9 SparkPeople Articles Every Beginner Should Read

By , Alicia Capetillo, Editor-in-Chief SparkPeople
Every month The Go Get It Guide is your destination for motivation, musings on random goals and probably pop culture references. It's a space where we'll sort through the PR pitches and news, then share our honest thoughts on what's happening in the health and fitness world, what's on the horizon and just what we think of that video the internet obsessed over last week. Check in each month to Spark, Sweat, Smile, Savor and Shop with us!

Spark: Where to Begin

The last champagne bottle has been popped and you've swept up what you pray is the last of the glitter, meaning there is only one logical thing left to do: determine who you're going to be in 2018. Now, I'm not talking about some "She's All That" transformation where you ditch the glasses, learn to wear your hair down, miraculously get hot, start attending all the best parties and land the high school quarterback who actually seems to like you just the way you are. Resolutions that get too big are doomed to fail. Life and errands and deadlines will eventually get in the way and trying to take on too much change all at once will inevitably lead to frustration and quitting. Who you become could just be 2017 you, but on time for social gatherings. It could be you, but someone who cuts down from six cups of coffee every day to three. Maybe it's a you who decides to make the move to the front of spinning class.
Focusing on realistic, attainable goals is the key to making sustainable life changes that will ultimately make you even more proud to be you. Once you've figured out the "what," though, there is the whole business of the "how" to figure out, and the "how" is the most important part. Many goals fail simply because we jump in too quickly, making lots of mini changes to various parts of our lives all at once. It's a lot to think about, and more often than not we find ourselves silently, aggressively cursing and throwing in the towel when we can't keep up anymore. Our bodies and routines are well-oiled machines and when you start taking away and adding things, they need a little notice and some time to adjust. It's best to go in with a plan that allows for building blocks, rather than shooting yourself full-speed out of a cannon toward your finish line. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither will you build your 2018 self.
Of course, you're in a good place here, surrounded by good people and motivational teams and articles to get you on the right track to glory. If you're brand new, these are some of my favorite articles for planning your goals, avoiding pitfalls and staying motivated no matter how many cupcakes, late nights at the office or burger-eating challenges threaten to stand in your way.
  1. "Where to Start if You Have 50+ Pounds to Lose" You know you need to lose weight, but looking at the mountain ahead of you is intimidating to say the very least. Use this guide to reflect on what you need to change and the small strategies that will lead you to this amazing weight-loss accomplishment. And if you're looking to lose even more, we've got you covered with this guide to losing more than 100 pounds in a safe and sustainable manner.
  2. "18 Low-Calorie Snacks That Satisfy" Snacking is one of the most under-appreciated, but most valuable pieces of the weight-loss puzzle. For some, mindless munching can sabotage an otherwise healthy day of eating, while others struggle with the "to eat or not to eat" conundrum. Instead of hoarding ring dings and peanut M&Ms in your snack drawer or stressing out about eating between meals, learn how to create and rely on healthy, filling snacks to tide you over from one healthy meal to the next with this handy chart.
  3. "40 Things to Try When You Don't Want to Work Out" When I first started working at SparkPeople, I was the reigning queen of exercise excuses. "I don't know how to combine strength exercises," "My boyfriend and I are just at the good part of our 'Breaking Bad' binge," "It's, like, really, really cold outside," "I painted my fingernails two days ago and if I go to the gym, lord knows one of them is going to chip and then where will I be?" Now, it's a part of me and I wouldn't have it any other way. If your excuse game is still strong, print four copies of this list and keep it on your fridge, at your desk, in your purse and in your pocket for constant inspiration.
  4. "Spark Your Way to a 5K" As I've discussed, I am not a runner. Not even kind of a little bit at all. For many, though, running or walking are easy options for taking that first step toward fitness. If you've always dreamed about posting to social networks about your latest 5K medal, these three training plans from Coach Jen will put you on the right track (pun very much intended).
  5. "Before You Sweat" While I may never experience the elusive "runner's high," I am a self-professed studio junkie—but I didn't always think this way. I remember agonizing over my first entrance to a workout class—Yogilates, YMCA, Birmingham, Alabama—worrying that I'd sweat more than everyone else or not know the terminology or have to take a break and then everyone would know that I was a fraud. Today, I can't imagine my routine without classes, without the energy and pulse of a room full of individuals all sweating together. If you've always been curious, but haven't pulled the trigger, our "Before You Sweat" series has the glossary, wardrobe, form and expert advice you need to know before you go.
  6. "10 Realistic Ways to Lose Weight for Good" They say it takes a village and here at SparkPeople, that village is here for you every single day, helping you through plateaus and cheering you on as you reach milestones. So who better to turn to for weight-loss advice than fellow SparkPeople members who have successfully lost 50 or more pounds?
  7. "83 Cheap, Healthy Foods for Meals in Minutes" If you're on a first-name basis with your food delivery dude (guilty), you might wonder how you can possibly transition from takeout to home-cooked meals. The solution lies in stocking healthy foods in your kitchen and understanding how to cook quick, simple and healthy meals. If you're just starting out, you'll want to bookmark this mix-and-match grocery list with tips on how to use each item for your next trip to the store.
  8. "10 Full-Body Strength Exercises Every Beginner Needs to Know" Strength training is kind of like riding a bike—once you know what you're doing, you wonder what you were so scared of in the first place. When people (especially women) find out that the weight room is my happy place, this is what I hear: "Aren't you worried about bulking up?" "Doesn't the weight room intimidate you?" "How do you know what to do in there?" To clear it up: Strength training won't leave you looking like the Hulk, the weight room is actually super empowering and I know what to do thanks to lots of articles online like this one. Learning proper form and some great beginner exercises for each muscle group is step one to starting a lifelong love affair with dumbbells and squat racks.
  9. "8 Reasons Why You're Not Losing Weight" Before you start any goal, know this: Losing weight is not an easy equation or magic one-size-fits-all formula. If weight loss is your goal, there are a lot of factors that could be tripping you up, either right out of the starting gate or further down the line. Educate yourself on common issues before you begin so you know where to look when your weight loss slows down.

Sweat: Static Lunge With a Dumbbell Press

I was going to include a picture of my calendar in an effort to sympathize with my fellow busy bees who barely have time to breath on a day-to-day basis thanks to their inability to say "no" invites, requests and other offers, but just looking at it stressed me out and I didn't want to subject you to that kind of trauma. If you've tried to start a workout routine in the past, but always found yourself making excuses due to a lack of time available, the secret to success is maximizing your time, no matter if you have five or 30 minutes available to work.
For those of you who pride yourself on multitasking, compound exercises are basically the workhorses of the strength-training world. Rather than isolating one muscle and working it to exhaustion, compound exercises require multiple joints and muscle groups to work in tandem. Not only are you cutting down the time needed to get a full-body workout, but you also burn more calories and elevate your heart rate when you employ compound exercises.
To target my quadriceps and shoulder muscles, there's nothing better than this static lunge with a dumbbell press. Start with your arms at a 90-degree angle and press your dumbbells up toward the sky as you bend your back and front knee down to their own 90-degree angles. As with any strength-training move, form is of the utmost importance, so be sure to keep your front knee stacked over the ankle and press straight up with a flat back.
Stationary Lunges With Dumbbell Press
Start with five to eight reps with your right leg forward, then switch and lead with your left leg. When you feel that burns-so-good soreness in the morning after a few rounds of this powerful move, you'll thank me. Or hate me, but later you'll thank me.

What's your favorite SparkPeople article?