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Working Out for Beginners

People who know me know that I work out a lot. A lot-lot. Most of my working out is in the form of endurance training (swimming, biking and running), but I also lift weights in the gym and do different types of classes (cardio, stretching, core, etc.) to stave off injury. Luckily, the gym I belong to has one of the best endurance training centers and programs (complete with coaches for the different disciplines) as well as offers a ton of classes. So, my workout routine really only requires me to show up. Literally, I just show up. 

I was asked recently by a youngster about protein shakes. The specific question was whether it was good (or ok) to have a protein shake for breakfast and one for dinner. The short answer is, "Who the hell knows?" In reality, opinions on supplements and, specifically, protein powders and shakes, are as varied as our country's politics. And I don't know that the research aligns, either. But, I answered the question with a question (which, by the way, is one of my pet peeves - but only when other people do it to me), "What are your goals? Bulk up? Get lean? What?" The answer, not surprisingly, was, "Get ripped obviously." My bad. Of course that was the goal. 

So, quick disclaimer: I'm a lawyer, not a trainer. While I studied for my personal training certification in law school (I feared I would never make it through law school and training would be my fall back since I really like fitness), I don't have any certifications. And, the only reason people listen to me is because of my own fitness accomplishments. That said, I think I know a little bit about some fitness and training stuff by virtue of the thousands of miles I've trained over the last years. So, onto the substance of this blog post...

I told, him, if the goal is to get ripped (i.e., get trim and see muscle definition), then you want to make sure to reduce fat that is covering muscles. Period. Don't worry about huge muscles; rather, focus on muscle definition. Even small guys look ripped when they have less body fat. So, before you worry about all those supplements and protein powders to repair muscles damaged from working out, my advice would be to keep your current diet and start with cardio. Or, favor cardio. Get rid of that body fat before adding all that muscle. If you start adding muscle and you have all that body fat (for simplicity - the two are not mutually exclusive), then you risk appearing fatter since fat is now covering bigger muscle (instead of the muscle being exposed). Once you get trim, you can really focus on specific muscle growth. 

Again, I'm not a certified trainer, but I do see a lot of wasted time and energy in the gym. I see chubby people who go for the weights because they think it will lead to big muscles and a trim waist. Sure, building muscle does burn fat. And heavy lifting workouts help with metabolism, which, in turn, consumes fat (if your diet is right). But I'm talking to beginners. If there is one thing to heed when you first start working out, it would be this...start with cardio. Run outside. Run on the treadmill. Ride your bike. Go to a spin class. Do classes that get your heart rate up and get you sweating. You won't go wrong.