Beginner's Fitness Guide

CONTENTS:

Introduction

Part One: Diet

  1. Calories Matter
  2. Track Your Calories
  3. Eat Decent Food

Part Two: Fitness

  1. It Doesn't Need to Cost an Arm & a Leg
  2. Give Your Whole Body Some Love
  3. Lift Heavy
  4. When to Workout
  5. What to Workout
  6. Progression
  7. What I do at the gym

Conclusion


A lot of my friends have been asking for my advice in losing weight. That's normally the goal for 20-something year old women: I want to lose weight. Specifically in the belly. I figured it'd be best (and my boyfriend suggested this, so props to him) to write a guide on how to get started like I did a year ago.

real talk #1: Stop making your goal "I want abs."

We ALL want abs but you can't expect to train for a few months and get discouraged when you still haven't got rock-hard abs. Depending on your body fat percentage, you won't be seeing visible abs for quite some time. 

Make smaller, easily achievable goals.

real talk #2: You can't delegate where you'll lose fat.

Listen, you aren't going to magically shed the muffin-top after doing 100 bicycle crunches. Belly-fat will be the last bit of fat to go, that's why it's so hard to lose. Especially for women because we need more fat to help nourish the baby during pregnancy. I'm no body-building trainer but I've been weight-lifting for a year now and while I do have abs, they are still covered in a layer of fat. 


Part One: Diet 

diet, noun - the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.

If your goal is to lose weight, there will be little to no benefit from working out if you aren't aware of your diet. Most of us don't pay attention to our caloric-intake, which makes it very easy to over-eat. 

The workout you had in the gym this morning isn't going to burn off your excess-fat if you over-eat during the day. In fact, you're just feeding your body whatever fat it burned right back. If you weight-lift and eat a lot during the day, you'll muscles will grow but so will the fat.

 

1. calories matter

Everyone's average caloric-intake is different, depending on body-type. To say that women should eat around 2,000 calories daily is too basic. It doesn't make sense for a 4'9", 110lb woman to eat the same amount of calories daily as a 5'7" 140lb woman. 

Use this calculator to find out how much you should be eating: Calorie Calculator. *Please select "Maintenance" as your goal.

 Real talk #3: 250 grams of cooked pasta is 349 calories.  Check the nutrition label on the back of your pasta bag. Does it give you the info for uncooked or cooked pasta?   Pasta gets heavier after you cook it. This means that 100 grams of uncooked pasta (shown on the right) will be 250 grams after cooking it. 

Real talk #3: 250 grams of cooked pasta is 349 calories.

Check the nutrition label on the back of your pasta bag. Does it give you the info for uncooked or cooked pasta? 

Pasta gets heavier after you cook it. This means that 100 grams of uncooked pasta (shown on the right) will be 250 grams after cooking it. 

 

2. Track your calories

The easiest way to track your calories is to get an app and a kitchen scale.

For now, just pay attention to how much you eat. Is it more than average? Is it less? Are you eating way too many carbs and barely any protein?

When you've been doing this for awhile and are ready to step it up, cut down your calories. Be sure to use an app for this and research online, do not just make it up on your own. For example, I am cutting for the next month which means I am eating 300 calories less than maintenance. 

Sources for tracking: FatSecret, MyFitnessPalSushi Tracker, Starbucks, Chipotle, Bar Burrito *UK stores are good about having all nutrition info online, I'm not sure if it's the same for the USA. 

Tip: If you can't find the info for what you're eating, search for something similar and track that

 

3. Eat Decent Food

Eat more vegetables and greens. They will fill you up with less calories. Whenever I'm starving but it's not time for dinner, I have a salad of greens, tomatoes, and cucumbers with low-fat dressing and it keeps me full for another hour. 

My go-to's: 

  • Chicken breast, 100g = 106cal
  • Sweet potatoes, 100g = 98cal
  • Fat-Free Greek Yogurt, 100g = 57cal
  • 5% Mince Meat for tacos, 100g raw = 124cal
  • Cod Fillet, 100g = 80cal
  • Roasted zucchini & eggplant, 100g = 20cal

Sorry to all "herbivores" out there but animal products are great sources of protein

real talk #4: cooking raw meat isn't scary!


Part Two: Fitness

Which girl do you want to look like? If your answer is Left, please continue reading. If it's Right, stop reading, go buy her ebook for $89 USD and phone app for $20 USD monthly, and good luck. *sarcasm* 

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1. it doesn't need to cost an arm and a leg

Let me rant about Girl on the Right for a second. She makes bank because she puts together a simple e-book for women to follow and posts progress photos of her clients. Her exercise plan is similar to what you'd find in the fitness section of a Seventeen magazine and her diet plan is self-explanatory if you did a quick Google search of low-calorie foods to eat. But, women see these results pictures and they feel like they've taken the first step just by throwing down $$$ for this e-book.

You don't need to spend money on equipment, classes, or workout guides. All you need is a simple gym membership. 

 

2. give your whole body some love

If you look at these progress pictures on BBG you will notice that aside from the stomach, these women look exactly the same from before to after. 

This is from cardio and HIIT fat-loss-only routines. They do not focus on building any muscle. Not to mention, this is hard to maintain. You'd be eating quinoa bowls and doing planks forever. 

real talk #5: There is more to life than a six-pack. 

Give the rest of your body some love. Don't you want toned arms, a strong back, a firm butt, and legs that don't jiggle when you walk? 

 

3. Lift heavy

real talk #6: only doing cardio will not help you lose fat

I don't touch cardio machines. Well, that's a lie—I sometimes do when it's a rest day and I still want to go to the gym. But then after 5 minutes of jogging on a treadmill, I remember how much I hate cardio and I go home. 

You want to lose fat? Lift heavy weights.

