Ten Essential Exercise Tips From Fitness Instructor Cato Rutherford

Cato Rutherford is the founder and manager of Lift Performance; one of Sydney's leading hybrid gyms for gymnastics, weightlifting, powerlifting and "strong man" training. Cato's approach to fitness is all about getting back to basics — there are no TVs, mirrors or blaring music to distract his clients from their reason for showing up. There's also a strong emphasis on the core mechanics of fitness training over flavour-of-the-moment fads. Here are his top ten training tips for gym-shy readers who are anxious to transform their bodies.

Cato Rutherford is a fitness and health professional with over six years experience in exercise physiology, performance training and athlete development. His new Redfern-based facility, Lift Performance Centre boasts some of the best strength and conditioning facilities in the state. If you're keen to get into weightlifting or other gym-based endeavors, these beginner's tips from Cato should help to steer you in the right direction.

Master the basics

Doing basic things very well is what gets you great results. I think this applies to all areas of health. If you ask any of the world's leading strong men, they all started out just doing basic core lifts, chin ups, squats, dead lifts and so on. It's all basic stuff, but they just did it for years and years and years until they got very strong at it and were capable of competing in these incredible events. Some people get so excited about all these different fads like burpees and dancercise, but the people who get terrific results are the ones who dedicated themselves to the basics and did them consistently for a really long time.

Find something you enjoy!

If you want to get into the habit of going to the gym a lot, you need to find something you actually like doing. Some people really enjoy the weightlifting or power lifting stuff and some people are better suited to the gymnastics side of things. So try to focus on whatever brings you some level of enjoyment, especially to begin with. A lot of my clients are competitive athletes who do their strength conditioning here. If you can find a sport or hobby you like, going to the gym can become part of your training, which is another way to boost your enjoyment levels.

Plan ahead to avoid self-sabotage

If it's easier to do the right thing than the wrong thing, you're typically going to do the right thing. For example, if you've already prepared your meals for the day, there's less chance you'll sneak off to McDonald's because you're hungry and don't have anything prepared. Another example is the location of the gym you join: if you pass the place every day on your way home from work you'll be more likely to go even if you don't feel like it. It's easier to make excuses if it's on the other side of town. In other words, you need to put things on the path of least resistance.

Be specific

When you're new to gym training, don't dabble in everything: instead, be focused and specific. Exercise is like most other things in life: you need to keep doing it over and over if you want to get good at it. This law of specificity is the same in squatting as it if with handstands. So being specific about what it is you want to improve in will get you off to a very good start.

Make it sustainable

A lot of times, people will come into the gym and they'll bite off more than they can chew or they commit to more than they can legitimately achieve. My advice to these people is to come up with a sustainable plan you can stick to. If you have health issues or are time-poor, commit to 45 minutes twice a week and just start there. A little bit of exercise is far better than none at all.

Find a mentor

Getting a bit of support or guidance is a great way to start out. It could be a friend who's good at exercise or paying a skilled coach to help give you a plan of attack. This can totally change the success you'll have. If you ask the vast majority of terrific musicians, they would have had a music teacher who put them in the right place and showed them the right way to do things. This is what has allowed them to become really skilled, and the same is true in the fitness industry. If you've got someone coaching you through it, your early results will be that much better which will give you more drive to continue to do it.

Learn a skill

Activities such as running on a treadmill offer very little in the way of progression and are therefore increasingly difficult to sustain. I find many of my clients get more satisfaction from mastering complex movements. It's a powerful way to improve brain size, brain health and cognitive function. Perfecting a skill also helps keep training fun and fresh as you gradually progress towards your end goal, which is the key to a sustainable fitness regime.

For optimum results, consider resistance training

Resistance training is the key ingredient for any successful body transformation. It is essential for sustainable long-term fat loss. As well as positive hormonal changes for optimal health, resistance training also increases bone mass and density, muscle mass and your resting metabolic rate. It can also improve sleep, decrease blood pressure and improve heart function.

Understand the difference between goals and results

There's a big difference between goals and results. Oftentimes people in the fitness industry get the two really mixed up. A goal is something you achieve in training and the result is what happens after the achievement of those goals. A lot of the time, people think that the fat loss is the goal, but it's not. If you think that way, you'll always be disappointed because it's something we have less control over. Your goal isn't to lose weight, it's to come to the gym three times per week for a month or sticking to your meal plan. Then you reassess what your body looks like and tailor next month's goal if needed.

Don't let money become an excuse

National data has shown that obesity rates tend to be higher in poorer parts of the community. But it doesn't have to be this way. A lot of our sports stars come from low socioeconomic backgrounds; not to mention plenty of entrepreneurs and millionaire businessmen. I think a person's mindset is what depicts their success in a certain area. I don't really buy the excuse that people are too poor to eat well and exercise regularly. This is especially true in Australia; we are one of the most privileged people in the world. Even on a very low income, if your priority is health, you can find the money to exercise and eat well. You can get a gym membership for under $20 a week, which I think nearly all employed people can afford. If you truly want to change your circumstances, you're the master of your own universe.

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