Start the year off right, and finish it strong, with these six steps to accomplishing your fitness goals.
By Ashley Marriott
1. Find Your WHY!
The Why is the core compelling reason that energizes your fitness goals.
Clarifying why you want to get fit or lose weight is the key to sticking with your program when willpower begins to fade. Two key factors drive this:
- External motivation – weight loss often begins with this (fitting into a certain pair of jeans, for instance). This type of motivation may work in the short term, but for long-term success, intrinsic motivation is key.
- Internal motivation – your internal motivation can be identified by asking yourself two simple questions: Why do I really want this? What are the short and long-term consequences of me not doing this?
The clearer you become on your true “WHY” the more committed you will be to achieving your goal.
- Fit into a size _____
- Look great for my trip to _______
- Be able to play with my children
- Feel confident in my body, love me
2. Believe You Can Do It.
If you’ve tried and failed to lose weight or maintain an exercise program then you may believe you can’t do it now. You may have an internal dialogue telling you that your fitness goals are beyond reach, such as:
- I’m too old to lose weight.
- I’ve tried every diet and failed each time.
- I eat healthy and workout so there’s nothing else I can do.
- My partner or family isn’t supportive.
- I’m too busy.
As soon as you’re aware of a negative thought say STOP. Change your inner dialogue and tell yourself you can make small changes each day. Commit to using empowering self-talk. Controlling your thinking is key to modifying your behavior.
3. Find a Role Model and Get support.
Choose a person who inspires you to be your healthiest self. It doesn’t have to be someone you know, it could be a public figure that’s had similar struggles with weight issues. Define the lifestyle habits and behavior modifications that this person made to reach their fitness goals and incorporate those behaviors into your life.
Research shows that the most successful weight loss is achieved when you have a support system in place. Ask for support from your partner, friends, and family. Tell them, specifically, how you’d like their support.
Online support and professional training from websites like Fitorbit can be a valuable resource. Weekly meal plans and exercise routines are designed specifically for your needs by certified personal trainers.
4. Keep Your Diet and Exercise Program Simple.
It seems like there is a new diet book out each week and with the information overload, it can seem impossible to figure out what a healthy diet really is. Over the last 25 years, information about what we should and shouldn’t eat and the how much we should exercise has multiplied exponentially, become more complicated, and is often contradictory. The 80s low fat, high impact (remember doing step classes with 5 risers?) craze left us heavier with achy knees. But some of today’s health and fitness claims may prove to be just as empty.
I have found Michael Pollan’s bestselling book, In Defense of Food, to be a fantastic resource on healthy eating. Within the first few pages, he sums up all he has learned through decades of research regarding healthy eating with the following words:
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
The simplicity of the message struck me and I have incorporated it into my life. You can too.
Pollen’s advice is simple and direct:
- Eat less food.
- Eat slowly.
- Cook meals from scratch.
- Avoid products that make health claims.
- Buy local, organic produce from farmers markets.
- Eat wild fish and wild game.
I advocate an equally simple yet effective prescription for achieving exercise and fitness goals.
- Move daily (30 minutes of exercise).
- Break a sweat (sustained increased heart rate).
- Respect your body (honor the gift of health).
Recommendations from the American Heart Association and The American College of Sports Medicine can be synthesized for simplicity:
- Do moderately intense cardio 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
- Or, do vigorously intense cardio 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week.
- Do 8-10 strength-training exercises, 8-12 repetitions of each exercise twice a week
Moderate-intensity physical activity means working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat, yet still being able to carry on a conversation. It should be noted that to lose weight or maintain weight loss, 60 – 90 minutes of physical activity might be necessary. The 30-minute recommendation is for the average, healthy adult to maintain health and reduce the risk for chronic disease.
5. Go Slow.
When focusing on health and fitness goals, you need to be thoughtful about your approach. The extra pressure to achieve your New Year’s goals may create an “all or nothing” or “go hard or go home” attitude. Enthusiasm is great, but overdoing it the first week of the New Year may leave you injured and disappointed.
- Overuse injuries result from repetitive micro damage to the body from sporting activity or fitness training that exceeds the bodies’ ability to repair such damage. Common complaints from overuse injuries include:
- Stress fractures
- Shoulder pains
- Shin splints
Many injuries are caused by weak muscles, which simply are not ready to handle the specific demands of your sport or training.
I always emphasize the importance of starting slowly if someone has not been exercising regularly. It is, at times, frustrating to see how some popular weight-loss reality TV programs show a person running sprints on their first day working out without realistic warnings of the toll this can take. This type of over-training can create foot or ankle problems, hamstring strains, low back pain or even stress fractures.
Yes, our bodies need to be challenged, but the goal is to create long-term fitness habits, muscle balance, and to remain injury free. In order to increase your fitness levels, make sure a strong fitness foundation is in place.
The following are important building blocks that are crucial to reaching your fitness goals:
Gradual Progression: Exercise progression refers to progressively overloading the body’s systems and increasing the training stimulus over time to increase fitness adaptations gradually. Simply stated, if you apply the same stress week after week you won’t see progress, but if you add too much stress too quickly, you may become injured and degrade your performance rather than increase it. Therefore GRADUAL PROGRESSION is key.
Types of progression:
- Frequency: Add another workout/athletic training day
- Intensity: Increase weight or repetitions on your strength training/ Increase challenge on cardio machine or outdoor training
- Duration: Changing the amount of time your exercising.
*Remember if the intensity increases the duration should usually decrease.
6. TRACK IT!
“What gets measured gets done”
You can track your eating and workouts with free weight loss and exercise apps:
- Lose It!: Fill in some important info about yourself, including age, height, current weight, goal weight, and how many pounds you want to lose per week and you’re ready to go. The app tells you how many calories you should have each day to meet your weight-loss goal, and also keeps track of the calories you consume each day and the calories you lose via exercise. The “My Day” feature gives you a quick snapshot of your day, how many calories you’ve consumed and burned, and how many calories you have left. Easy to use, easy to read, and a perfect tool to help you reach your fitness goals.
- Easy Weight Loss Tips: This app offers quick diet, exercise, and nutrition tips to help you on your quest, such as, “Keep a bowl of cut-up vegetables in a see-through container in the refrigerator.”
- Calorie Counter by MyNetDiary: After setting up your profile (including current weight and weight-loss goal), a menu pops up where you can log daily meals, workouts, daily weight, and water consumption. What’s great is you can search their huge food database of over 400,000+ foods or scan an itbarcode code to keep track of meals and snacks, and it quickly calculates how many calories you have left to enjoy that day. You can also search popular exercise activities, enter the amount of time, and it records the calories you burn. Simple and easy to use, there’s also an option to share your successes on Facebook and Twitter.
Follow these six steps and make 2018 your healthiest (and happiest) year yet!