When you lift heavy (and that means you can only do 4-6 reps before failure), your muscles are going to get stronger. The more muscle you have, the more your body will naturally burn daily. You'll be burning off calories for up to 36 hours after your work out. 

. . . And your body will no longer jiggle.

@crgregson #girlswithmuscle

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real talk #7: re-freaking-lax — you are NOT going to look like a body-builder!

The muscle you gain when lifting heavy will be strong and dense. You'll look sexy AF in a bikini. I promise you won't end up looking like this: 

 

4. when to workout

real talk #8: You have to make time in your schedule for the gym

I know waking up early and going to the gym sucks before work, and I know going to the gym after a long day at work sucks too. You just want to watch Netflix, I get it. But the gym is where you go to work on yourself. It will make you feel physically and mentally better. It'll grow your confidence. 

If you want to take it easy when starting out, just go to the gym on the weekends. Focus on upper-body Saturday and lower-body Sunday. 

Tip: 3-4 days a week at the gym is plenty. Try not to go to the gym more than two-days in a row. 

I like to workout in the morning on an empty stomach. It's all about preference, but try not to go to the gym on a full stomach. If you want to go on an empty stomach like I do, bring a protein bar with you just incase you feel light-headed. Working out on an empty stomach takes getting used to, so the need for food during your workout will go away with time.

Tip: *This is really important. Give each of your muscle groups a full two days rest. I.e., if you work your legs on Tuesday, do not work your legs again until Friday.

 

5. what to workout

As I said before, give your whole body some love. If you are interested in working a particular part of your body then do that twice a week. I want to work on my legs and butt, so I do squats and deadlifts twice a week. 

Women should focus on arms, shoulders, back, chest, legs, and glutes (butt)

There are a ton of FREE programs online. I suggest looking at Bodybuilding.com for some. 

Here's a list of common exercises for each muscle group, including compound exercises that work more than one group at a time. 

Arms

  • bicep curls
  • cable pull-downs
  • lateral raises
  • tricep extension
  • bent-over flyes

Shoulders

  • overhead press
  • lateral raises
  • rope-pulls
  • bent-over flyes

Back

  • lat-pull downs
  • dumbbell rows
  • chin-ups (assisted if need be)
  • conventional deadlifts

Chest

  • decline bench press
  • incline bench press
  • flat bench press
  • push-ups
  • dips (assisted if need be)

Legs

  • any type of deadlift
  • squats
  • leg curl
  • leg extension

Glutes

  • any type of deadlift
  • squats
  • hip thrust
  • glute bridge
  • machine kickbacks
 

6. progression

As my rule of thumb, barbell exercises should be 3 sets of 4-6 reps. Dumbbell exercises should be 3 sets of 6-8. Machine exercises should be 3 sets of 8-10. Make sure you're working hard enough. It should not be easy

Move up in weight once you hit the top rep-range for each exercise. For kilograms, this will be about 2-2.5 kilos, for pounds this will be about 5 pounds. 

Barbells weigh 20 kilos/45 pounds. 

Tip: Some gyms will have lighter barbells of 15 kilos/33 pounds. Check a few barbells just incase you pick up the lighter one.

Please keep track of all of your exercises in your phone so you know how much to lift next time. I use the Notes app in my phone.

real talk #9: it's okay to weigh yourself

If you want to lose weight, there are a few ways you can keep track of your progress. One of which being that you weigh yourself. Keep in mind that our bodies fluctuate A LOT during each month (fuck yeah, menstruation!). 

Other ways to keep track of your progress: measuring your waist and any other parts of your body you want to keep an eye on; and my favorite: take photos! Photos will show you things you might not see in the mirror. Take a photo of yourself today in your bra and underwear and do the same after a month of training and I can bet you'll see a difference. 

 

7. what I do at the gym

*This isn't my made-up program. I do not know enough to be able to make up my own program (though I'm probably not giving myself enough credit.) I follow a program in Michael Matthew's amazing book Thinner Leaner Stronger

This program combines heavy lifting with low rep-ranges and lighter lifting with higher-rep ranges.

Day 1: Shoulders & Chest

  • Overhead Press (3 sets of 4-6)
  • Rope Pulls (3 sets of 8-10)
  • Bicep Curls (3 sets of 8-10)
  • Pull-Downs (3 sets of 8-10)
  • Lateral Raises (3 sets of 6-8)

Day 2: Legs & Butt

  • Squats (3 sets of 4-6)
  • Conventional Deadlifts (3 sets of 4-6)
  • Hip Thrusts (3 sets of 6-8)
  • Leg Extension (3 sets of 8-10)

Day 3: Chest

  • Incline Press (3 sets of 4-6)
  • Decline Press (3 sets of 4-6)
  • Bench Press (3 sets of 4-6)
  • Chest Press Machine (3 sets of 6-8)*

*I suck so bad at Chest days, so I added the machine at the end for more volume. I used to do Chest twice a week to help me, which it did, but I was over-doing it at the gym so I cut back

Day 4: Back, Legs & Butt

  • Squats (3 sets of 4-6)
  • Romanian Deadlifts (3 sets of 4-6)
  • Single-Leg Hip Thrusts (3 sets of 8-10)
  • Seated Rows (3 sets of 6-8)
  • Pull-up/negatives*

*I can do one pull-up now! Then I start at the top position and lower myself down for negatives. 


I hope this guide helps you out. *I just want to make clear that I am in no way an expert on this. I've done my research, watched a ton of videos, and have gotten help with my routine at the gym. Please watch how-to videos to make sure you do your movements correctly and don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

I'm debating making a video to show my program and alternatives if you are afraid of barbell stuff (but barbell stuff is the best!) 

Please comment below if you want me to blog about other fitness-related things. Thanks for reading!