Journey To Optimal Health: 5 Things You Should Know When Getting Started

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. ~ Mark Twain

Never in our history have we had easier and faster access to information. If you search for ‘how to lose weight’, you will instantly be hit with over 51 million results! Our lives are becoming more instant; we drive to the shops to collect our pre-packed groceries; shopping is done from your lounge room; social interaction is via hand held devices. However, as a general population our movement is at all time lows while the consumption of energy-dense/nutrient-sparse foods are at all time highs. If you have ever joined a gym, attempted to lose weight or generally set out to improve your health, the sheer amount of noise can weigh down (pun absolutely intended) any well-intentioned desire. When did ‘getting started’ become so complicated?

We can all agree that life is easier when you’re strong and healthy, right? Carrying groceries from the car? Always in one trip. Beating your child in an arm-wrestling competition? Life skills. Survive the impending zombie apocalypse? Bring it on. And we know it’s a good idea to exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet of vegetables, fruits, grains and lean meats. Oh, you should probably drink plenty of water, too.

The information is there, but where should you start? What is the right information for your situation and circumstances? It can get confusing; go to the ‘health’ section of a book store (yes, they still exist) and you will find two books side-by-side, sprouting two completely opposite messages! Good job, health and wellness industry!

Let these 5 simple tips help you cut through the confusion and be your starting point on your journey to achieving optimal health.

It Sucks At First, But It Gets Easier

Starting out, nothing feels natural. Body parts jutting out every which way. New, unfamiliar and possibly intimidating environments. Oddly-named exercises. Being cued by your coach to “stay tight” doesn’t seem to make any sense. Lycra.

And yes, there will be soreness. You body will hurt. It’s going to happen.

The great news? Your body will respond to the new stimulus. You will get better. Your health will improve. The movements begin to feel more natural. You become more relaxed in your new environment. That soreness which made you move like a robot won’t be as intense or as long-lasting. You may even begin to enjoy your training!

Beastmode Is Overrated

Exercise shouldn’t be scary. And when programmed safely, intelligently, and with your goals as the compass, exercise is actually quite fun. It can be easy to fall into the trap of watching a video online and thinking “Hey, look at that person who just finished a hardcore workout. Sure, they’re passed out on the floor and worked so hard their shirt blew right off their body, but they have abs. Can’t wait to try it!”.

Your capacity for high intensity workouts will be limited when you are starting out.
Am I against effort? Absolutely not. There will be an uncomfortable level of effort required on your part to achieve your goals. And there will be times when you will be required to ramp up your intensity and flip the #beastmode switch. But it won’t be all the time. It won’t even be most of the time.

My point is – especially if you are just starting out – most of your focus should be on developing a strong foundation and understanding of the basics in your training and nutrition. Even individuals who have been exercising regularly for years will practice the basics. If it’s good enough for someone who can lift twice (or more) their bodyweight, it’s good enough for you. Further, if you were to include the more challenging workouts now, when you are actually ready to incorporate them into your training, the benefits of those workouts won’t be as great.

Consistency Is King

The tortoise always beats the hare.

I know you’re excited and you really want to achieve your health goals. You’re willing to put in 110%, train twice every single day, eating nothing but chicken, broccoli and rice. You’re committed. You’re ready. You want the best bang-for-your-buck exercises which will target that pesky [insert body part] ‘problem’ area.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but more is not better. Training for hours a day, seven days per week won’t help you reach your goals more quickly, quite the opposite. It could easily lead an injury, stopping your progress dead in its tracks. You don’t need to combine every method under the sun.

Improving your health and physique takes time. Endless exercise and fad diets are not the short cut you are looking for. Being consistent with your training and nutrition is your number one asset for achieving success.

Let’s be clear, I didn’t say you needed to be perfect. There will distractions, interruptions, setbacks, missteps and self-doubts. I’ve heard some people refer to this as ‘life’. The occasional “burger with the lot and my bodyweight in fries, please” won’t add 20kgs to the scales overnight, just as performing a push up won’t turn your shoulders into boulders.

If you can be consistent with your training and nutrition, I guarantee your health and body composition will improve. Regular strength training has been shown to be beneficial for shedding body fat, improving bone density, strengthening tendons and ligaments. What does that mean for you? Your muscles will begin to show their shape and you will move and feel better. You will probably start looking better, as well.

However, the rate at which these changes occur is rather slow. You will not get the body of your dreams overnight. In fact, you won’t get the body of your dreams in 30 days. In a year, you’ll be very pleased with your progress, but it is very likely that you still will not be completely satisfied. Overnight success takes years of work to achieve. Don’t strive for perfection; aim for progression, getting a little better every single day.

You Cannot Out-Train A Bad Diet

The individual who consumes a balanced, nutritious, healthy diet and stays active will have a better physique than the person who trains hard but eats complete crap, even if this person doesn’t lift weights.

Energy balance is your first priority when improving your physique is a goal. Too many calories, you will gain weight; too few calories and you will lose weight. It sounds simple, and there are other factors at work, but for the most part this is true.

A balanced diet should consist of appropriate energy intake and proper ratios of protein, carbohydrates and dietary fat; while still allowing some freedom and flexibility for the important things, such as chocolate and ice-cream. Including these foods into your diet will actually help control cravings, reduce the stress of temptation, avoid awkward social situations (people will stop inviting you to dinner if you’re “on a diet”) and improve your overall dietary adherence.

Does this mean you can let your eyes roll to the back of your head while eating an entire block of chocolate or order take-away every night and not expect it to have a negative impact to your health? Unless you’re a genetic freak, no. If this is you, you are disliked by everyone.

Get Small Wins

In the beginning, it can be overwhelming. People think their schedule and lifestyle needs to be blown up and undergo a complete overhaul. In my experience, I’ve found the people who do too much too soon, often end up overwhelmed, frustrated, confused and give up, believing it is too hard.

 If you are just starting out, do just that: start. You don’t need gym memberships, crash diets or a budget of $500 for this seasons latest activewear.

Choose one thing you can do right now. Make it so simple it would be impossible not to do. Then do it every day. Those daily wins will create new, healthier habits. You will build momentum and confidence. Your small wins will transform into slightly larger wins. Rinse and repeat the process, but aim to keep the wins so small they would be impossible not to do.

Finally, I encourage you to find yourself a community which supports and encourages you, stripping away any inhibitions you may have faster than you could do it by yourself. Your community will know all too well how you are feeling right now and what awaits you on the journey ahead, because they were once in your shoes. The right community will become your very own cheer squad! Plug yourself into that community and enjoy the ride.


  1. Great article Nathan! Don’t make health and nutrition difficult! Small changes and small wins make it easier.

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