have a lot of upper body strength at the time and I accepted that fact. I could only bench press 45 pounds. I curled maybe 50 pounds. I could only push 95 pounds on the leg press and it was almost impossible for me to successfully complete 4 sets of 10 reps for each of the exercises. While all of the black guys and white, fraternity-like boys were piled in the free weight section of the gym, I was working out on the same machines that the old men and housewives were using. I spent the first 6-7 months in the gym simply building my strength, getting comfortable with the gym equipment and becoming use to the routine of working out on a daily basis. I wasn’t embarrassed at all, as I realized that MOST of the guys who were on the heavy duty equipment had started out the same way when they were in high school and college. I simply put on my iPod and spent 60-90 minutes each day following my ‘workout schedule’.
YOU SHOULD NOT JOIN A GYM SIMPLY TO POST PICS ON INSTAGRAM CAPTIONED #GymFlow – You absolutely have to want to see real results…
1. Your first day at the gym should either be a Friday evening, Saturday night or a Sunday morning. Most gym facilities are extremely empty during these hours. You will have plenty of space and time to become comfortable using the different pieces of equipment, and trying out exercises that best fit your physical goals. I advise that you take an experienced individual with you for this first session. I brought my father along with me for my first, Sunday workout. Together, we created what would become my gym routine for the first 3 months of lifting weights regularly. We chose two pieces of equipment for each body part that I wanted to build; 2 chest exercises, 2 bicep exercises, 2 tricep exercises, 2 shoulder exercises, 2 back exercises, 2 ab exercises, 2 glute exercises, 2 quad exercises and 2 calf exercises.
Together, we also decided that I would perform the 2 chest, shoulder and back exercises on Mondays & Wednesdays. On Tuesdays & Thursdays I would complete my glute, quad and calf exercises. Fridays were dedicated to biceps and triceps, as Saturdays would be focused on abs and other cardio. On Sundays, I would stay home and rest. KEEP IN MIND that your biceps and triceps are automatically being worked when you’re lifting to build your chest, back and shoulders.
YOUR FIRST DAY AT THE GYM SHOULD NEVER BE A WEEKDAY BETWEEN THE HOURS OF 6am-10am OR 4pm-9pm. This is when the facilities are crowded with the regular, more experienced patrons. YOUR FIRST DAY AT THE GYM SHOULD ALSO NEVER BE A SATURDAY. Everyone who has skipped or missed their weekday hours will be piled on the weight room floor.
2. Keep in mind that even though it may feel as if ‘everyone is staring at you’, most people are too focused on getting in and getting out of the gym to be focused on how your body looks. Most people in the gym are just as insecure with their bodies as you are. Even individuals who look to be in great, physical shape are desperately trying to fix what they consider to be a problem area. NO ONE is looking and laughing at you. Believe me, most individuals inside of the gym are silently supportive of seeing someone else begin their exercise journey.
When I first started working out, I always kept my body covered in sweatshirts, compression pants underneath my hooping shorts, and anything else that would hide my skinny-fat frame. It made me feel comfortable. I knew the day would come when I too would simply wear a tank top or a sleeveless shirt the ways in which the more muscular guys were wearing on the gym floor.
3. DO NOT SKIP YOUR SCHEDULED WORKOUT DAYS. Consistency is the ONLY secret to seeing results. It does not matter how much weight you lift or how many miles you run on the treadmill if you aren’t repeating the routine on the same days each week. For me, it has always been easiest to hit the gym as soon as I wake up in the morning; especially during the weekends. You want to get into the gym before the weight of the world hits you each day. It can be extremely tough to find the energy to workout after sitting in a classroom or behind a cubicle for eight hours. If you absolutely CAN NOT fit an early morning workout into your schedule, I certainly do advise that you purchase a pre-workout drink or pre-workout pills. These supplements often send a surge of energy through your system. Use the supplement two hours prior to leaving work or school. By the time you get in your car, your body honestly does feel rejuvenated. For guys especially, the pre-workout supplements will make you feel slightly horny, a bit stronger and excited about releasing the tension on the weight floor.
4. While a lot of older guys will deter you from using protein shakes, creatine and other supplements to help build muscles and put on mass weight, I certainly encourage it. The faster you begin seeing results, the more encouraged you become to continue working out on a regular basis. To be honest, I hate the way protein shakes taste, and I hate the nauseating feeling I get 20-30 minutes after drinking them. However, most others that I have spoken to do not experience the nausea. I began using flavorless Creatine powder in July 2013. I would add 5g-10g each day in my water or cranberry juice each morning. It helped me appear thicker, and also aided in my muscles not feeling incredibly sore the morning after an intense workout.
