"Outside the Gym
This article mentions some tips that people can use outside the gym to aid in their training. I don't claim to be a personal trainer, nor an expert on exercise and fitness, I only write this as some things I've learned through personal experience. While my main goal is bodybuilding and gaining muscle mass, I believe that a lot of these can also be applied to those who just want to stay lean and look good.
1. A Stable Job
I can't stress enough the importance of a stable, consistent, well-paying job. I can't tell you how many people I've met who work part-time or work low paying jobs and are trying to make it into the bodybuilding/fitness industry. They are so focused on the fitness lifestyle and dreaming about making it big, they've failed to focus on taking care of themselves now. The result is either they have trouble making ends meet and can't afford the quality food and dietary supplements needed to sustain a healthy growing body, or they take up jobs for a quick fix they don't really want to do or aren't necessarily proud of doing. To make matters worse, they've failed to think long term and haven't started anything in the means of retirement or savings.
The years in college presented a lot of distractions that interfered with my weight training, and studying for a degree in engineering presented a lot of stress and was very time consuming. I'll be the first to admit that I probably gave up a good 4 years in my early 20's that I could have spent on improving my physique that instead I spent on getting an engineering degree. But now 3 years after college, I would have to say that I'm in a much better position than almost everyone else in the sport. I have a low stress, well paying job with regular work hours that allows me the time and financial resources to pursue the sport of bodybuilding. I've made huge progress since graduation, especially in the last 6 months, and would have to say that I'm at or surpassed most of those my age that didn't go to college and instead focused on weightlifting all this time.
2. A Good Living Environment
Where you live is big factor in your success in the sport of bodybuilding/fitness. So many guys think they have to live in NY or LA to make it big, instead I believe those two places are more of a distraction. While in California I saw most of my money sucked up in the states unbelievably high-cost of living. While I was paid very well, the salary wasn't nearly enough to afford the expenses of the bodybuilding lifestyle. In addition, I found myself in 3-hour commutes each day that could have been spent in the gym or at home sleeping or resting. Worse, the stress from living there made me exhausted, and had little energy for the gym. Since moving to the Pacific Northwest, I've had the best progress of my life. The environment is much slower paced, the cost of living is considerably lower, and I have more free time with a commute that is in minutes, instead of hours. In addition, I've met people who are professional models and bodybuilders who have made it in the industry while still living here.
3. Supportive Relationship
Having a significant other that is supportive of your lifestyle and goals is very important. Having been in a relationship where my girlfriend thought of the gym as a competitor for my time, I can truly vouch for how one's workouts suffer when your mind is always distracted by arguments.
4. Rest/Diet Discipline
Especially for us younger guys, it is very tempting to want to always go out with friends and stay up late and/or to eat an unhealthy diet. It is always difficult for me to have to say "no" to my friends because I'm afraid of not getting enough sleep or that I won't be able to eat a healthy meal, but it is necessary if you want to make progress. Diet and sleep are just as, if not more important than working out itself. With out proper sleep and nutrition, you might as well stay home from the gym, because you'll be wasting your time anyway. Always try to eat meals on a regular basis that are high in protein and low on empty calories. Also, get plenty of rest every night. This is the time your body will grow and recuperate, not to mention allow you to have the energy to have a good workout the next day.
5. Don't be afraid to ask for help
Having been lifting weights for almost 10 years, I thought I knew pretty much all the in-and-outs of bodybuilding. When I wasn't reaching my goals after several years, I finally gave in and asked the assistance of a personal trainer. He gave me a whole new way to approach the sport of bodybuilding and my progress has never been better. I now know that I will never know all the answers, and that bodybuilding is a sport where I will always need to continually learn.
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