It takes a lot of effort to adjust your schedule and lifestyle to start working out anywhere from 3 to 5 days a week, so if you’ve done that then go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back.

Now, let’s not sell ourselves short. Getting into the gym is only one piece of an intricate puzzle. It is alway an accomplishment to find that first piece of the puzzle, the one where you know exactly how it fits and how it will be easy to build around it. And once you find your next piece, the one that fits the easiest and most obvious, it becomes easier to add more and more pieces and also easier to see which are missing.

The order in which people add pieces to their puzzle varies from person to person, but the pieces remain largely unchanged. What will be your next piece? Let’s talk about a few of the most popular.

Sleep 7-9 uninterrupted hours per night. Sleep in a cold room without any lights. Put screens away well before bed and develop a nightly routine to help wind down. This could be stretching, meditation, or light reading. Sleep is not only when your muscles recover and you get stronger and more fit, but also when our body fixes and prevents a myriad of other problems. Sleep is our most readily available anti-inflammatory. If you have any aches or pains and have not slept more than 7 uninterrupted hours recently, try fixing that before you stick a lacrosse ball on it.

Eat well, and respect your meals. Nobody expects you to jump right into counting macros and tracking everything you eat (you might never do that) but you have to watch your intake, too. Eat real food. If it was made in a factory, cut it out. Use the plate method to portion your meals. Respect your meal time. Put screens away, take a few deep breaths before you eat, and chew each bite 30 times. Digestion starts in the mouth. If you are not chewing then you are not digestion and are likely causing more inflammation.

Recover. Take rest days, stretch out post workout, do stretching on your own. Schedule a massage. See a chiropractor regularly. These Taking care of your joints and soft tissue will not only keep you moving in the gym but will also keep you feeling younger as you being to age.

Warmup, and take it seriously. Move with intent during your warmups and focus on quality movement that will carry over into your workout. Take smart warmup jumps in your strength work. If you’re worried about using your energy up taking and extra set at 60-70%, you’re wrong. Skipping warmup sets and bull-rushing to your working weight is a fast track to having an “uh-oh.”

Drop the negative. Seriously. Mindset is as much a part of overall fitness as is anything that helps with the physical side of the house. I promise you your bad days at work do not have to be as bad as they are. Try to see things from other’s views. Understand that everyone has their own filter through which they see the world, and no two sets are the same. Filters can not be changed overnight or by one conversation, but they can very well be understood. Stop and listen when you’re having a conversation or a disagreement. Really listen. Most of us are guilty of hearing what we want to hear because we already have a rebuttal cued up in our head. Stop that. Right now. Listen to what they’re saying and understand that for them, from their point of view, it is a valid concern. Using this technique will lend itself to finding middle ground much quicker than the chest-beating ego wars everyone seem to be so fond of these days. Look on the bright side and understand that (most of the time) people are not actually trying to be mean or ruin your day.

Want to know something cool about puzzles? Once you get a few pieces in place, the rest start falling in more naturally.

-Chase Tolleson

CF L2

USA Weightlifting Sports Performance Coach

CF Weightlifting