Before buying fancy trainers or the latest trendy workout clothing to look fashionable at the gym, the most essential thing I believe you need before starting a diet and training plan is a personal goal and a reason for starting it.
There is no point investing money in the material things if you are not ready to invest your full heart and soul into the time and effort that it’s going to take for you to reach your goal. A lack of commitment and preparation will mean a lack of results.
Many people start off motivated and with great intentions when they start training to achieve a personal goal, but they often quickly fall off the wagon when sticking to a strict diet plan and workout program. Most get frustrated with the lack of results in the early stages and throw in the towel long before they have given themselves any real chance of achieving them.
Too many people want a quick fix (8-12 week diet and training program) when really, in my opinion, people should be learning how to make healthy changes to their lifestyle and diet for the rest of their lives. Why tell yourself that you’re going to be disciplined and motivated for 8-12 weeks and then stop? So, before starting any diet or training plan, have a goal and a realistic plan of attack that will enable you to maintain the progress you make along the way so that you can see how far you've come. This will motivate you to keep pushing forward.
Putting the mental aspects aside, let’s talk about what essentials you need to make sure you have the best chance at achieving your goal. I’m going to split these into two sections – one for diet and one for training.
Decide how much you can, or are willing, to spend each week on the food/products that will make up the diet plan/meals that you are starting. Keep that money aside at the start of each week/month, to stop you dipping into it and possibly using it for other things.
Basic knowledge of your diet
There is no point starting a diet and eating food (some which you may not have even heard of) if you don’t know why you are eating it or its purpose as part of your diet. I’m not saying you have to be a nutrition expert, but at least knowing the basic differences of food types and their effects on the body will help you to have more options to choose from when starting a diet.
There’s a saying – ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ – which I like to refer to when talking about diet. Most people work long hours without breaks and then find themselves snacking on bad food choices from appealing products easily available at local supermarkets, such as packaged sandwiches, crisps and chocolate. Prepping your meals the day/night before and keeping them in a plastic food storage box, so they are ready to eat, is the best way to stay strict with your diet. It lessens the chance of you being tempted by other foods, as you know you have your meals there with you ready to eat.
Not everyone uses protein shakes, but if you do then a shaker is essential. A quick scoop of powder mixed with water and you can supply you body with a great source of quick digesting protein in seconds. If you are taking more than one shake a day, I suggest you look into getting a shaker with room in it for an additional scoop of protein powder that can be stored in it, as this saves you having to carry your tub of protein around with you. This makes life easier – and a little less heavy.
Supplements are a great way of providing your body with a variety of different things, depending on your personal goal. Again, like your diet, having a basic understanding of the supplements you are thinking of taking will help you when deciding if you need them and if you need to spend money on them.
So, you have a personal goal or a target. Maybe it’s a sporting event you want to train for, or a family event coming up that you want to look great at and you’re ready to start training.
The chances are, you're going to need help along the way. Not everyone is a gym and diet expert with years of training and workout experience behind them, so if you can afford it, seek the help and assistance of a respected and highly recommended personal trainer.
Don’t just choose the first face you see on the PT board at the gym. Choose someone with a track record of impressive client progress and a high client retention rate. Don't feel pressurised into signing up to anything by a trainer that may approach you on the gym floor. Do your research, watch personal trainers and how they interact with their clients and then choose the one you feel you would enjoy and feel comfortable, training with.
Depending on your goal, there’s a high chance that your training programme is going to involve you doing some type of cardio to lose weight and get lean. This could be running, interval training or exercise classes, for example. I recommend you invest in a good supportive gym trainer to support and cushion your joints against the impact they will regularly take. Most sports stores should be able to assess your foot 'gait' and recommend the best suitable choice of footwear for you.
Gym clothing has become an added fashion craze in recent years, with many of the leading high street brands designing more products to be used and worn whilst exercising. Choose the right gym clothing that makes you feel good and at ease on the gym floor. Don't wear anything that you won’t feel comfortable in, especially when you're most likely going to be surrounded by people and mirrors when training. You won't feel good if you don't like what you see, which may effect your motivation.
You can, however, buy gym clothing that you eventually want to wear when you reach your goal or feel happy with how you look, so use it as added motivation to keep working hard and stay disciplined. Don't wear anything too over restrictive, as you want to make sure you have a full range of movement when training and you also need to be able to breath and stay cool, or it's likely you'll find yourself not feeling too good which will effect your workout.
Workout/training log book
When starting a new training programme, the best way to track progress is to keep a log of your workouts, which you can easily refer back to at any time. This is a great way to record your workouts – the weights you were lifting, the distance you were running and in what time, how you were feeling during that workout, the time of day you were training etc.
Not only does this allow you to visibly see your lifting progression, but it will save you time and valuable energy before each workout, as you can easily look at your previous workout notes and see what you did and continue to move forward from there.
Most people (myself included) like to workout while listening to music. The beat and lyrics help motivate us to stay focused and block out any distractions going on around us. Imagine, for example, doing a spin class with no music. It would be boring and much harder to keep going when struggling! I do know that some people attend the gym as a social place to chat and meet people, but the way I train I go in with a plan of attack and I’m there to execute it properly. Once those earphones go in, it’s 'time to work'. Choose music you love or that inspires you and use it to motivate you to keep going when your body is telling you it wants to quit. Personally, rock or rap music helps me to get pumped up when lifting heavy weights.