As it relates to starting a fitness plan, good intentions are not uncommon – but follow through and results are.
For most people that have a track record of starting and stopping fitness plans with frustrating regularity, the problem is not laziness. It’s a lack of good information, and an overload of bad or misleading information.
People simply don’t know what to do. Hopefully this article can at least get you going in the right direction.
Step #1: Start With Strength.
If you are a novice to fitness, then you need to start by building your physical foundations. This is your muscle mass. Without it, you are destined for weakness, frailty, dependence on the assistance of others, and also a slow metabolism. Muscle controls our movements – walking, running, standing, climbing, bending, lifting, squatting, twisting, etc. If we don’t move well then what should be simple physical tasks become exceedingly difficult or even painful – walking up stairs, cleaning out the attic, moving a piece of furniture, or just playing around on the floor with the grandkids.
Start your fitness plan by engaging in a simple strength training plan to build your foundation of muscle mass. 2-3 days per week is plenty for most novices.
Step #2: Add in Moderate Cardiovascular Work
Cardiovascular work doesn’t have to be complicated. If you aren’t too keen on taking an aerobics class or using any of the traditional cardio machines (treadmills, stationary bikes, etc) then just go for a walk. Build up to 30 minutes per day – maybe longer if you have the time. When 30 minutes gets easy – start walking faster! If you have a piece of cardio equipment around the house, don’t sell it just yet. I prefer outdoor walks but on bad weather days cardio machines can come in handy to get in your 30 minutes.
Step #3: Fix Your Nutrition
I tell all my new clients on Day One: You cannot “out-exercise” a bad diet. If you want to get the most out of your fitness plan (lose fat, build muscle, improve health) then you have to be intentional about the way you eat. I like a 4 meal per day meal plan – Breakfast, Lunch, Late Afternoon, and Dinner. The late afternoon meal is extraordinarily helpful to avoid over eating at night. Most people go much longer between lunch and dinner than they do between breakfast and lunch. So when they get to their evening meal at the end of the day, they are often ravenous. This leads to over eating and poor food choices. My favorite afternoon snack for clients is a handful of almonds and an apple. This combo will leave your feeling full into the evening and keep you from over eating at dinner time.
Your other 3 meals of the day should be largely based around animal based protein (meat & eggs) and fibrous vegetables. If you want to get a lot of weight off then limit your starchy carbs like breads, rice, pasta, and potato and also things like fruit juice which is really high in sugar. If you take in a lot of dairy, it’s a good idea to cut back on that as well.
Step #4: Follow a Plan, Stick to a Schedule
You can’t just wing it on any of the above three items. You have to have a plan on paper. It doesn’t have to be complex but it does need to be on paper. Write out your meal plan and stick it on the fridge. Put a TIME next to each of your four meals – maybe 8:00, 12:00, 4:00, & 7:00.
The same with your gym time- What day of the week? What time of day? Get these times and dates on paper and start scheduling other things around them. Your workout time needs to be semi-permanently etched in stone or it won’t happen. Let your friends and family know you are unavailable at these hours.
The earlier in the day you get these items scheduled the more likely you are to get them done. The vast majority of my most consistent personal training clients all train before 10am.