IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: My workout routines are tailored towards my body type, metabolism and goals. Each person has unique fitness needs and should construct a plan that best suits them. Nonetheless, I want to share what I have learned thus far and discuss my motivations in hopes that others will be able to reflect on their fitness journeys. So here it goes…
With 2015 coming to a conclusion, one of the aspects of my life I tend to evaluate is my fitness. I started lifting weights my Sophomore year of high school. I worked 20+ hours a week while in high school, so I never had time for sports (except football freshman year). In order to stay in shape, I began teaching myself how to properly lift weights. It quickly became a habit. I spent time outside of work and school researching proper form and understanding correct nutrition. I routinely documented my workouts and what I ate throughout the day.
At the time, I was a teenage kid, scrawny, and short. Believe it or not, lifting weights enabled me to put on quite a bit of muscle, and drastically changed my body shape. I wrestled in middle school at about 115 lbs., and when I graduated high school, my maximum weight was 135 lbs.
I tend to fall into a cycle each year. I will start the year lifting religiously then slow down towards the summer months. As the summer concludes, I tend to still lift, but not nearly as hard as the beginning of the year. Once October comes around, I more or less stop all together. Whether this is because of the stress from school, lack of drive, or what not, I fizz out. This is a cycle I try to reverse every year but find no success in changing.
This year, after getting sick for a couple weeks in October, I severely neglected going to the gym. This resulted in drastic muscle loss and weight loss. Not only do I no longer look nearly as in shape as I was back in September, but I lost close to 10 pounds, dropping to 122 lbs (very light considering 130 lbs. is comfy for me).
Nonetheless, I am back at it again for 2016 and I am looking to alter my workout to hopefully build on lost aspects of the past and build a better, more in shape, me.
My New Routine
Typically, I stuck to a 4-day plan, where I worked legs, chest/triceps, biceps/back, and shoulder/traps. I implemented an ab workout every other day, and cardio was few and far between. What was very beneficial about this plan was that it allowed me to guarantee at least four days in the gym and get a full body workout. With a busy academic and extra curricular schedule, it ensured I could stay in shape. I would strive for around 3 sets per exercise and aim for 8 reps. In the peak of my fitness cycle, I would drink over 100 fluid ounces of water per day, and have a very balanced diet.
After doing this for 4 years, I am finally changing it. I want lifting to be a 5-day routine featuring more detailed focus on body parts: legs, chest, arms, back, shoulders. I am increasing my sets and reps to an average of 4 sets and 12-15 reps per exercise. While this will certainly lower my weight, I am positive that it will strengthen my form allowing me to build a healthier frame. Additionally, I am making a daring goal of including cardio as a pre-workout every single day. To start, it will probably be 20 minutes, but I would like to increase that threshold. This past summer I frequently trained Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The intense cardio training really leaned me out and provided unparalleled muscle definition. While 20 minutes of cardio will not achieve this definition, I think it will be an excellent contribution to my routine. My biggest inspiration for this inclusion comes from The Rock, who trains 30-50 minutes of cardio before clanging and banging in the gym everyday.
Even though the weightlifting component is vitally important for fitness, consistency and diet play an even bigger role. To gain mass, you must eat A LOT. Not only must you eat a lot, but you have to eat the right foods. Protein, as cliche as it sounds, must be in every meal. Carbs, though they often get a bad reputation in the dieting environment, are necessary ingredients to physical fitness. Complex carbs more specifically are the goal. Incorporating the right amount of carbs, proteins, veggies, fruits, etc all depends on your weight gain/loss goals. It also ties in to when and how hard you workout. If you have been training for a few years, you really begin to understand your body and what dietary needs are necessary to complement your fitness.
Weightlifting seems like a macho endeavor, but in reality, it does not have to be. For me, it is a moment to challenge myself physically and mentally, and to escape from my daily schedule. It adds another layer to my life to explore and learn. It has helped me understand my body, weightlifting, dieting, and supplements more than I would have otherwise.
Fitness does not have to boil down to just weightlifting. Some people find more enjoyment and success in running. While it is not my strong point, it is something I seek to improve and constantly build into my routine. Yoga is also a fantastic form of fitness that often gets overlooked. It is incredibly beneficial for your body and your mind. Finally, other unconventional forms like BJJ, that I mentioned above, go unnoticed. I have witnessed many peoples’ lives affected by the gentle art ranging from sobering them from alcohol abuse, to helping them lose over 100 lbs. BJJ has life altering capabilities.
No matter what the endeavor is, I encourage everyone to find a fitness routine that they enjoy and helps them accomplish their fitness goals.
For those interested, posted below is my anticipated routine for the coming year (sets, reps, and exercises subject to change).