I drink the GNC ‘BEYOND RAW’ RE-BUILT MASS SUPER ANABOLIC MASS GAINER protein shake. For those of us who simply want to gain weight, have a little chest, nice arms, round thighs and an overall ‘thick but not too muscular’ look, this product has certainly aided my journey. I also drink Vanilla-Creme MUSCLE MILK from GNC or regular Vanilla ENSURE from the grocery store during periods when my system simply can’t stomach and tolerate the protein shake.
5. USE THE SAUNA or STEAM ROOM. While some people are extremely uncomfortable sitting in their towel or compression shorts amongst strangers, the sauna and steam room truly do relax the muscles. A 10-15 minute session following heavy weight lifting exercises can make a lot of difference in how your body feels the next morning. Many individuals stop working out after the first few days because they can’t endure the soreness that affects their joints. The only way to avoid the pain is to either drink protein shakes of some sort, or to spend 10-15 minutes in a steam room following the workout. Even for me, when I increase my weight on the bench press, curl or any other exercise every 3 months, my body gets sore from the change. The pain is a signal to let you know that you have properly worked the muscle. If you aren’t experiencing initial pain after working out a new muscle or attempting a new exercise, you aren’t properly exercising.
6. YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST CHANGE YOUR DIET! Developing the ‘summer body’ you desire is 80% NUTRITION and only 20% EXERCISE. There is no point or purpose in you hitting the gym three or four times each week if you’re still going to eat anything your heart desires. Thankfully, in my case, fish has always been a huge part of my diet. I eat salmon, tilapia or whiting almost daily. Since fish and chicken are already HIGH in protein, it was very complimentary to my muscle building diet. I began eating oatmeal or boiled eggs for breakfast each morning. Oatmeal burns stomach fat and eggs are also HIGH in protein. As I would get extremely hungry before lunch, I snacked on greek yogurt of assorted flavors, unsalted almonds, apple slices or raisins. I stopped eating Doritos, chips, soft batch cookies and donuts altogether. My lunch consisted of grilled fish or chicken, steamed broccoli or asparagus, maybe some brown rice and an apple or grapes. Since I am most hungry after working out, I would have my protein shake after eating a full dinner, as to fill me up completely.
TO BUILD MUSCLE, THE GOAL IS TO TAKE IN THE SAME AMOUNT OF PROTEIN EACH DAY AS YOUR WEIGHT. Protein is ingested in GRAMS. I weighed 153 pounds when I started working out in October 2012. My shake already contained 60 grams of protein. This meant that I had to supplement the other 93 grams in the foods I ate; i.e. fish, chicken, eggs, greek yogurt and almonds. Some guys drink two protein shakes each day; therefore securing that they will exceed their protein gram intake.
YOU SHOULD ALSO NOT HAVE CHEAT DAYS MORE THAN ONCE PER WEEK. I only stray from my diet on Friday nights or Saturdays. I won’t treat myself to an entire pizza or a value meal from McDonalds, but I will do a quart of shrimp fried rice and two egg rolls from China Wok. I will also only drink a cocktail if Im attending a party or event. Alcohol is filled with sugar. Sugar creates tummy fat. I most recently started eating chicken cheesesteak subs again on my designated cheat day.
SNEAKING COOKIES, CUPCAKES, FRUIT JUICE, CHICKEN NUGGETS, A BAG OF CHIPS or SKITTLES in the middle of a busy day certainly does COUNT as cheating. If you become extremely hungry even after snacking on the almonds, greek yogurt, fruit or raisins, try drinking cups of green tea. I do it all of the time. Green tea also burns stomach fat quickly and will certainly curb your appetite.
7. REST YOUR BODY FOR 8 HOURS EACH NIGHT. Muscles do not grow while you are in the gym working out. Muscles only grow when they are resting. If you aren’t getting proper rest each day, your body isn’t going to recover from the heavy lifting or intense exercising that you’re doing on a regular basis. You will not receive your greatest gain potential until you are laying down and resting your body for the average 8 hours.
Overall, working out is a challenge. I don’t think I would have been consistent had I joined a gym in 2008 or 2010 when I was absolutely focused on blogging and creating youtube videos on a very regular basis. I began this journey during a period when I chose to isolate myself from the world. For seven months, I became so focused on building my body that I was able to ignore some of the other aspects of life that were not in my control. Going to the gym became as normal for me as waking up and brushing my teeth because I didn’t have other people or objectives acting as distractions. We all want to be in shape, but doing the work and making the sacrifice is extremely tough. If you simply have to start by consistently performing cardio exercises inside of your home, then do so. Only sign up for a gym membership once you know for a fact that you have the time, energy, focus and drive to remain consistent in exercising according to the initial schedule that you create.
YOU CAN DO IT. I DID.