This is my first article on this site, and I’d like to start by introducing myself. I’m Dr. Sharon Gam and I’m an exercise physiologist and strength and conditioning coach, among other things. I’ve been in the fitness industry for more than 10 years, working as a personal trainer, wellness consultant, sports scientist, researcher, and educator at various points in my career. I spent 8 years studying exercise physiology at the University of Western Australia, which culminated in the achievement of a PhD and the publication of several scientific journal articles based on my research. I have also been an enthusiastic exerciser for 15 years. In my own training, I perform a mix of bodyweight strength and skill exercises, barbell and dumbbell exercises, interval training and high intensity running. I love to work out, and I love to teach other people how to work out. I started Dr. Gam’s Fitness Academy because I want to use my knowledge and experience to help people achieve their goals. My years of intensive education, research, and practical experience make me an expert, but I’ll admit that I don’t know everything. I’m constantly striving to learn more, and to become the most effective trainer and educator I can be. I want to use this site to share the information I’ve learned over the years, and to give you my honest opinions and research-based conclusions about various aspects of fitness.
To start with, here are a few general pieces of advice that I think are important to share. If you’re thinking about starting a training program, have stopped making progress, or have been unable to stick with exercise in the past, this is my initial advice to you. I’ll be elaborating on each of these points in future articles.
- Mindset Is Everything. The single most important predictor of whether someone will be successful in achieving their goals is their mental approach, or mindset. Many people have set ideas about exercise, influenced by things they’ve heard and experienced. Some of these notions may be counterproductive, setting you up for failure before you even begin a fitness program. These include having unrealistic expectations, focusing solely on physical appearance rather than incorporating performance-based goals, neglecting the basics, relying on fads or supplements, taking an all-or-nothing approach, failing to plan ahead, and trying to exercise yourself to exhaustion in every session, among others. If you want to set yourself up for success, start by evaluating your preconceived ideas and adjusting your mindset. Try to think of fitness as a lifelong pursuit that involves the development of healthy habits. Take an active role in your training. Learn about exercise, experiment with different programs, focus on improving your performance, and aim for consistency over perfection. Put as much effort into the mental aspect of training as you do the physical aspect, and you are much more likely to achieve your goals.
- Motivate Yourself From Within. I work out because, in addition to wanting to look and feel healthy, I genuinely enjoy it. I love the feeling of strength and pride I get when I lift a heavy barbell or do a pull up. I love the sensation of my heart pounding after a hard sprint. This is known as intrinsic (or internal) motivation: performing an activity because the activity itself is inherently satisfying. Research shows that intrinsic motivation is more likely to lead to long-term performance of a behavior than other forms of motivation. Intrinsic motivation to exercise doesn’t come naturally for many people, but it is attainable. Imagine if you never had to drag yourself to the gym again. Imagine if you wanted to work out and actually enjoyed it. You can make that happen, and if you do, it will change your life. Developing some level of intrinsic motivation should be your first priority, because it will make every other aspect of exercise easier and more effective.
- Develop Your Own Best Workout. Don’t listen to anyone who claims they know the “best” workout, program, or exercise. There is no single “best” workout. The best program is the one that works for you, that addresses your needs and goals, that you enjoy and that allows you to progress. Figuring out what that program looks like takes some time and effort, even for a professional. It took me longer than I’d like to admit to figure out exactly what works for me, but once I did, I made significant gains in my fitness. To determine your best workout, start by thinking about what you want to achieve through your training and find or design a simple program which is geared towards achieving that goal. Follow that program consistently for at least 3-6 months. Resist the urge to change things up too soon because measurable results take time to appear, then reevaluate and tweak the program as necessary. Repeat this process until you have discovered your ideal exercise framework.
- Consistency Is Key. The details of your training are much less important than whether you do something, consistently, for a prolonged period of time. Your aim should be to follow a planned program and train at least 2-3 times per week, every week. If you only work out once in a while or jump haphazardly from program to program, don’t be surprised when you don’t achieve the changes you want. Find a simple program, then get started. Don’t worry about completely overhauling your lifestyle or suddenly starting to work out every day. If you miss a workout, don’t give up. Start again the next day. All you need to do is put one foot in front of the other and keep doing that until exercising becomes a sustainable habit.
- Get The Basics Right. Fitness doesn’t need to be complicated. Too many people waste their time (and money) on gimmicky exercises, equipment, or complex fitness programs. A simple, well-designed program, followed consistently with proper effort and progressions, will get you results. The basic movements that work the major muscle groups: push, pull, squat, and hinge, should form the foundation of any good training program. Take the time to learn how to perform each exercise with good form and a full range of motion. If you can’t perform a push up at first, there are exercise variations and strategies you can use to work your way up to achieving a quality push up. The process of training to master a specific exercise or movement will do wonders for your strength and motor control, and is good for anyone who wants to improve their muscular fitness. Similarly, it’s important to build a foundation of aerobic capacity with some kind of simple cardio exercise (running, cycling, swimming, etc.) for health and fitness benefits, and to be able to effectively utilize more advanced methods of aerobic exercise such as high intensity intervals.
- Always Strive to Progress. Doing the same thing in every workout will only get you so far. By “same thing”, I’m not referring to the same exercises (those should be kept relatively constant to allow for the mastery of each movement and for progressive overload), but the same resistance, distance, or intensity. When you exercise, you put stress on your body and it responds by getting stronger, faster, more efficient, etc. so it can better handle that stress the next time you exercise. If you want to continually improve your performance, you have to keep increasing that stress over time. To do that, keep a log of your workouts and refer to it every time you train. Increase the amount of weight or number of repetitions on a particular exercise in each session. Run a little longer or a little faster than last time. Remember that progression doesn’t happen linearly. When you first start working out, you’ll probably be able to progress in most sessions. After some time (usually a few months), those gains will slow down. Sometimes you’ll feel like your progress has stalled. Keep pushing, and some days you’ll suddenly make a big gain. Your aim in each and every workout should be to improve your performance in some way, no matter how small. Strive for progressive improvements in every workout and you will reach your goals.
Improving your health and fitness isn’t easy. It takes time and effort. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts, no quick fixes, and no miracle pills that can do the work for you. The good news is that getting fit and healthy is actually a lot simpler than many people would expect. Everyone is capable of making meaningful improvements in their lives through exercise, nutrition, and mental strategies. I hope that the information I will provide on this site can help you with some of those improvements. If you need more help, Dr. Gam’s Fitness Academy offers several services to guide you in your fitness journey and help you achieve your goals, including in-person and online training.
I’m always happy to answer questions and take requests for future articles. Feel free to email me at Sharon@Drgamsfitnessacademy.com. Good luck with your training, and remember that with the right mindset, anything is possible!