The Easter long weekend may well be the second most challenging time of the year where a diet blowout almost feels inevitable.
Just like its Christmas counterpart, the Easter break can be a MASSIVE threat to your diet and fitness goals as we struggle to say no to the abundance of chocolatey, carb loaded goodness.
And who could blame you?
Whether it's joining your first gym, rocking up for your first group fitness class, or even dusting off your old runners and smashing a run for the first time in yonks, it's seriously intimidating stuff. Especially as dudes, even the idea of this isn't fun at all.
There's nothing worse than sizing yourself up against the other guys in the gym, worrying you're not going to make it through the boot camp class or even overcoming the mental barrier of not being able to run as fast, as far, or for as long as you used to. But do you know what everyone has in common? We were all beginners once! We're not going to lie. It isn't easy. But do you know what it is? Humbling and rewarding.
Anything in life worth having takes work, and fitness is one of the best examples. Here's 5 tips to help you take the first step on your fitness journey.
If it's been a few years since your last gym session, or you haven't done any cardio since footy in high school, it's probably not the wisest thing to jump straight into your buddy's gruelling power-lifting program.
Okay - it's definitely not the wisest thing.
The human body is a fickle thing, and while it adapts well to change, these changes need to be introduced gradually and sustainably. Thinking about joining the gym for the first time? Start with a 30 minute walk every day. Looking at getting started with resistance training? Get into the routine of doing some push ups, squats and sit ups at home for a week beforehand. Take everything as it comes, keep moving forward and ease your body into training. It'll thank you later!
One of the most important things to realise is that you will never look like anyone else. Everyone's body proportions are unique, and no matter how much training you do on any specific muscle groups, you'll never be able to emulate the fitness models you follow on Instagram, or Zac Effron in Bay Watch.
What you will be able to become is the best possible version of yourself.
Take regular progress photos and measurements to hold yourself accountable and so that you can start to see the results. Although they might not be visible in the mirror for a little while at first, they'll be visible on the scales and measuring tape.
Or, you might find that while your weight remains the same, the reflection staring back at you is leaner and healthier. This is because your body weight isn't the deciding factor of your fitness! With each workout aim to one up yourself from last time, whether it's an extra rep, an extra 100m on your run, or a better sense of wellbeing at the end of the session.
If there's one thing that's going to put a road block up in front of your results, it's poor nutrition.
Processed foods, too many/too little calories (depending on your goals), inconsistency and nutritional deficiencies will stall your weightless, put a stop to your gains and will sniffle your motivation fast. Your body is a machine and you need to fill it up with the right fuel for the best performance! You can still enjoy burgers, but opt for a fresh, wholesome lean beef patty on a fresh wholemeal bun instead of a Big Mac. Enjoy your fish and chips, but go for the grill'd option and a few less chips. Satisfy your sweet tooth with a chocolate protein shake instead of a Mars bar! There are plenty of ways to enjoy your favourite foods while staying accountable to your goals and not getting off track!
As long as we're still alive at the end of the day, we're healthy, right?! Blokes are notorious for not going to see a doctor until the problem becomes serious, so it's not uncommon to see guys let their health fall by the wayside and then find committing to the gym to be just too difficult.
And when it's just too difficult, we're inclined to throw in the towel rather than risk failing, aren't we?
Make it easy for yourself. Get 8 hours of sleep a night, try to eliminate as much stress as possible, walk as much as possible, drink plenty of water and eat plenty of lean meats and unprocessed food. Oh, and look after your mental health as well!
The easiest and most instantly actionable out of all these tips, drink less beer!
A pint of full strength beer has 200 calories on average. That means going out for a few beers with the lads after work quickly stacks up to a whopping 600 calories - and they're not good calories either. Alcohol is one of the worst things for lean muscle gain and fat loss, so while avoidance is the best option, we don't expect you to completely give up alcohol! Try switching to whisky neat or mixed with diet cola. There's nothing more manly than whisky. Or for the ultimate low calorie alcoholic drink, vodka, fresh lime and soda water. But if you cop any flack from the boys, don't come crying to us!
And while the temptation to embrace the belly and live the couch potato life may feel overwhelming at times, summer is just around the corner and this is the year to stop procrastinating and start making some headway on your fitness dreams. Fortunately, we're here to help. The world of fitness, nutrition, training and health may be daunting and a tad overwhelming at first, but we can assure you, it's definitely worth it in the long run!
