Getting started is one of the most difficult parts of any endeavor.
Fear of failure, analysis paralysis, conflicting information…the list of reasons to not get started can be seemingly endless.
Especially in the health and fitness arena, the sheer volume of information available to you is equal parts impressive and frustrating.
Some is garbage, some is great, and it's difficult to tell the difference.
So where do you start?
If you’re looking to lead a happy, healthy, strong life, there are 4 main areas that need your attention.
The 4 Tenets of Health
Tenet of Health #1: Exercise
Exercise is a vast and varied pursuit. But for the beginner, it doesn’t have to be that complicated.
There is no reason to think about heart rates or calorie counts or even sweating. In the beginning, your focus should be on two things:
Consistency and Strength
Consistency is difficult for most people when it comes to exercise. In a world of instant results and an industry of outrageous promises, it can be difficult to give new habits time to develop properly.
Stay the course. Be consistent. Become a person who exercises rather than trying to go full bore until you can quit.
When working out, your first focus should be on getting stronger.
That's right, don't worry about slaving away on the treadmill or burning a certain number of calories; just find some weights, learn some good form (even if it means hiring a coach), and move said weights with said good form.
(For more on putting together a workout, check out this article.)
And whenever you can, walk. Don’t jog, don’t speedwalk – just walk.
Tenet of Health #2: Nutrition
Notice that I did NOT say “diet.”
Diets mean hunger and irritability and obsessing over calories. They mean deprivation and desperation.
Nutrition, on the other hand, has a much less abrasive and damning tone.
Nutrition means life. It means energy and vitality. It means feeding your body what it needs to be healthy and to function well.
There are a lot of thoughts out there on nutrition, and again, some is sound advice and some is complete garbage. Some is even scientifically sound information but completely inapplicable to real life.
Though the study of nutrition is ongoing and ever-evolving, getting started with proper nutrition doesn’t have to be overly complex.
If you want to look, feel, and perform better, there is one simple thing you can do:
Get rid of sugars and grains.
[This does not necessarily mean going “low carb.” It simply means removing two categories of food that really don’t do you any favors.]
Will this be the only tweak we ever make? Probably not. But it's a great start.
"What about fats?"
"Should I eat breakfast?"
"Can I eat after 7pm?"
"Can I ever have a pastry again?!"
Don't worry about all that right now. Just give it a go: remove sugars, remove grains, and call it a day.
(And to answer the question "What can I eat?" the answer is "Everything else!" Steak. Chicken. Bacon. Turkey. Vegetables. Eggs. Fruit. Nuts. Canned tuna. Salads. Carrots and hummus. The possibilities are pretty much endless, you just have to go find them.)
Tenet of Health #3: Sleep
Humans need sleep.
That is not a controversial statement. Sleep is absolutely critical to your health and, therefore, to your fitness goals.
For some reason, though, surviving on very little sleep has become a matter of pride for some people. Everywhere you turn, someone is telling you how well they can function on only 4 hours of sleep.
But can they?
The truth is, they might be getting by, but they’re certainly not thriving. And there’s a big difference.
So how do you get started with getting adequate sleep?
Try getting to bed 15 minutes earlier (or sleeping 15 minutes later [or both!]). Eventually, you’ll want to shoot for 8 hours of true, quality, non-pill-or-alcohol-induced sleep every night.
(The ideal number may fluctuate a tad from person to person, but you’ll never know until you give it a try.)
Getting adequate sleep can sometimes be a case of easier said than done, but make it a priority. The sooner you do, the sooner you'll start noticing its nearly miraculous effects.
Tenet of Health #4: Stress Management
The key word here is “management.”
We all lead stressful lives. Eliminating stress is an impossible task, but learning how to manage your stress is useful skill.
Failure to properly manage stress can have a profound impact on your health.
Cortisol (that oft-demonized “stress hormone”), for example, serves some important and beneficial functions in the body. But when chronically elevated, it can also have some nasty effects (poor sleep and belly fat being just a couple).
The road to stress management can be a long one, but it’s very much worth the journey.
These are vast, expansive topics, distilled down here to some very basic principles.
There is more to learn and more to try, but main point is that to become and remain lean and fit in a body that functions as well as it looks requires attention to these 4 Tenets of Health.
And don’t feel the need to overhaul your life right now: simply become aware of these Tenets, and learn to slowly make some changes.
What struggles are YOU having with getting started? What advice do you have for others looking to begin their fitness journey? Leave a comment below!