Keep reading if you feel like you have tried it all before to get into shape and are not sure where it all went wrong. Regaining your healthy, vitality, and everything that goes with that is uncomplicated, and very possible, you just need to know what to do, and follow through on it consistently.
The first thing that you need to work out is what it is exactly that you want. If you were to follow the general consensus in the health and fitness world, your goal would be to get a six pack or fit into your skinny dress, but this is really missing the picture. Focusing your attention solely on the outcome that you want takes your eyes off what you should really be looking at, which is the process you need to go through to get to where you want to be. The vast majority of people that I speak to already know that getting into magazine cover shape is not the end goal. Most know that what they really want is to get the confidence back, and be happy with how they look and feel. They want to be healthy for the long term and have the ability to be active every day and feel like they are getting stuck into a fulfilling active lifestyle. Sure you can focus on the cosmetics of looking great in your swimming togs, but this happens as a side effect of consistently doing the right things, which is what I want to cover today.
Next up, there are three basic ingredients to getting on course to finally feel like you are making strides in the right direction.
1. Strength Training
Strength training done in the right way is one of the most effective ways to build strong and mobile joint, protect your bone health, and build lean muscle mass, which in turn will help you shed excess body fat at a steady rate. Generally speaking strength training should be performed 3-5 times per week, and can be performed with little or no equipment if you have the right program and instruction. One of the most important things for me when it comes to strength training is to understand the purpose of what you are doing, and having a program that you enjoy and that challenges you to keep improving.
2. General Physical Activity Levels
When you have your regular strength training sessions in place, the next thing that you need to work on is your general day to day physical activity levels. For the most part, we need to edge this up bit by bit. Working more walking into your week, and doing things that take a bit more effort as a habit are really good places to start. Getting your strength training off the ground can be relatively easy especially if you are working with a coach, because often you will have an appointment, and will feel obliged to show up. Upping your general physical activity levels involved a bit more of a conscious effort, and spotting opportunities to do this is the key. Park a bit away from the door of the shopping centre, take the stairs, volunteer to take the rubbish out, walk to work, plan a trail walk at the weekend. They are just a few examples of how you can marginally increase your daily activity levels, which could really help to get you burning excess body fat if done consistently.
3. Eating Real Food
The third basic ingredient is to eat real food. Learning what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat it can seem like a daunting prospect, but addressed one step at a time, it is easy to build the habits you need to get you going. If you remember just one thing from this whole article, remember this: ITS ALL ABOUT HABITS. Nutrition should not be a heavy burden that makes you feel like a starving rabbit. You need to build a healthy relationship with food, learn what are good foods and bad foods, and start enjoying the real stuff. Getting back into shape is not about supplements, diets, starvation, or anything that is extreme. Drink 2 litres of water per day, eat whole foods such as meat, vegetables, and fruits most of the time, and if you fall off the wagon just get back on again.
On Consistency in Implementation
I will say it again. Its all about habits. This means that implementing what we just spoke about above consistently week in and week out, month in and month out. Some days you might veer off course, but you just get right back on course the next day, or at the next meal.
On weaving it into your day
At the beginning, it can seem like all these changes form a heavy mental load on your brain, which is why its key to firstly take the whole process one step at a time. A small 1% change each day results in 7% change in a week, and 28% change in a month if you keep it up. Once you have achieved the change in your habits required, then the real progress can begin. This is when you need to maintain your change for the long term, and watch the magic happen. The second thing you need to do to reduce the mental load of changing your poor exercise and nutrition habits to long term health giving patterns is to weave them into your day. Take the thinking out of the whole process by preparing your breakfast the night before (soak oats, chop fruit etc), prepare meals in advance and store them in lunchboxes in the fridge or freezer, and have foods that are ready to go at hand, This is an absolutely essential step in making the whole process as stress free and sustainable as possible.
Whatever mode of training that you select should be engaging, fun, challenging, and effective. Things like running on a treadmill, or any other stationary exercise machine, or fixed weights machines offer very little in the form of stimulation, challenge, or meaningful engagement. Learn how to move your body, and get stuck into learning some new skills. It’s a great opportunity to reconnect with the outdoors with walks and cycles when you can.
On Drastic Change
Dramatic and drastic changes in your body are mostly bad. Loosing weight dramatically can often results in a backlash after you finish the diet or extreme protocol that you are undertaking. Remember its all about habits. Replacing the habits that you have, that took years to build, and replacing them with new habits. This process should be done gradually, and when done properly, the effects will last for the rest of your life. Jumping from one diet to another, one program to another, and yo-yo weight loss is not only bad for your body, but very tough mentally, and a very ineffective way to achieve long term health.
Life happens. Sometimes you wake up feeling good, sometimes you wake up feeling bad. Motivation is not an endless resource, and sometimes it can seem to be in short supply, but the good news is that it is renewable. When the chips are down, you regroup, refocus, and jump on board again. The longer you stick to the process of getting regular strength training, edging up your general physical activity levels, and eating real food, the more the whole thing will become intricately woven through your daily life, the less mental strength will be required to maintain the effort, and the easier it will be to keep it going. The easier it becomes, the LESS motivation is actually required to keep it going, but the important thing is to work hard to lay down the tracks in the initial months that will forge the path for the subsequent months and years.
In a similar way that the more you do something, the easier it gets, and the less likely it is that you will not succeed, having the right guidance and coaching in place give you the confidence of knowing that you are doing the right thing, andmakes it easier to follow through on the program. I find it myself as well, that its much easier to stick with a program that my coach has put together for me as opposed to a program that I put together myself. The important things when it comes to picking your coach are that firstly, they know what they are doing, and their methods have proven successful in the past. Its also important that you like your coach, and trust that they are giving you the right guidance along with some accountability to keep you on track. It can be easy to say to yourself that you can go it alone, and this will certainly work at the beginning when your motivation is high. You need your coach to come through to you when you are at risk of going off course, when your motivation reservoir is not at its peak, and to get you to the finish line.
This article is by Ainle Ó Cairealláin MSc CSCS.