People want to be in shape. Whether it’s part of a New Year resolution or the prep phase for beach season, the desire to get in shape always comes to the fore.
In everyone’s pursuit to achieve that Herculean physique, one question grows even more ubiquitous with the times: “How long does it take to get in shape?”
Of course, time and time again, the answer is going to be that it depends.
In truth, there’s no set-in-stone time for when people can achieve the best level of fitness. It comes right down to a myriad of factors like existing diet, activity levels, and even genetics.
Beyond these factors are also other nuances including goals and expectations. Last but surely not least, there’s always the factor of training age.
Nevertheless, more important than the when is the how. Some strategies can help people on the road to being in good health and shape. Read on to learn more about these tried-and-tested methods and what goes into the journey of being in great shape.
How Long Does It Take To Get In Shape?
Any athlete, bodybuilder, or weightlifter will allude to the fact that being in better shape takes time. Worse yet, the time it takes to be in shape isn’t the same for everyone. This is true even if two people are in the same sport, have the same genetics, and follow the same routine.
Adding to the uncertainty is the number of factors that influence whether or not a person becomes fitter. There are just too many moving parts that determine when a person reaches his or her fitness goal.
These factors will be the subject of discussions in succeeding paragraphs. There are many of them, but it starts with a person’s concept of fitness.
What Does It Mean to Be “In Shape?”
Being in the best shape of one’s life can take many different forms. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t always about getting a V-shaped taper, nor is it about having boulder shoulders or impressive guns.
While these are worthy (and achievable) goals in themselves, being in shape doesn’t always have the look of being “in shape.” In other words, being in shape can mean simply being able to walk a mile without running out of breath. Being in shape can also mean being in good health to carry three bags of groceries or pick up one’s grandkids.
For athletes, being in shape also takes on a different character. They might set performance-related goals. These goals can include improving speed as well as better hypertrophy (muscle growth) around joints for injury protection.
Whatever a person’s concept of fitness, it can play a part in whether the goal is achievable in the short or long term.
Other Factors that Influence Achieving Fitness
Goals are important in working towards being in great shape. However, as mentioned earlier, other factors contribute to a person’s pursuit of being in great shape.
Some of these are controllable; others are not. Here are some of the most salient factors that affect the achievement of a fitness goal.
A discussion of body types will expose anyone to the importance of genetics.
Some people possess the genetic qualities of mesomorphs. Mesomorphs are people who easily build muscle without putting on a lot of body fat. In fitness and bodybuilding, someone has hit the genetic jackpot for having such a predisposition for muscle-building and fat loss. For this demographic, being in shape is either already achieved or a goal that isn’t far off.
On the other hand, there are ectomorphs. Ectomorphs have also earned the moniker of “hard gainers” for their seeming inability to develop muscle mass quickly. As anyone would imagine, gaining muscle and strength for ectomorphs is an uphill battle, often taking years to achieve their goals.
Diet or the Ability To Stick to One
Very often, being in shape is an issue of body composition. Whether it’s more muscle or less body fat, nutrition plays a vital role in achieving the right body composition.
With training, a person who eats a diet of whole foods at the right amount will likely achieve results faster. Meanwhile, even with the best fitness program, a person whose diet consists of fast food might take longer to shed a few inches.
Training age is simply how long a person has been training or exercising. Some will be seasoned trainees; others will be new.
Between the two groups, the latter might experience gains in strength and muscle faster in the presence of a diet and training plan. The speed of gains is due to what’s called the novice effect. The novice effect is due to a trainee’s sensitivity to a training stimulus.
The sensitivity causes a significant cascade of hormones that lead to tangible and often visible gains in muscle mass and size. Increases in athletic performance are also visible in new trainees in as little as a few months.
More seasoned trainees will have to fight tooth and nail just to see improvements in their composition or performance.
Top 3 Strategies To Be in the Best Shape
With time, the fitness industry adds to its list of fitness strategies. The abundance of choices and instructions often overwhelms new exercisers, causing them to throw in the towel before starting a program.
Very often, these strategies are derivations of the few that have stood the test of time. The basics, as Dan John puts it, are what gets the most results. We can narrow down these said basics to these three tried-and-tested strategies.
1. Follow a Program and Stick to It
The first step in developing a personal fitness plan is to simply decide on any program and stick to it. That’s right — any program.
In the fitness world, there’s always a program that claims to be the silver bullet to all fitness problems. One look at the many fitness trends that have come and gone proves that any program can be effective. It’s just a matter of what falls out of favor with the crowd of the times.
When it comes to selecting a program, do so from a position of open-mindedness. This means viewing every program as having the potential to deliver gains. Barring any sport-specific goals, every program is capable of doing this. All a trainee must do is choose one and stick to it for a couple of months or so.
From here, the trainee will have enough empirical data to guide his or her decision to either stick to the program or shift to another.
2. Dial-in Nutrition
There’s an old bodybuilder saying: “Training and lifting is the fun part. Nutrition is the hard part.”
Believe it or not, a vast majority of the progress anyone will experience won’t be the result of just training. It’s the result of nutrition. This is true whether the goal is to build muscle or lose fat.
Nutrition should be a priority for any trainee. While things can get complicated in the kitchen, a simple rule of thumb is to just eat whole foods.
3. Be as Impatient with Recovery
Everyone wants to be on the fast train towards gains. In the pursuit of quick progress, exercise becomes a priority — often at the expense of recovery.
Progress from training occurs if the body can recover. The purpose of training is to elicit stress. The stress forces the body to adapt. Adaptation doesn’t happen in the gym. It happens in the kitchen and the bedroom.
To recover, sleep (eight hours), hydration (two to three liters of water), and nutrition (see above strategy) are key. Stress reduction, stretching, and warming up are also all important.
Stretching allows the muscles to lengthen after a hard workout. The warm-up primes the nervous system and muscles to reduce the chances of injury.
All of these recovery strategies are a must and deserve a place in a trainee’s fitness program.
Key Takeaway: Be Patient and Enjoy the Ride
Being in shape requires patience. More of a marathon than a sprint, it’s all about making progress in the direction of one’s fitness goals — no matter how long it takes.
Indeed, it’s easy to feel discouraged at first. However, this isn’t an invitation to throw in the towel. The best approach to getting in shape is to enjoy the process and the small victories.
These small victories can be in the form of shifting habits like sticking to a routine and eating better. These are already signs of progress that are impressive in themselves.
To enjoy the journey, you’ll need the right guidance and environment. Gain ironclad fitness in Sacramento at Iron Bodies and Minds, and try a week for free.