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 that doesn’t want to do both of those things? If you have found yourself in a fitness rut and want a foolproof 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” and I’m sure they can help you reach your goals!
Secrets to Fitness Success #1 – Set Your Goals
This might seem cliché, but it is 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 also 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 which I plan 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 pounds? What is your reason for gaining 5 pounds of muscle or losing 15 pounds 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.
Secrets to Fitness Success #2 – Develop a Routine
It is proven that if you develop a structured plan for your daily workouts rather than deciding on a whim when and where to workout on a day-to-day 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.
Secrets to Fitness Success #3 – Put “You” First
One of the most common excuses I hear from my clients when it comes to working out is, “I’m too busy”. Basically, they didn’t make time to eat right or workout because life got too crazy. I watch several people who 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, 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 healthier 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 so take personal responsibility and make eating right and exercising a priority.
Secrets to Fitness Success #4 – Think of Food as Fuel
Eating a healthy and clean diet is actually more important than exercising when it comes to losing weight and reducing overall body fat. Think of your body as a 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 every time they eat a meal. If their food 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 exercise accounts for 30%. You should have a good idea about what types of foods are considered “clean” for which to fuel your body and which ones are unhealthy and should be avoided. If you don’t know, there is probably a good chance that you are not losing weight because of this reason. If this is the case, then make sure to read the Nutrition 101 article for a huge list of clean foods to include in your diet. 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 and write down everything you eat. 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 foods that are going to get them lean or they are just uneducated about the nutritional value of most foods. A great tip for how to eat clean is to keep a balanced diet of protein, fats, and carbohydrates. A good split in a 2,000 calorie diet would include a breakdown of 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat. If you want to lose 1 pound a week, you must eat 500 calories less than you burn for 7 days which will total a 3,500 calorie deficit which equals 1 pound of fat. You must always eat breakfast, and if you are going to eat carbs, try to eat them earlier in the 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 and increase the consumption of high density, low-calorie foods, such as fibrous 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 DO NOT 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 nutritional program that includes all your fuel types in moderation and in proper proportions. Moderation is key and there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing”, so make sure to watch your portions!
Secrets to Fitness Success #5 – Start Weight Training and Cut Cardio
Your body is composed of lean body mass, fat mass, bones and other tissues. Your body fat percentage as a total of your body weight is your fat mass (in pounds) and the remaining weight, in pounds, equals your lean body mass. Most people who are trying to lose weight are trying to decrease their 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 will be 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 every day without any weight training program at all, and you are not seeing any results, I am not surprised. Long bouts of steady paced aerobic workouts (whether it be running or biking at the same 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 when starting this type of program if you are overweight and have never worked out before. 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 3 times a week for about 45 minutes each time will get you the results you want. It will not only increase your composition in favor of the lean body mass, but it will also help you gain some overall health benefits, such as an increase in core strength, increase in bone mineral density, and a higher overall aerobic capacity.
I hope that I have helped motivate you to rethink your fitness goals and start making a plan that puts you first and helps you to prioritize healthy eating and intense weight lifting 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 cardio exercise. Most of all, think of your fitness goals in the broader sense in that you are adopting a healthier 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!