I have been an active person my entire life, and I don’t remember a time where I was NOT doing a sport in school, training for an event, or coaching individuals to help them reach their fitness goals. I have a healthy lifestyle and believe that there is no other way to get “fit” but to adopt some habits into your life that will positively encourage this type of living. If you feel good, you will look good, and who do you know doesn’t want to do both of those things? If you have found yourself in fitness rut and want a fool-proof snapshot of what you must do in order to achieve fitness success, then I hope I can help you. I am not saying that I know the secret to your success: however, I have picked up on some recurring themes within the four walls of the gym that I train at, which I recite to my clients on a daily basis. These themes I refer to as my Keys for Fitness Success: Set Your Goals, Develop a Routine, Put “You” First, Thinking of Food as Fuel, and Start Weight Training and Cut the Cardio.
SET YOUR GOALS.
This might seem cliché, but it is very true. In order to achieve something that you set out to do, you must clearly visualize what this “something” is and how you are going to go about measuring it your ways in which to get “it” and knowing when it is that you finally are going to achieve “it.” I always have a short-term goal and a longer-term goal, and I am always writing my goals down with a clear map of “How I am going to achieve it” planned along with it. The more you are inspired to reach your goal, the higher your chance of achieving it. What really drives you to lose 30 lbs? What is your reason for gaining 5 lbs of muscle or losing 15 lbs of fat? If your reason for the goal is not a strong enough fuel for you to grasp this pot of gold at the end of the tunnel, you might find yourself on the path to non-achievement. Get realistic about what you want to achieve, draw out a path for how you are going to go about it, and keep your plan visible so that you are constantly reminded of it. Sometimes, I even tell my closest friends and family about my path to my goals so that they can encourage me along the way.
DEVELOP A ROUTINE.
It is proven that if you develop a structured plan for your daily workouts rather than deciding on whim when and where to workout on a workout-to-workout basis, then you will be more successful. Lay out your workout plan a week in advance so that you are making it a priority, and therefore, can plan other events around it. For instance, start waking up in the morning before work and head to the gym at least 4 times a week. After two weeks, you will be amazed that this routine you have developed has become second nature and getting fit has become part of your lifestyle.
PUT “YOU” FIRST.
One of the most common excuses I hear from my clients when it comes to working out was, “I got too busy:” or, basically, they didn’t make time to eat right or workout because life got too crazy. I watch several people that I know train for Ironmans, who also have families and full-time jobs. Training for this event can sometimes add up to working out 3-5 hours in 1 day. And they find time to fit it in. So, that just proves that the whole, “I didn’t have time” line is the biggest excuse in the book and I find it super difficult to accept it. You have 24 hours in a day and for at least 1 hour of that day, you can set aside time to enjoy some time in the gym, or in a pool, or on your bike. Exercise is important because not only will it make you look better, but it will make you feel awesome and improve your health. Wouldn’t the chance to ultimately live longer motivate you enough to mange your time better throughout the day and make healthy decisions. If you can, workout before you go to your job in the morning. Find time to fit in a lunch-hour workout if your job allows. Weekends are perfect for family activities, in which you can join your spouse for an evening walk or encourage your kids to play at the park while you run around the nearby bike path. You are in control- take personal responsibility and make eating right and exercise a priority.
THINK OF FOOD AS FUEL.
Eating a healthy, or clean, diet is more important than the exercise put in by an individual when it comes to losing weight or body fat. Think of your body as a well-working machine. If you feed your machine the cleanest fuel, it will perform better- faster, stronger, and more efficient. I tell my clients to think about the food that they are putting into their mouth and if their choices are not getting them closer to their fitness goal, then don’t consume it: simple as that. I would venture to say that diet is almost 70% of the weight loss battle, where as exercise is 30%. You should have a good idea about what types of food are considered “clean” foods for which to fuel your body and which ones are unhealthy, foods. (If not, there is probably a good chance that you are not losing weight because of this reason.) Remember that it is human nature to overestimate the amount of “good” food that a person eats and underestimate the number of total calories that a person eats in a day. You can try out this theory by keeping a food journal for a week. You might be amazed at just how many calories you are eating in a day, or how few you are consuming. One of the biggest problems that people have is that they don’t eat enough, or frequently enough. Most of my clients don’t eat enough of the food that is going to get them lean or they are uneducated about the nutritional value of most foods. Some big tips for how to eat clean is to keep a balanced diet of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. A good split in a 2000 calorie diet would include a breakdown of 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat. If you want to lose 1 lbs a week, you must eat 500 calories less than you burn for 7 days and a total of a 3500 calorie deficit equals 1 lb lost. You must always eat breakfast, and if you are going to eat carbs, try to eat them at this time of day, and around the time of your workout. Try to eat 5 to 6 small meals a day, each meal consisting of 200-300 calories. Increase the consumption of high density, low calorie foods, such as vegetables. I always have some lean protein and veggies for dinner, which is completely filling and satisfying. Limit the amount of sugars you eat, while also watching your consumption of alcohol. When I say limit, I mean keep these servings to about 1-2 a week. Trust me, if you cut them out, after a week or two your body will not crave them anymore. Increase the amount of water that you drink and, the biggest thing of all; you don’t need to starve yourself in order to lose weight. The best ‘diet’ is one that is not called a diet, but that is seen as an overall healthy food menu that includes all your fuel types in moderation and in proper proportions. Moderation is key and, yes, there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing”- so, watch your portions!
START WEIGHT TRAINING AND CUT THE CARDIO.
Your body is composed of Lean Body Mass and Fat Mass. Your body fat percentage as a total of your total body weight is your fat mass (in lbs) and the remaining weight, in lbs, equals your lean body mass. Most people who are trying to “lose weight” are trying to decrease this body fat percentage, or total fat mass. Therefore, you must increase your lean body mass, or muscle mass, so that your body composition becomes less fat and more muscle- plain and simple. The most effective way in which to do this is to start a weight training program. The more muscle you have on your body, the greater the amount of fat burned. In addition, with a higher amount of lean body mass, the greater your resting metabolic rate will be because of the fuel needed for these muscles to work and perform. If you are spending endless hours in a gym on an elliptical trainer for 45 minutes a day without any weight training program at all, and are not seeing any results, I am not surprised. Long bouts of steady paced aerobic workouts (whether it be running or biking at one pace for an hour or two) without any variation in speed or intensity will not do much for making your body lean. You may drop some weight in the beginning, if you are overweight and have never worked out before, starting this type of program. However, our bodies are smart and will start to adapt to this long, slow distance and your results will begin to plateau. Keep in mind that you can get more bang for your buck at the gym by lifting weights for 30 minutes rather than running for 60 minutes. In fact, lifting weights for 3 times a week for about 45 minutes each time will get you the results you want, to not only increase your composition in favor of the lean body mass, but to help you gain some overall health benefits, such as an increase in core strength, increase in bone mineral density, and higher overall aerobic capacity.
I hope that I have helped motivate you to re-think your fitness goals and start making a plan that puts you first and helps you to prioritize healthy eating and routine workouts. Remember that time is truly of the essence for all of us, and that you can get in a more effective workout in less time than you think by doing more resistance training and less steady state elliptical training. Most of all, think of your fitness goals in the broader sense in that you are adopting a more healthy lifestyle. Exercise and healthy eating are positive choices that will put you on the path to living a stronger, more youthful life full of health and happiness. Now, go out there and enjoy life!
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