3 Ridiculously Simple Rules to Get Into the Best Shape of Your Life


Rules to Get Into the Best Shape of Your Life

Have you ever asked one of those big weightlifters in the gym for advice on how to get into shape? I have. They often go on long tangents describing specific workouts they do and talk on and on about what foods to eat and supplements to take. It’s all extremely detailed and unwieldy information.

It doesn’t need to be that complex.  Unless you’re a fitness fanatic, you don’t need to sort through all this information. Getting into shape doesn’t require you to know the latest supplements or the difference between a sumo and Romanian dead-lift.

I like to keep things simple. My rules for getting into great shape are about as stripped down and basic as you can get. I’m very disciplined at what I do, but I don’t try to over-complicate it.

My results speak for themselves. I’m only 5’11”, but I weigh almost 200 pounds with barely any fat on me (no six pack, but I have a four pack going on) – and I only work out about two to three hours a week.

What I do is simple.  So simple, in fact, that there are only three “must follow” rules.  These are what need to be done before you begin thinking about the more complex parts of working out.

1. Set three specific times a week for the gym and consistently go

This is the most important rule of the three I list here. You must do this before seeing any results whatsoever.  There’s no way to get around it.

Feel tired? Go anyway. Not enough time? Make time.

Spread the three days throughout the week to give yourself some time for rest in between each session.  I tend to spend each day working out a particular area of my body (back, legs and upper body), but you might decide to do it differently.

And don’t just randomly set times, be specific about when to go and stick to it.  You should get to a point when a specific time such as Monday at 5PM=”gym time”.

By setting specific days and times, you’ll make it a part of your routine.  The trick is to get to a point when it becomes something you automatically do – not something you have to keep reminding yourself about. Keep in mind that it doesn’t need to take much time, I usually workout only 30-45 minutes a session.

If you build momentum and consistently fit it in, you’ll find yourself going more and more. The more you go, the more likely you are to go again.

2. Work your butt off

A lot of people go into specific details on how much weight to lift or how many reps to do. Some guys keep detailed journals about their workouts.

Honestly, I don’t care about any of that.

All you should be concerned about is that you’re pushing yourself. Just work out and lift weights until you can’t do any more. That might mean working out for an hour or maybe only 30 minutes.  Just go until your muscles are tired.

(Sidenote: women should lift weights too. After my wife started lifting weights, she got into better shape than she’s ever been – and she didn’t get too big or have huge muscles like a guy or anything like that. If you’re still not convinced, read this.)

The trouble with most people is their focus on lifting heavier weights.  Instead of doing that, I look into what will get me into better shape.  If I can do that with less weight, I will.  But usually I just do a mix of heavier weights with fewer reps and vice versa until I give my muscles a good workout.

So how do you know if you’re working your butt off? Here are two signs you’re doing it right.

The first is this: immediately after your workout, you should feel tired and slightly sleepy. If you’re yawning, that’s a good sign.

The second is that your muscles should be sore the next day or two. If they aren’t sore, you’re not doing enough. Do more.

3. Make meals at home and eat out only once a week (preferably less)

People get some hardcore advice on the subject of food. They’re told that eating healthy means consuming only raw vegetables, fruits, whole grains and avoiding bad fats while eating good fats and when to eat simple or complex carbohydrates.

Making it this complex is confusing. It seems too strict for anyone other than the most devoted health nuts.

Here’s my simpler solution: eat out only once a week.

That includes fast food, restaurants and anything related to eating out. That goes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

You hear a lot about how bad fast food is for you, but restaurant meals can be just as bad – or even worse. Even the so call “health options” in restaurants can be bad for you.

According to a study from an American Cancer Society researcher, people who eat out (both restaurants and fast food) consume 200 extra calories than eating at home and take in more saturated fat, sugar and salt. Foods in restaurants are more energy-dense and the portions are larger which means people eat more than they would otherwise.

Cook more food at home and make your own meals and you’ll eat much healthier. Even if they’re boxed meals at first.

And it doesn’t need to take much time either. My wife and I cook at home all the time and neither of us even like doing it. But we’ve found a wide variety of extremely simple and quick meals that take ten minutes or less.

One meal we occasionally do takes less than five. (microwave both a bag of mixed frozen vegetables and a can of pork and beans separately. Mix together and it’s surprisingly good.)

Cooking at home might seem time-consuming, but it actually saves time for us overall. Making these quick meals takes a lot less time than going out somewhere, ordering food and waiting to get it.

At first, eating at home so frequently can seem like a pain, but it gets much easier as you do it. Just that switch alone will help you eat healthier.
Photo credit: Louish Pixel

Join 20,000 Monthly Readers
Get weekly strategies for motivation, travel and living life on your terms.
Get free ebook 10 Ways to Travel Endlessly - the amazing methods that have already helped thousands travel faster, better and cheaper.


