When I started exercising about eight years ago, I had little knowledge about fitness. Most of the advice I followed was misleading. As you would expect, I barely made any progress and got injured several times.

Now I’ve learned a lot and completely transformed my body. But if I knew then what I know now — it would have taken me far less time to get lean and strong. Learn from my mistakes and transform your body faster than I did. Here are the eight things I wish I had known when I started exercising:

1. All muscles are not created equal.

Like most people, I wanted to have six-pack abs and a big chest. So I did a lot of ab and chest training. I ignored my back and leg muscles — which in hindsight was a big mistake.

Abs and chest muscles have little impact on total lean body mass because they’re small muscle groups. But the back and leg muscles are the biggest in the body. Training them will increase total muscle mass and consequently boost your metabolism.

Don’t ignore any muscle group — maximize growth by training all muscles. In fact, this study shows that leg training triggers a hormonal response that boosts growth in all muscles.

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2. There are no rest days.

I used to worry about overtraining, yet I barely exercised. Exercising three or four times a week is good, but staying active on rest days will better your results. Do light exercises like jumping rope, walking, and running for 15 to 30 minutes on rest days. Exercising will quickly become a habit if you do this consistently.

3. The small things count.

We often hear things like drink enough water, eat veggies, get enough sleep, but a lot of people don't take them seriously. Many studies show that these things have a big impact on health and fat loss.

4. The most effective way to train is to switch things up.

Many experts don’t agree on how hard one should train. Some say short and simple workouts are the way to go while others recommend intense training. Well, there are pros and cons to both approaches.

Ten-minute workouts won’t build much muscle. On the other hand, intense workouts will leave you fatigued and can lead to injuries. The best approach is to combine both. Do moderate workouts most of the time and one intense workout every week.

5. The time you exercise matters.

For years I exercised in the evening, and I skipped workouts a lot. But I rarely skip workouts since I started exercising in the morning. This is because I'm fresh in the morning and there are no distractions. Give morning workouts a try and see if your consistency improves.

6. Practicing proper form counts.

Proper form is important in any type of training, even running. Doing exercises properly will reduce the risk of injury and give you maximum gains. Pick a few exercises and learn how to do them properly. As you get stronger, it’ll be easier to learn proper form.

7. You can do anything you put your mind to when it comes to fitness.

Have you ever said to yourself, I can’t do pull-ups; they're too challenging? I used to think the same thing. But now pull-ups are a piece of cake for me.

You may not be able to perform certain exercises now, but you’ll eventually do them if you stay consistent. Be patient, though; doing advanced exercises when you’re not ready can cause injury.

8. Set time-based goals.

It’s easy to slack if you don’t have time-based goals. Write down the fitness goals you want to achieve in the next one to three months. Then create a doable workout plan that will help you attain those goals.

9. Everyone needs a little help getting started.

It wasn’t until I started following advice from credible experts that I started seeing real results. Hire a personal trainer or follow blog advice from a credible fitness expert. Be wary of experts who encourage use of fat burners and pills.

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