We've put together our Top 6 Tips to help you get started, to make small, positive changes to your diet and lifestyle, reducing your risk of contracting the dreaded dad-bod-itis, and put you well on your way to both looking and feeling great.
Does your diet suck?
If you're maintaining at least a moderate level of physical activity and the beer gut is growing, or if you're trying to put on some muscle and things just aren't going in your favour, your nutrition is most likely the culprit.
For a few days, input everything you consume into a calorie tracking app, such as MyFitnessPal. It may feel a bit strange at first, but give it a go. And when we say everything, we mean everything. Snacks, drinks, coffees, you name it. If you're consuming it, input it. What this will do, is give you an insight into where you might be going wrong. If you're consuming way too many calories for your activity level, or your macro nutritional ratios are way out of whack, this is going to make things clear and put you onto the right path.
Now that you know where the problem lies, move onto Tip 2...
Sorry lads, but the "whatever I damn feel-like" dinners are out, and portion-controlled, planned meals are here to stay.
Nutrition is a battle for a lot of us, and it's hard to even know where to start. The easiest and quickest solution is to eliminate variables. Start by pre-planning your meals (or even preparing on a Sunday) for the week. A source of lean protein is a must, such as chicken breast or lean beef, combined with a carbohydrate source such as whole grain pasta or sweet potato, and some greens is a great starting point.
Diversify your protein sources to prevent things from getting old fast, and invest in some low sodium seasonings and low sugar sauces to make bland meals a thing of the past.
Wait, what?! You heard us. Get more ZZZ's every night to lose weight. And no, that is NOT a permission slip to skip the early morning workout in favour of a snooze fest. It means hit the hay earlier every night and get (at least) a full, restful 8 hours. Sleep is one of, if not the most crucial lifestyle components to a healthy body, healthy mind and staying in shape.
Once you dip into the 5-7 hour range which a lot of blokes do, your body starts to go haywire. Not only is your mental clarity going to suffer, but your recovery is going to hit a dead-end before you know it. If you're hitting the gym hard, you need to recover just as hard, and sleep is the most important time for your body to do so. Turn Netflix off, get to bed early and wake up feeling fantastic.
And less soft drinks. You'd be surprised how many problems can be solved just by drinking more H2O. Seriously, it's an incredibly simple solution that reaps some fantastic results. Blokes need to drink at least 3 litres of fluids per day. And that's before exercise.
All fluids count towards this goal, but when you start introducing soft drinks, excessive amounts of fruit juices or other flavoured beverages, calories (in particular, sugar) start adding up fast. Hydration is absolutely vital to human health, and being sufficiently hydrated can quell hunger, provide energy, improve cognitive function and even improve fat metabolism.
There's lost of awesome ways to exercise and kick start your fitness journey. However, the most efficient, enjoyable and effective form of exercise for getting in shape is strength training. Most particularly, compound lifts. Focus your training on compound exercises - multi-joint movements which activate more than one muscle group at a time (as opposed to isolation exercises).
The best, go to "staple exercises" to construct your gym sessions around are the Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press and Overhead Press. Other fantastic additions include Chin-Ups/Pull-Ups (or Lat Pulldowns to work up to these), Leg Press, Incline Chest Press and Bent Over Rows. Train smart, and if you can't get to the gym as often as you like, focus on full-body training sessions as opposed to body-part splits, blasting your entire body at least twice per week.
Say goodbye to hour-long gruelling jogs, and hello to High-Intensity Interval Training. H.I.I.T. revolves around short, intense bursts of exercise, followed by a resting or low-intensity recovery period.
H.I.I.T. has some amazing benefits on fat burning and cardiovascular conditioning, and the best part is that you can slog out a H.I.I.T. session in under 15 minutes, with more benefit than an hour of steady-state cardio training.
Try heading down to the park and doing some sprints, or jumping on the spin bike next time you're at the gym and working with 30 seconds hard, 60 seconds recovery to get started. Perform 4-5 intervals for your first session (don't forget to give 110% during your sprints!) and aim to increase the amount of intervals you perform each session, up to 8-10. You'll feel and look great before you know it!
If you've never tried resistance training, there's never been a better time to hit the weights.
You'd need a lot more than a few weights sessions a week to end up like the ladies on the left....
Stronger legs won't slow you down, they'll send your endurance through the roof!