Now that the New Year's Resolutions crowd has cleared out of the gym, it's time to get down to business. The goal is not to become CrossFit truthers or pot-smoking ultramarathoners, but to simply avoid racking up massive medical bills due to poor health as we continue our slow, inevitable march to death. And besides, if you work out semi-regularly, you will feel less shame when your doctor asks you how many drinks you have each week. So here are nine (somewhat obvious) tips on how to get yourself into respectable shape and not blow it immediately.
Sign up for something. Every fitness rag on the planet will tell you to sign up for a race or join a team. You know why? That shit works. Accountability will force your sorry ass out the door on a rainy day. Whether it's co-ed flag football or a half-marathon, having a date inked on the calendar will guilt you into submission.
Fuck low-carb diets. Carbohydrates are a perfectly healthy dietary staple, so long as they're complex carbohydrates, which are higher in fiber and will help make you feel fuller longer. (Think sweet potatoes, brown rice, and whole grains.) Refined carbohydrates, like the white bread on that overpriced sandwich you had for lunch, will cause your blood sugar to skyrocket before an eventual crash; even worse, when you refrain from eating carbs, you're going to feel sluggish at the gym and moody at work. Plus, as soon as you go off that low-carb diet, you're going to gain all that weight back—each gram of carbohydrate is holding onto four grams of water, which explains the quick weight loss when you cut the carbs—so jettison the store-bought bagels and opt for brown rice the next time you order takeout.
Ditch the scale. Tweet Your Weight is bullshit. Americans are singularly obsessed with weight. Which is not to say that losing it is a bad thing. But you're better off listening to your body than hopping on a scale every day. You could be 6-foot-2 and 189 pounds and cut, but you could also be 6-foot-two and 189 pounds with high cholesterol and a spare tire flourishing around your waist.
Exercise and you'll feel better, period. Unless your weight is an actual health concern, you should quit obsessing over it.
Set reminders on your phone. My cousin has various reminders to fat-shame himself into living a healthier lifestyle. He switches up the actual text, but lately he's been going with "Workout" or "Don't eat packaged food today." This is deeply stupid, but very effective. Don't set your reminders—whether it's "Get to the gym, you bastard" or "Only four cans of Coors Banquet tonight"—to come up daily, though. You'll just ignore them. Scatter them randomly throughout the week.
Treat exercise as an obligation. There is nothing better in adulthood than having a valid reason to forego social obligations. This is almost exclusively why I run marathons: I have an excuse six months out of the year to stay at home, watch baseball, and relax after my training. Once you start treating exercise like you did high school extracurriculars—practice starts at 3:15, no questions asked—you'll start to find pleasure in the dull routine. Just because there isn't some hotheaded football coach with a whistle and a stopwatch breathing down your neck doesn't mean you can't take working out seriously. If you say you're going to the gym after work, go to the gym after work.
Cut down on booze. There is no greater joy than a well-stocked bar, but there's also something to be said for moderation. And the quickest way to drop weight and get lean is to cut out all those tall boys of Bud on school nights. If you had a particularly rough day at the office, skip the heavy IPAs and opt instead for a martini or some silver tequila on the rocks—they're lower in calories and get the job done much quicker.
Maintain your baseline fitness. Unless you have the discipline of a Marine, you're going to miss days. You get stuck late at work. Your kid has a soccer tournament. It's okay: You're not an Olympian! But as long as you keep your shit (mostly) together, you'll be fine. If you miss four days because of a bachelor party, the first day back will be rough—but that's from all the cheap booze you guzzled, not because you're out of shape.
Never, ever skip the weekend. Let's say your goal is to engage in some type of physical activity four days a week. (Walking to the beer store doesn't count.) You start the week out right with a solid 45 minutes of cardio on Monday and sneak in another session Wednesday, but other than that, life gets in the way: There's some bullshit office happy hour Tuesday, someone you haven't seen since high school is in town Thursday (they Facebook messaged you on Monday), and by the time you drown your sorrows after work on Friday, that doesn't leave much time to squeeze in a workout. And we damn well know you're not going to the gym at 6 a.m. anytime.
But on Saturday and Sunday, you have the entire day to get your heart pumping. So get out there and knock down two days—keep to that cycle, and you just have to keep squeezing in two workouts between Monday and Friday, you deadbeats.
Try something new. Shock your system. Whether it's some high-intensity interval training or a beginner's yoga class, it's good to switch your routine up and use muscles you didn't even know existed. Who knows, you might even like it.
Image by Sam Woolley.
Adequate Man is Deadspin's new self-improvement blog, dedicated to making you just good enough at everything. Suggestions for future topics are welcome below.