As a beginner

Back when I was searching for "How the heck do I lose fat and get fit?", the solutions on Google ranged from the sensible and boring to the ridiculous and stupid. And in between, there were complicated solutions with a steep learning curve.

  • The sensible and boring were too sensible. They recommended a slow and steady approach. They mentioned things that I knew or what common sense tells you. They didn't have any fancy gimmicks.
  • The ridiculous and stupid - well, I unfortunately did not know they were ridiculous and stupid. The cayenne pepper and lemon juice detox cleanse, for example, seemed accurate to me. I was overweight. I had poor eating habits and could definitely use a cleanse and a detox, whatever that meant.
  • The technically complex - I didn't know where to start. There are a ton of scientific and accurate tools to accomplish your goal and all of them work in moving you forward. When to use which tool, when to persist with the tool, when to switch it up - all of this comes only by increasing your knowledge. This comes via learning, via trial and error, and by immersing yourself and taking control.

Ridiculous and Stupid

I ignored the sensible and boring.

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Photo by Nahin Sarker / Unsplash

I didn't know where to start with the technically complex stuff. Plus, I was a grad student with a small budget, and I could not afford getting coaching or any such thing, even if I knew what.

I dived into the ridiculous and stupid. They had clear "Do This!" and were short-term, and bamboozled me with bro-science, and dazzled me with my "here's what you did wrong" list, which was unfortunately accurate.

But ...

Well, they didn't work. While they can theoretically give you some short-term results, the results are immediately wiped off when you go back to routine.

And they were frankly horrific and masochistic. But one endures because of the blame and "Yep, I need to do something hard and harsh and dramatically different" along with "Can I see immediate results?"

What Worked

Joining a running group and working on a running plan with a coach and community - which would fall into "technically complex" - was what finally made an impact. I continued that with more of the same, by joining San Francisco CrossFit. By now, I could afford to pay for these things. I continued to veer away from the sensible stuff.

Photo by Fitsum Admasu / Unsplash

Only when I combined the two did I truly change. I had coaching and guidance to help me on the technically complex stuff, on both the fitness and nutrition front. And based on my research and experiments, I realised that the fundamentals of almost everything I was doing was rooted in the 'sensible and boring'.

With that, we finally get to the crux of this post.

The post is aimed at folks who want to do something to get their fitness and nutrition together, with a "Do This!" plan. If you've tried multiple things and not seen results, or are just starting off and don't know where to go - well, here's a place to start.

Before we begin, some guidelines.

  • Sensible and boring is sensible. And boring.
  • The bells and whistles will be minimal.
  • It will not be a short-term thing.
  • Do this steadily and you'll figure things out along the way.

A Workout/Activity/Exercise Plan

The plan comprises of:

  1. A mobility routine. Given our stressful lives, the amount of time spent sitting and/or in poor postures, we need to gently get our joints and our body to move and find their range of motion.
    Observe your breathing and the tension in your body while you do this. Focus on being as relaxed as you can, and never hold your breath.
  2. A stretching routine. Our muscles get stiffer and tighter (and weaker) due to our limited movements and posture. Equally important to spend some time stretching. This will also aid you in sleeping better and calming your nervous system down.
    Focus on a relaxed breath during the stretching. At no point should you be stiff or holding your breath.
  3. An activity routine. Our body needs to move and any safe movement will do the job. You don't need to start a kettlebell routine, or join a S&C facility. While that's a great idea, it is not necessary just yet (or maybe ever.)

Let's get into more details.

The mobility routine

  • Here's my curated playlist on YouTube specifically for you.
  • Download a timer app and run it for 60 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest, and for 15 rounds. There's 15 moves in there. Do each for 1 minute.
  • Focus on your breath throughout the routine. You want to breathe in a nice and calm fashion, into your diaphragm. This means your belly will expand gently as you inhale. Your chest moves minimally.
  • Observe where you are holding tension as you do this routine, and slowly relax those areas and just ease into the mobility routine.

The progression will be:

  1. 60 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest.
  2. 90 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest.
  3. 2 minutes of work and 15 seconds of rest.
  4. 2 circuits of Step #3.

The stretching routine

It will take you about 15 minutes.

Here are the drills in my curated playlist.

