Have you ever noticed that the things you’re prepared for in life are a heck of a lot easier to get through than the things you aren’t prepared for? For example, exams, family parties, holidays, interviews, relationships, etc… virtually everything is better when its planned out ahead of time. The same is true for your health and fitness!
Have a goal
This is the very first step you should take. Ask yourself what you want to accomplish, and be realistic with the expected outcome. Here are a few types of goals you can set for yourself…
I want to go to the gym “x” amount of times per week
I want to lose “x” amount of weight this month
I want to lower my cholesterol levels and be healthier overall
I want to be able to play and run outside with my friends/children/grandchildren
I want to eat more fruits and veggies starting this week
I wanted to get stronger and lose body fat
There are many, many more goals you could have… as long as you have at LEAST one!
Have a plan
Once you have your goal, it's time to start preparing! How are you going to accomplish your goals? You can’t stick to a routine (both exercise and diet) if you don’t have a plan written out ahead of time! If you aren’t very good at making a plan and sticking to it, then its possible you need some more liability in the form of a workout partner, workout group, personal trainer, etc. There are many scenarios which come up daily that we must be prepared for if we want to maintain our healthy lifestyle. Here’s a few examples…
- Finding a block of at least 1 hour in your day where you are not busy and can exercise
- You work so much and long hours so you don’t have time to eat healthy
- You travel for work and find yourself eating out at restaurants too much
- Going to the gym with no plan of attack for when you get there
- Making sure that you’re continually making progress in the gym
- Its the holidays and your gym is closed
- Its freezing outside so you can’t run/walk like you usually do
- You give into temptation and eat something you know you shouldn’t and feel horrible
1) I think its fairly commonplace now for the average american adult to work 40-60 hours per week. You might think its nearly impossible to find time to workout, but if you plan accordingly and ahead of time, you’ll be a-okay. if you have just 1 spare hour, 3 times per week, you’ll have enough time to maintain a great workout schedule. However, you must plan these workout sessions ahead of time and at the beginning of each week. If you are someone who is always “too busy” you’ll find that if you don’t have your workout scheduled that it will be that much easier to say, “oh i don’t have time for that today.” However if you’ve made prior arrangements (either with a workout partner, a personal trainer, or even just with yourself) you’ll be much more likely to stick with your routine. Find out what keeps you motivated and accountable, and stick with it. Nobody is truly too busy to workout 3 hours per week, so stop using that excuse.
2) I hear this one all the time, “I work so many hours per day and sometimes don’t have enough time to take a lunch break. Also i'm not hungry at breakfast so I sometimes don’t eat until dinner.” That would be about a 20 hour period without eating, and incase you didn’t already know, thats bad! This is the type of person who usually would go out and get lunch if they had the time, but going out to eat does take a lot of time. This is where being prepared helps immensely! You have to pre-cook your lunches and pack them the night before so they’re ready to take with you to work. Throw in some healthy snacks (fruit, veggies, nuts) and you’ve got enough food to get you through the day. I find that cooking my food in bulk saves me a ton of time. Usually on Sunday i’ll cook for the entire week and package them into separate tupperware’s right on the spot. It might take an hour or two, but saves me so much time later in the week. If i’m in a rush, I can grab a pre-made meal and go!
3) This one goes along the same lines as the previous example. If you’re someone who travels for work and you’re “forced” to eat out at restaurants a lot it pays off to be prepared. You can still cook your food in advance and bring it all with you in a cooler assuming you’re driving to your destination. If you’re flying then that does make it quite a bit harder. However, you can still go grocery shopping once you have reached your destination, and get by just fine depending on your hotels amenities. If you have no choice but to eat out, then you can still PLAN on eating things from the menu that you know are healthy. Go with a lean protein option and vegetables instead of fries or mashed potatoes.
4) I wrote about this one briefly in a previous article, but it’s hugely important… so here it is again! If you just go to the gym without a plan (aka: today is chest and triceps, and i’ll be doing bench press, fly’s, pushups, skull crushers, and cable press downs) then you’ll likely end up bouncing from machine to machine and not really get anything accomplished. So before your week begins, you must know what day you’ll be doing what body parts, and exactly what exercises you will be performing before you get the gym. You’ll arrive with a purpose, get to work, and not waste any time thinking about what you should do next. If you guys ever have questions about how to set up your workout days and exercises feel free to ask! That all depends on the person and how many days per week and the individual goals.
5) Another one I touched on before, but again… hugely important! We all want to go to the gym and continue to see progress right? Right. But what happens when your initial weight loss/muscle building plateau’s? I’ve seen so many people continue their daily routines without making progress at all for months and even YEARS at a time. Its a shame really, because its an easy fix. You need to be prepared with some way to track your sets, weights, reps, exercises, rest time, routines, and ensure that you’re making PROGRESS. Whether progress comes in the form of increasing weight, increasing reps, increasing sets, decreasing rest time, increasing days of exercise per week… all that matters is that you’re making progress in one of these areas continually. This is the principle of progressive overload, and is the staple of achieving continual results in any workout program. For example, I used to go to the gym with someone who would always throw on 225lbs on the bench and knock it out for 12-15 reps. About a year later, he was doing the same 225lbs for the same 12-15 reps. Now imagine if he used the principle of progressive overload and added weight whenever he could successfully do the set for 12 reps. I can guarantee he would have been able to lift a lot more weight in the bench press after even a few months. When you increase the work being done the body will react by increasing both muscle and strength to compensate. Bottom line, track your stuff, and make sure you’re making progress!
6) “Uh oh, the gym is closed on a Wednesday and Thursday and I can’t go at all this weekend! My week is ruined, I might as well not go at all and start fresh next week.” You know anybody that would do this? yea, I do too. Just because the gym is closed does not mean you can not work out. If you’re really dedicated to your routine, you will find ways around this. Most easily accessible, is doing a workout in your home. And even if you don’t own P-90x or Instanity or whatever else they’re selling these days, you can just as easily perform a search online and find a handful of great workouts in a few minutes. The workouts you find won’t be great for long term use, but will be more than sufficient for one or two days while your gym is closed! No excuses, now get to work!
7) Winter is a tough time for a lot of people. Especially those people who hate the cold but usually get their exercise by walking or running outside. To add to it all, winter takes away from all the other physical activities one might perform outside when its warm out (swimming, sports, hiking, etc). During this time its just as important to stay active and make sure you don’t hibernate the entire winter and put on 30lbs. You’ve got a couple options here, you can join a gym with your walking/running buddy, or workout from home with a quality at-home program. Either way, doing something is better than doing nothing at all! So don’t use the winter as an excuse, plan ahead and know what you’ll be doing each winter to stay in shape! And if your winter plan is to fly somewhere warm, take me with you :)
8) Okay lets say you planned ahead and have been doing everything right with your eating and exercise program… but then one day tragedy strikes and you give into temptation. After all we’re only human. After a binge eating session the first place we usually go is a feeling of worthlessness, and shame, and failure. I’ve been there myself before, but luckily for you im here to tell you that along on planning for everything else, you must PLAN to FAIL some of the time. Lets face it, nobody else is perfect 100% of the time, and the same goes for you! This will happen, and you will get through it, fact. You might fail to prepare your food, or fail to reach your body weight goal, or fail to go to the gym at least 3x per week. Use it as a learning experience and get better from it! It will never be easy, but nothing in life usually is.
Now get on with it, and start planning!
Until next time, keep it healthy.
Brian Lepine CPT