4 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Working Out

Three years ago today, I opened the virtual doors to ValerieBisharat.com. I’m celebrating by sharing four things I wish I knew when I first started working out.

1. Lift heavy weights. Heavier weights than you ever imagined!

Quick story: I initially went from no activity to regular exercise (elliptical and two strength training days per week) and lost a noticeable amount of weight.

But after a year or so, I couldn’t figure out why – despite exercising all the time and eating what I thought was a “good” diet – I didn’t look leaner. The results didn’t seem to reflect the effort.

At the same time, I started working out with a female personal trainer who lived and breathed the weights. She inspired me to not just do a few bicep curls here and there but to assume lifting – with a significant amount of weight (for reference, I can currently deadlift 150% of my bodyweight) – as my workout mainstay.

As you can see below, once I started lifting with intensity, my body dramatically changed.

  Far right photo by NayMarie Photography.

Far right photo by NayMarie Photography.

But what you can’t see here – and what I never could’ve predicted – were the mental and emotional benefits that came from lifting. Lifting showed me how to set a goal and achieve it. It proved to me that I can do much of what I set my mind to. It made me stronger in every sense of the word. I can’t imagine who I’d be without it.

2.  Focus your attention on the ACTIONS required to be healthier rather than the parts of your appearance that you want to change. You’ll save a lot of time and energy.

I learned the hard way that focusing on perceived flaws gets us absolutely nowhere. Every day, probably multiple times a day, I’d look in the mirror and analyze what I wanted to change. Looking back, I see that I could’ve just focused on taking care of my body through eating yummy, healthy food, enjoying moving my body, and cultivating an empowering inner dialogue to get where I wanted to go aesthetically and emotionally. Easier said than done, but with practice, totally possible.

3. Get adequate sleep and be proactive about stress reduction. Both are critical to doing this forever.

We hear a lot about “mind over matter” in the fitness industry – and while I agree that we all hold an almost unfathomable amount of potential, there’s relatively little focus on what it takes to recover from all that limit stretching. If you want to start working out more, or maintain a super active lifestyle, it’s imperative that you fortify your sleep and stress reduction habits. Adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep. Proactive stress reduction comes in here too: meditating, spending time in nature, unplugging… taking specific actions to reduce your stress levels. 

4. Above all, create a healthy lifestyle that's based on YOUR inner guidance and sensibilities rather than other people's ideas, comparison, or how you think the world might perceive you.

It’s so easy to bog ourselves down with comparing what we ate to the meals your favorite food blogger is posting on Instagram, or otherwise take other people's’ sensibilities and perceptions as our own. There’s nothing wrong with seeking inspiration and learning from other people, but the key is to do so with the knowledge that you’re crafting a lifestyle that works for you. No two people are the same, and no one protocol is THE answer. Dance to the beat of your own food and fitness drum.

I hope this gives you inspiration for ideas and habits to implement! If you have questions, leave me a comment below. I'll be sure to answer them.