Ultimate Guide to Fitness
Whether you’re looking to drop a few pounds, tone up or maintain the current figure you’ve already worked so hard for, this is your ultimate guide to fitness. Discover the basic vital knowledge you need to get started and learn more about goal-setting, how to stay motivated and what to do when life gets in the way of your health and fitness aspirations. Once you’re ready to make the first step, find out how much you should be working out, what you should be doing and how hard you should be working to get the body you’re after.
A healthy workout regimen includes cardio, strength-training, flexibility and balance but find out how to divvy up your time between all of these areas of fitness and why each is so important. Of course, to lose or maintain weight is impossible without addressing diet so make sense of some diet basics and, finally, figure out what food labels mean and how to navigate the restaurant scene so you can actually avoid ‘dieting’ all together.
In addition to diet and exercise, learn how to address other areas of your life so that you not only get slimmer and trimmer but healthier and happier to ensure lasting results. Last but not least, discover everything you’ve ever wanted to know about maintaining your results once you’ve reached your goals to stay motivated and avoid backsliding into yo-yo dieting and other previous poor lifestyle habits so you can enjoy those results for years to come.
The ACE (American Council on Exercise) Transtheoretical Model (TTM) of Behavioral Change refers to initial motivation as the ‘Contemplation’ stage. In this stage, you’re considering new healthy lifestyle changes including starting a new exercise plan and/or diet. Although you haven’t taken action at this point, this stage is just as important as the rest. If you find yourself losing motivation or slipping back into the ‘Precontemplation’ stage, here are a few fun ways to get and stay motivated:
Create a Vision Board
You can keep things fresh with a Pinterest board or go old school and get out the crafting supplies including glue stick, scissors, a big piece of cardboard and a stack of magazines. Make sure you are pulling pictures that drum up emotions related to the why behind getting healthy and not just images of fit bodies. Keep the board somewhere you’ll see it each and every day so you can’t forget about your goals.
- Put Your Money Where your Mouth Is
If you’re a runner, this is probably all too familiar to you. You talk about every popular upcoming 10K or Half-Marathon but, when it comes down to it, you probably aren’t really racing unless you have some cold hard cash on the line. In a similar fashion, some find success in gathering a group of friends who each donate to a fund and he or she who loses the most weight (or percentage of weight) wins the total.
- Buddy Up
Find a friend with who is also working toward a goal and vow to be each other’s support system. When you start slipping, he or she will be there to talk you up and vice versa. It doesn’t matter if your goals are similar or not but it might be an added bonus if you can also workout and meal prep with a healthy partner in crime.
- Plan a Trip
Planning a trip to a sunny and warm destination is an obvious motivator, especially if wearing a swimsuit will be involved, but planning a trip of any kind can be a motivator to get in shape. If you plan a winter ski trip, you’ll need to have some strength, balance and cardio under your belt to last on the slopes all day and if you plan a reunion trip of any sort, you want to look your best when you run into old friends and family.
Automate your Motivation
Sign up for one of many Quote of the Day apps, text or email lists so you wake up to motivation daily or weekly. Sometimes the simplest of quotes can keep you from stopping for that donut on the way to work or skipping your evening workout because your ‘too busy.’
While goal-setting isn’t a sure fire way to success (you still have to put in the grunt work), it does give you a leg up on the competition.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The difference between a pie-in-the-sky daydream and a goal comes down to the details. To keep you even further ahead of the pack, set SMART goals:
Spend a little time to get a clear picture of what you want. Rather than vaguely stating that you’d like to lose a few pounds or sign up for a race, try something more along the lines of: “I will lose 15 pounds” or “I will sign up for my first 10K and run for the entire length of the race.” Notice that you should also use assertive language in your goals. “I will” is a much stronger message than “I want to.”
This piggybacks on making your goal specific. If you want to lose weight, specify an amount of weight or if you would like your clothes to fit better, pick a size in a specific brand and a specific article of clothing so you can truly track your progress. For example, “I will fit into a size (size #) pair of (brand) jeans.” If your goal isn’t measure able, there’s no way to track your progress or know when to celebrate your victory.
