The road to a better version of yourself starts with setting specific goals
By Migie Felizardo, CSCS,CPT, Pn1 | Photos by Matheus Ferrero, Martin Barak, Crew, Ayo Ogunseinde, Drew Coffman, and rawpixel.com/Unsplash
Another year has begun and obviously a lot of people have fitness goals to achieve. Gyms are full during these months and people are excited to begin working out for healthier and fitter bodies. Here, I’ve written lifestyle tips to educate and guide you on your fitness journey. Whether you’re starting out or are already experienced, these tips will benefit you as you progress further in getting fitter and leaner.
1. Set a Goal, Put it into Writing, and Have a Strong Reason for Achieving It
It is always important to start with the end in mind. Having a set goal in fitness with strong reasons behind it will force you to work hard on something specific especially when the going gets tough. Make sure you write them and be specific, as it has already been proven that people who write goals achieve them better and faster than those who do not. Once you have set your goals, you will begin creating and looking for plans to achieve them.
2. Make the Action Steps Easy as You Start
Fitness and training require consistency, patience, and hard work. And for those just starting to get fit, it can be overwhelming and may cause discouragement. A lot of people attempt to change too much at once. That makes it nearly impossible to change anything at all. So whatever steps you decide to do, make sure you are confident that you can do it consistently at 80 to 90 percent of the time. And don’t worry if you fail at times, get back up and keep going. Eventually these will become positive habits you can build upon then you’ll see results as time goes by.
3. Learn to Track Your Progress Regularly
No one wants to work hard for something that will lead to nothing at all. Tracking your progress will keep you informed and motivated with changes in your body. There are different ways to track your progress and these include changes in your weight, Body Mass Index, Body Fat Percentage, lean mass, girth measurements (including waist and hip ratio), before and after photos, clothing size, fitness performance tests, and even feedback from other people.
Realize that it’s not always about just the scale. But do track your progress as consistently as possible with the same time, same clothes, and same body state (stress and hydration levels). It is ideal that you do measurements every four to six weeks as this is the timeframe when our bodies get significant adaptations and changes from a fitness program.
Now for some people these types of progress tracking will not be realistic especially if you do not have the equipment and the skills to do them. You can have someone knowledgeable to do them for you or do behavior tracking. This means you measure actions not outcomes. Focus on tracking the small, healthy things you do consistently every day. Rather than focusing on what you don’t have yet, turn your attention to what you do have and what you can do. Simply, this means checking if you did positive actions (like eating less junk, staying hydrated, scheduling your workouts, sleeping enough etc.) compared to before. You can always track what you have control of.
4. Eat Better and Be Conscious of Your Nutrition Most of the Time
Let’s face it, exercise alone only works until some point. Eventually you will only get stronger but not lose fat anymore if you follow a poor diet. Getting leaner and fitter will require that you get your calories lower than your maintenance and of course keep yourself healthy while doing it. The goal of good nutrition is to help improve performance, health, and body composition—all at the same time. Obviously diet plans have to be specific for each individual but following good nutrition guidelines will make and keep you lean, fuel your workouts, and stay healthy.
Here are basic guidelines for exercise nutrition from the Harvard Medical School and Precision Nutrition:
For someone who wants to be more specific on exercise nutrition:
5. Engage in a Progressive Strength Training Program
The best way to change body composition positively (lose fat and gain lean muscle) is a quality strength training program. Increasing muscle mass improves your metabolism, which means your body will burn more calories at rest since muscle is metabolically active. A good strength training program aims for you to get stronger, lift heavier or be better with your exercises as you go on with the program. Include compound movements like squats, deadlifts, lunges, presses, rows, and pull-ups in a structured program as you work bigger muscle groups and burn more calories.
For beginners with less experience, you can start with bodyweight variations like squats, step-ups, lunges, planks, and push-ups then load them eventually. Strength training will also benefit your sports performance (as you do it right), improve health, look toned, and even boost confidence. And women don’t worry, because lifting weights won’t make you bulky like men due to hormonal differences.
6. Mix HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and LISS (Low Intensity Steady State) Cardio
People these days are crazy about HIIT since it burns a lot of calories in less time and even promotes post-exercise calorie burn. However doing too much can be taxing for your body, leaving you with less recovery time; it might even affect your strength training progress. Steady state cardio like brisk walking, jogging, and biking at a lower intensity but longer in duration are still beneficial in your fitness program especially for cardiovascular health and recovery. The best approach is to strategize when you are going to do them. HIIT can be done twice or thrice a week usually after strength training sessions as it is also short and takes less time. Steady state cardio can be done during your off days so you can still stay active and have extra calories burned during the week.
7. Rest and Recover
People often train too much or too little. And those who are just starting out usually do too much and expect unrealistic results. If you notice the most successful athletes, they normally train hard, train smart, and allot time for recovery. We can learn from them and use it in our fitness programs to maximize continuous progress. These can include basic flexibility and relaxation methods like yoga, passive stretching, foam rolling, massage, and a full rest day.
8. Try Other Types of Physical Training
If you have been training long enough, you will sometimes experience boredom or even plateau in progress. Trying other types of training, which you aren’t accustomed to, can break those burnouts and even develop new skills in fitness. Normally after you’ve done new forms of training for a short period of time and come back to your regular program, you can see even more progress as you continue. It’s just like cross-training for athletes during their post-season.
9. Hire a Coach or Look for People to Inspire and Guide You
If you really have no idea how to start then hiring a good coach will be the best solution. And if you have been training for so long and stopped progressing, a good coach can adjust your program to make it even more effective. Looking for people who are into fitness and training will make you informed and motivated so you can be held accountable with your goals. You might actually even inspire others to be fitter.
10. Start and Take Action Now
If you wait too long for the perfect time, place, mood, equipment, and many more factors to start, you’ll never get anywhere soon. Do everything you can to get started like enroll at a gym, buy home equipment (adjustable dumbbells, resistance bands, jump rope etc.), listen to motivational music, or run outside. As the saying states “Do what you can, with what you have and with where you are.” Once you start, everything should follow and even if you make mistakes, learn from them and alter your fitness program so you can still progress. Hopefully this doesn’t just inform you but also inspire you to start getting fitter and leaner this year.