  1. All good, simple common sense, here, Steve. I can see a difference in how I’ve been eating and feeling since we’ve been out and away from home much over the last two weeks of holidays. Even in someone else’s home, it’s not the same as eating in your own kitchen.
    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the holidays, but I have to admit that I’m happy to be back to regular routine this morning!

    • I feel the same way about eating from another kitchen – even though I don’t like to cook, I’d rather just make my own food. I don’t always eat the healthiest around that time because of being with family and having to eat what they eat, but it’s always good to spend time with them.

  2. Steve,
    There’s some science behind high intensity training so it’s good to hear you’re prooving it.
    Like you the meals out are becomming less. When travelling I often prefer self catering as it’s a lot less stressful than finding somewhere good and sensibly priced. And it’s a great way of eating the local stuff.

    • When I’m traveling, I tend to do a mix of eating out and making food from grocery stores. It’s hard because I want to experience the local cuisine, but I don’t want to go overboard. It can get expensive and unhealthy to eat out so much. But I’ve found a good balance to it so that I get to really experience what the locals food is all about.

  3. Hi Steve,

    I workout 3 times a week. In the mornings. It’s the only way I can persist with my workouts.
    And I don’t even need a gym. I use my own body for resistance.
    I do a 20 minutes total body workout consisting of compound movements:
    Pushups, pullups, squats, planks and hamstring bridge.

    As you wrote, you must work your but off to see results.
    That means training to failure. This stimulates the muscles to grow.

    Cooking your own meals is indeed healthier and it tastes better.

    My single advice for eating healthy is this:
    Focus on HOW MUCH you eat more than what you eat.
    You will become healthier by listening to your body and eating only when you’re truly hungry and until you’re full.

    For me it used to be skipping breakfast. Now it’s eating a single meal a day.
    Experiment and feel when you’re truly hungry.

    • I’ve tried using my own body weight resistance training, but it didn’t last long. I just couldn’t get into it for long periods of time, but I found a gym keeps my motivation and interest going. I’m glad that you can make that work, that’s pretty great.

      I agree with you on listening to your body. I’ve both lost and gained weight fast on my body and I know how it reacts to certain types of food. In a way I’ve gotten to know how my body reacts to the foods I eat.

    • Benny, my experience is almost the same as yours.
      I train everyday, but I do it in a few minute chunks (2-5 of them) during the day.

      • I’ve been hearing more and more from people who do it in small chunks like that. I might have to experiment with it to see if I like it.

  4. This is a great post and topic. I’ve found small goals or changes work best, it’s better than overdoing the goals then getting burnt out. Last year and continuing it this year my family has made it a point to eat out less and make homemade meals more. It has allowed us to eat a lot healthier. I’ve gotten into the habit of drinking lots of water and limiting bad drink options (like soda or high sugar drinks.

    • It’s incredible how much cooking at home has made me healthier. Drinking water and limiting soda helps too. A few years ago, I went soda-free for about two years before finally having one. It wasn’t that tough actually once you got going. It’s starting that’s hard – but if you can the habit going, it’s easier to keep it up.

  5. Sounds pretty solid, Steve! 200 pounds at 5’11” and visible abs – that’s pretty impressive. I’m currently 6’0″ at about 175 – so I’ve got a long way to go!

    But one thing I would recommend thinking about – it is crucially important to work hard, but I think your programming also needs to be balanced. If you’re doing a lot of benching for instance and very little pulling, you may be setting yourself up for potential injuries.

    But I like your diet advice. Eating out is tough for me to estimate exactly how many calories I’m eating.

    • I find estimating calories to be difficult in general. If I eat half a plate of pasta, how much would that count? Then I make some rice and have to measure out how much I actually ate. I had an app tracking it all, but it became a hassle to keep logging info into it. I just stopped because it wasn’t worth it.

      For me, the simplest advice was to stop eating out. That cut calories and fat down dramatically. Plus, it saved a lot of money too which is just an added bonus.

  6. I’ve been eating at home my whole life. That’s Polish culture and stay-at-home mom magic put together 😉
    I’m so spoiled by my mom’s and wife’s cooking, that I don’t even like dinning out. It was always inferioir to what I had at home.

    • I wish it was like that for me. Neither my wife nor I like cooking all that much, but we’ve started getting used to it. It helps that we have an assortment of extremely easy-to-make meals ready to go.

  7. Adapting a consistent fitness regimen is how it’s done! Great advice! Most people get a gym membership, then overdo it by going too often. Limit yourself to 3 times a week and you’ll want to keep going. Not to mention, you’ll automatically want to eat better, and you’ll sleep better too.

    • I’ve noticed that too. A friend of mine joined a gym several years ago and wanted to go with me. I thought it was great until he said he planned on going six days a week for several hours a day. Yeah…no. I’m not planning on participating in a bodybuilding contest, I just want to be healthy and look decent. Three times a week is really all most people need.

  8. I think these rules hit the spot. They are simple yet most presumably effective rules to not only getting in shape but having a healthy lifestyle. They are worth following!

Speak Your Mind