While in some cases ‘anything is possible,’ you also want to make sure you can physically or mentally attain your goal or you are setting yourself up for failure. Think about New Year’s Resolutions. Often they are so lofty and outside of one’s norm that the chances of success are quite slim. For example, losing a healthy 1-2 pounds per week is attainable for most people who have a little weight to lose and are willing to put in the effort while dropping 20 pounds in one month isn’t healthy or attainable for almost anyone. Also, take your schedule into account. If you have several big work projects coming up or a brand new baby, maybe now is not the time to pick up a side gig for additional income or to train for your first full marathon. On the other hand, this does not mean you should make your goals easy. Just make sure they are attainable, even if it’s going to take a lot of time and hard work.
If you do a little soul-searching to make sure your goals align with your interests and that they are something your really, truly want, you’ll have no trouble making sure they are realistic. If you hate running, vowing to run 5 miles daily is not realistic but aiming to lose weight, gain strength, clean up your diet or even earn more money is realistic for almost anyone (with a few specifics, of course). Although many of our goals include a shift in lifestyle and attitude, make sure they are at least something you really want and you’ll be more likely to commit to achieving them.
Once you’ve made sure your goal is specific, measurable, attainable and realistic, it’s time to set a deadline. This is another way to track your progress and ensure additional chances of success. You’ll also have the opportunity to set smaller, stepping stone goals which can help you experience little achievements along the way and keep you on track. Without a deadline, your goals are left open-ended and you could look back, years later with disappointment so make sure each of your goals are time-bound.
Getting Started & Creating a schedule:
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
After you’ve found your motivation and set your goals, here you’ve moved from the ‘Contemplation’ stage to the ‘Preparation’ stage of change which is all about planning. Here are a few tips to get you started on a healthier and more active lifestyle:
Getting Started with Diet:
Even experienced dietitians will say it’s a challenge to eat healthy without some planning and prep work. Take as many of the following steps as you can to set yourself up for diet success:
- Each weekend, plan your meals for the week ahead to avoid hunger-based meal decisions and to more efficiently use what you have in the fridge or pantry so you waste less food.
- Shop with a grocery list to prevent impulse purchases.
- Don’t avoid the middle of the grocery store. Do most of your shopping around the perimeter of the store but frozen fruits and veggies are great, healthy options and they are picked and packaged during peak season so they’re also a great way to access out-of-season produce.
- Pre-cut veggies and fruits for snacks throughout the week and for quick, after-work meal preparation.
- Hard-boil eggs for easy at-home snacks and portion out nuts for a protein-packed on-the-go option to keep in your purse, desk or car.
Getting Started with Exercise:
- If you’re nervous about getting started with a new exercise routine because you’re afraid you’ll get hurt, hire a personal trainer. Even if you don’t plan to work with him or her long-term, they can show you the proper form for several exercises and give you a rundown on how to use the equipment in your gym.
- If the gym intimidates you and knowing that you’re not alone isn’t enough to get you in the door, try at-home online workouts until you build some confidence and you’re ready for a new challenge. FitnessGlo offers several online classes with top instructors at differing lengths and intensity levels for a low monthly subscription fee.
- If you’re social and want to have fun while you workout, try group fitness classes and make sure you sample different instructors and class types to find what works best for you and to keep your body guessing so you can maximize calorie-burn.
- Book an appointment to exercise. Schedule time in your calendar for exercise and treat it just like a work meeting that you cannot miss and set a reminder on your phone. If you’re attending a group fitness class or meeting with a personal trainer, you obviously need to pay attention to the clock but even if you workout at home, pencil it in.
- Just like booking an appointment for your actual workouts, set a reminder on your phone, work computer or fitness tracking band to talk a walk, stretch or even just stand up every couple of hours. All of these little bits of movement really add up will make your body feel better at the end of the day.
