Every year around New Years, like clockwork, there seems to be a big uptick in gym memberships, dieting, and goals related to health and fitness. The task of incorporating this into your lifestyle can be daunting, and straight up impossible for some people to build the momentum to even start.
I agree that starting a fitness journey is hard. If it were easy every person would be crushing their goals and squashing the percentage of obesity related health risks that we have in this country. I’m not writing to talk about that. I’m writing to give you some simple, actionable steps to make this process just a little bit easier. These are a list of habits that I’ve used with a number of clients over the years to help facilitate their progress and to keep personal fitness as part of their lifestyle.
If you are looking for an exhaustive list of why exercise is good for you, look elsewhere. This is a proven guide for any beginner, novice, trainer, or advanced lifter that needs to reevaluate their current habits. Each tip will have an action item attached to it that you can immediately implement into your routine.
Evaluation – I can’t tell you the amount of people that want to start their fitness journey without an actual plan in place. You wouldn’t try and drive across the country without a proper set of directions would you? This is no different.
Action – Start by conducting a self-assessment. Nothing fancy. Assess your weight, body composition, posture, and current habits. Create a list of priorities based on your assessment. Start with the grossest offenders. Low back pain? Rounded shoulders? 50lbs overweight?
The better you can understand yourself and current needs, the better you can seek out the right information to help you.
Set the RIGHT goals – This one is somewhat self explanatory, but often misguided. Goals should be the focal point of your training routine. They are specific points of emphasis that will outline your training program and ultimately your consistency. However, the worst thing to do is try and set too many goals at one time. Especially those that are at competing levels of demand. This will leave you trying to juggle too much and eventually quit trying to achieve anything at all.
Action – Hone in on 1-2 specific goals that work well together. Something like increasing maximum strength while building 5 pounds of lean muscle. Losing 5% of body fat while increasing muscular endurance. These goals must be specific to you. Keep the emphasis on these goals for the first few months of training and adjust them every few months according to your progress.
Sleep – Seems pretty simple right? Just get more sleep. In fact, this in conjunction with proper nutrition are the quintessential components to anything performance or body composition related. Often we truly don’t notice it’s effect until we work to prioritize it.
Action – Evaluate your sleep schedule. Work on getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night. Whether this means going to bed earlier or waking up later, strive to make this part of your routine. This will help with performance and fat loss all while increasing mood and energy levels to keep you sharp throughout the day.
Nutrition- Let’s start small in this department. Rarely do I ever see success when a client drastically overhauls their entire eating routine. Usually what ensues is an all-or-nothing approach where people tend to be super strict, cutting out “cheat” meals or even disregarding a certain macronutrient all together. This will eventually reach a tipping point and result in episode(s) of binge eating that will blast your confidence. Instead focus on incremental habits that can contribute to greater long-term success.
Action – Choose 2-3 habits to adhere to and maintain them for at least 2 weeks. Start small. I’m talking about increasing your water intake, cutting back on the processed foods, reducing the amount of oil you use while cooking. Be consistent. After 2 weeks start adding in some vegetables and protein sources at each meal, ditch the bowl of ice cream before bed time. By implementing these habits, after 6 months to a year you’ll be amazed at how different your eating structure looks compared to when you started.
Media Influence – Be careful with who, what, and where you get your information from. There are some great coaches out there. There are also loads of armchair fitness influencers that want nothing more than to sell you on their latest fit tea, waist trimmer, and supplement that was “responsible” for getting them in elite shape. This is hogwash. There is no substitute for hard, consistent training alongside proper sleep and eating habits. If you look up to someone for motivation or for goal-setting, then by all means. I’m encouraging you to be mindful of how you digest this content as often it may sabotage your progress rather than enhance it.
Action – While it may be pertinent to do a full on social media cleanse, that’s a topic for a different post. Be mindful of your social media content. Take an inventory of what you are consuming and assign a label to it. If it is doing you more damage than good, odds are you shouldn’t be consuming that content anyways. Specifically when it comes to “ideal” body types or fad diets that perpetuate poor habits. Get rid of them. Find the right community that will offer you support and contribute a positive message.
Hire a Pro- Shameless plug for all the personal trainers out there, including myself. However the best investment you can give yourself is to focus on your health and well-being. Chances are you could benefit from having a professional be responsible for your training and dietary needs. It will serve you well to learn the best ways to approach your workouts and utilize the exercises and equipment that best suits your needs. Moreover, you could probably benefit from a second set of eyes in guiding your technique to help mitigate the potential risk for injury and keep you working in the right direction.
Action – Be honest with yourself. If you need help, ask for it. There are plenty of qualified professionals that would love to work with you and help guide you toward your goals. If you’re strapped financially or don’t want to commit to anything just yet, then take some of the action steps above and implement them into your routine. Get some momentum to start your journey and surprise yourself with the results that consistency can bring.
Play the Long Game – Commit to health and fitness as part of your lifestyle. It took a long time for you to get out of shape so you should expect it to take similar if not more time to get it back. Once you come to the realization that it is indeed a journey of hardship, triumph and everything in between, you’ll have a better mindset because of it. Do this because you want to. Not because you feel bad about yourself or someone has pressured you into it. Consider it an investment in your long-term well being because it will be your vehicle to improvements in mood, energy and confidence. Be the badass that you should be.
Action – No greater opportunity then now to get going. Start small and build upon these micro adjustments. Slow, sustainable results will trump anything short-term. Build the foundation that you can adhere to in the long-term and watch what happens. 10 years from now you will not remember nor care what you looked like in January 2021. You will remember your consistency and what your development has led you to become.