  • The neck stretch, do it for 60 seconds/side.
  • Then, spend 90 seconds on the elephant walk.
  • After that, spend 90 seconds/side on the couch stretch.
  • And then, 2 minutes/side on the glute stretch.
  • Wrap up with the calf stretch for 90 seconds/side.

Remember, be as relaxed as you can and focus on your breath. Do not hold your breath at all. And keep working on letting go of tension. Do not force range but allow it to improve naturally.

Day 1

  • Start with 15 minutes of mobility.
  • As soon as you are done with the mobility routine, head out for a 45-minute walk. During the walk, breathe through your nose only (unless you have medical reasons not to.)

Day 2

  • Start with 15 minutes of stretching.
  • Immediately after that, head out for a 45-minute walk. Be as relaxed about it and do not worry about setting a pace.

Day 3

  • Start with the stretching routine.
  • And then, move on to the mobility routine.
  • And then, head out for a 20-minute brisk walk. Keep breathing via the nose but focus on a brisker pace today. Let your arms and legs swing freely (not violently) and help you set the pace.

Day 4

Repeat Day 1

Day 5

Repeat Day 2

Day 6

Repeat Day 3

Day 7

Chill. Or if you missed a day, you can do that here.

How do you progress

When you are able to do the above plan comfortably, here's how you can progress on the three different components.

On the mobility component, you will

  1. Go from 60 seconds of work to 90 seconds per each movement.
  2. When 90 seconds is comfortable, move that up to 2 minutes per movement.
  3. When that is comfortable, you will do the mobility routine every morning.

On the stretching component, you will

  1. Do the stretches 3 times per week.
  2. Do the stretches 5 times per week.
  3. Do the stretches 4 times per week in the morning, and 3 times per week in the evening.

On the activity component, you will

  1. Start with 45 minutes of relaxed walking.
  2. Increase that to 60 minutes.
  3. And then increase that to 75 minutes.

And on the brisk walking, you will go from 20 minutes to 30 minutes to 45 minutes.

In 4 months, your weekly routine might look like:

Day 1

  • Start the morning off with the mobility component.
    You will spend 2 minutes per each move.
  • Immediately after that, you will head out for a 60 minute relaxed walk.
  • You will stretch for 15 minutes in the evening.

Day 2

  • Start off the day with your mobility component.
    You will spend 2 minutes per each move.
  • Immediately after that, you will head out for a 75-minute relaxed walk.

Day 3

  • Start the morning off with the mobility component.
    You will spend 2 minutes per each move.
  • Immediately after that, you will head out for a 45-minute brisk walk.
  • You will stretch for 15 minutes in the evening.

Day 4

  • Start off the day with your mobility component.
    You will spend 2 minutes per each move.
  • Immediately after that, you will head out for a 45-minute relaxed walk.

Day 5

  • Start the morning off with the mobility component.
    You will spend 2 minutes per each move.
  • Immediately after that, you will head out for a 30-minute run-walk.
  • You will stretch for 15 minutes in the evening.

Day 6

Where did this come from?!? Well, why not? You've been into a great routine for a few months now, and you can add this in once a week.

Day 7

  • Start the morning off with the mobility component.
    You will spend 2 minutes per each move.

And if you missed any session in the week, you will catch up on it.

To close the loop

What results will you see?

  • your joints will have increased range of motion.
  • your muscles will be more flexible.
  • your breathing pattern will be better.
  • your nervous system will be more calm and relaxed.
  • your stress levels will be lower.
  • you will see fat loss, due to a combination of the above factors and the increased calorie expenditure.
  • you will look and feel much better.
  • you will not be stuck in a rut, regarding your fitness routine.

Remember, you are being way ahead of the curve when you choose the sensible route. You might not see crazy results that go on a poster but you will see incredible results if you can let go of expectations, and instead focus on how you feel each day.

You can take a video of you doing some of the mobility work and stretches during your first week, and compare them to you doing them 3 months later. In fact, I highly recommend it.

The time commitment might seem rather high, and it is inevitable you might not be able to do the entire routine daily. But aim to do at least the mobility or the stretching component each day.

Take control. Do this! Transform your life and your health and how you feel by starting off today. Commit to doing this for 3 months, and you will never look back.