- Skip the conference room and take ‘walking’ meetings at work. Again, simply moving is better than sitting and the total number of minutes you exercise per day counts the same whether it’s all in one block of time or you break it up into smaller segments.
Tracking Progress & Staying Accountable:
Tracking progress is going to look a little different for everyone. Try different methods until you find what works for you. Here are a few common questions when it comes to tracking diet and exercise:
Do I need a fitness tracking band?
Only if it works for you. When they first gained in popularity, fitness tracking bands seemed like little miracle workers that would finally fix America’s obesity epidemic by getting us to move more. Now we realize, just like with anything else, the success of these small but mighty contraptions depends on the person. If you are data-driven and analytical, you’ll likely enjoy viewing and comparing your numbers with yourself or with friends and family.
Should I keep a food journal?
Yes. At least at first. If you’re new to food labels and calorie counts or you haven’t tracked your diet in a while, a food journal is a dramatic eye-opener. Once you’ve recovered from the initial shock of what you’re really eating (‘I eat that much sugar?’ or ‘I only ate one serving of veggies yesterday?’), you’ll start to notice that you might question that second cupcake if you have to write it down or enter into your app of choice. Keeping a food journal long-term is a big commitment and not always feasible or necessary so once you’ve gotten back on track, you can usually set the journal aside and revisit it when needed for a few weeks at a time.
How often should I weigh myself?
If your goals include weight loss, you should weigh yourself but realize that weight fluctuates, day-to-day, for many reasons including water consumption and even the weather so you should weigh yourself often enough to keep track of your progress but not so often that you put too much weight on each and every movement of the dial. Usually once-per-week is sufficient.
Should I take measurements?
Yes. If your goal goes beyond just seeing the number on the scale go down and you would like to increase muscle tone, decrease body fat or fit into a smaller size, the measuring tape is your friend and sometimes a better measure of progress than the scale. Just make sure you hold the measuring tape at the exact same location and with the same degree of tightness each time. A mirror can be a handy tool to help with accuracy and once per month is a good way to gauge changes.
“I attribute my success to this: I never gave or took an excuse.” -Florence Nightingale
No matter your good intentions, we all have slip-ups and change isn’t easy for anyone so here are a few of the most common roadblocks on the path to health and wellness and detours for each:
According to the American Council on Exercise, lack of time has consistently been the number one excuse not to exercise and eat right for more than 30 years. The facts remain and we all have 24 hours in each day to manage work commitments, family, friends, our health and hopefully have a little fun. Once you use the tips above to get clear on your goals and make a plan of action, you will have an easier time prioritizing your time for what really matters to you and you can save the ‘I don’t have time’ excuse for less important things. “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.” – Zig Ziglar
When it comes to exercise, injury can be a real downer whether you’re a weekend warrior or a professional athlete. If your favorite form of cardio is running and you experience a foot injury, it’s easy to throw in the towel and give up completely but rather than give up on yourself and your goals, get creative and work around your injury instead. Look into other forms of cardio or strength to keep your body moving while you heal so when you do get back to your favorite routine, you’ll find your setback wasn’t as great.
Family & Friends
Although this one sounds the same and is similar to the ‘I don’t have enough time’ excuse, it’s specific to using others as your excuse. This is a classic for moms who say they are prioritizing their children over themselves but what’s a better influence on children than a healthy parent? If commitments with family or friends are what’s holding you back, don’t sacrifice your time with them, just do something active when you’re together! Instead of happy hour, invite a few friends to a barre class and take a walk with the family after dinner.
This is no longer a good excuse. Well, maybe it never was but now more than ever, we have options galore when it comes to fitness away from home. Airports are offering more and more healthy snack and meal options and there are several workout apps designed with travelers in mind. The Johnson & Johnson 7-Minute Workout app was specifically created so that busy business travelers could squeeze in a quick workout in their hotel room before or after meetings and Class Pass allows travelers to take group fitness classes in cities all over the country! Even Hyatt hotels will bring a yoga mat and workout shoes to your room if you forget or don’t have room in your carry-on for all of your fitness gear.