GET TO ZE CHOPPA!
Anyone who knows me knows that I'm mildly obsessed with ze' Arnold. For me, he symbolizes strength, overcoming difficulty, and pushing yourself beyond your limits. I got into weightlifting when I was 18 - I had just had my first real breakup, and lifting weights was a great outlet for anger & frustration or any other emotion going on at the time. I saw some results fairly quickly (aka "Newbie Gains"). Over the years, my dedication and enthusiasm for weightlifting has waxed & waned, but I've found in the last few years a routine that works for me and a way to (imperfectly) stick to it. I want to introduce that routine here as well as the guy who penned it (Mike Matthews), and some other tips I use keep at it, even after the initial enthusiasm about working out has faded.
Mike Matthews - Bigger, Leaner, Stronger
I got introduced to Mike Matthews and his website Muscle For Life by a friend. Mike's book "Bigger Leaner Stronger" lays out a routine that's all based around "Progressive Overload". Many other routines focus on the 8-10 reps range, but Mike's program is all about the 4-6 rep range (with a few exceptions). The idea in a nutshell is that by working in this range, we can actually get stronger, and only be getting progressively stronger will we see results in the mirror.
In college I was doing routines that focused on 8-10 reps, and was on the "seafood diet" (If I saw food, I ate it). I got bigger, maxing out at about 205 lbs (I'm 6'0"), and did get stronger, but I've found that by following the "Bigger Leaner Stronger" program, I'm stronger than I was at 25 while being about 35 lbs lighter (I'm about 170 lbs these days). I also take diet a lot more seriously, and follow's Mike's advice in his book around cutting or bulking.
Another thing I like about Mike's routine is that he's very clear about not using steroids or other Performance Enhancing Drugs, and that was important to me. I've read Arnold's "Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding" and while it's a really valuable resource, he has also been open about using steroids over the years. Here's an article on steroids and training that might be interesting if you want to learn more about it: https://www.muscleforlife.com/side-effects-of-steroids/
Tips to Stick With It
Getting results in the gym can take time, and it's easy to get discouraged. I'm definitely not perfect at fitness or diet, but some of these strategies have helped me stay on track, or to get back on track quickly:
1) Listen to people who are better at fitness than me.
I listen to fitness podcasts and follow a few people on FB / Instagram that post about workouts & nutrition. I feel like it's important to constantly expose myself to people who are further along in their fitness / diet than I am to help keep myself motivated.
2) Don't plan for days off
If I've followed my lifting routine to the letter during the week, I in theory can have the weekends off. But what I've found is that most weeks, something comes up where I can't get in a lift during the week. So I plan to do at least 15 minutes of exercise every day, and if I miss a lift day, I make it up on the weekend.
3) Track using the app "Body Tracker"
Progress can be slow, and it can be hard to stay motivated if it feels like the results aren't coming. Using Body Tracker helps me to empirically track my progress (i.e. weight, waist measurements, etc), so that my evaluation of progress isn't just based on how I feel but is more about data.
4) Evaluate if something isn't working
I've had to circle back a few times and re-look at my approach to getting results when they just weren't coming. This has made me evaluate my form on exercises, which weren't always great, or look at how my diet has actually been (I use myfitnesspal to track calories). My "memory" can say I've been following my diet closely, but if I look at the data, sometimes I've had more cheat meals in a week than I remember.
5) Enjoy some fitness humor
Goals are important, but I think it's also important to have a sense of humor about what we're doing. There's a bunch of fitness humor accounts on social media out there, and here's one of my favorite fitness humor vids: