As with any serious pursuit in life – building a career, raising healthy children, making a relationship work – improving your fitness levels requires a serious commitment. Your lifestyle to this point has led to your current state of mental and physical health and most of us have some kind of resistance to change.
The good news is that people make life-enhancing lifestyle changes all the time, and by following a few basic steps you can count yourself among them.
1. Define your Fitness Goals
Studies have shown that those people who define their goals and create a step-by-step plan to make them real have more success than those with similar backgrounds who don’t go this extra step. Defining your fitness goals involves honestly asking yourself why you want to get fit and what fitness means to you. Do you just want to be able to enjoy running around with the children in the park or do you have ambitions to run a marathon? Do you dream of feeling confident in a swimsuit without everything wobbling or will you not be satisfied until you can see a six-pack? There is no point in committing to a punishing regime if all you want to do is make subtle improvements, but if you have your sights set on a marathon, a twice-weekly brisk walk around the park won’t cut it!
2. Create a Schedule
Once you have decided what you want out of your fitness drive, draw up a simple schedule which should include:
- How often you need to train
- Which days/times you will train on
- How long you will train for
- What type of workout you will choose
- Where you will train
One of the most common challenges is to rearrange your current life to accommodate exercise. But whether you need to get in some childcare, get up earlier, stay up later or replace another activity most people can find a solution.
3. Visualize Success
The power of visualization is often underestimated in life yet all of the top athletes and sportspeople do it before a race or match. Try to put ten minutes aside at the start of your day to sit down with your eyes closed and see – in your mind’s eye – your future, fitter self. It is thought by many that your subconscious mind treats all such images as commands and this will help to motivate you during the tough times.
4. Tackle your Excuses Head On
When the initial burst of enthusiasm and motivation wears off beware of the resistance your mind will throw up as your old habits try to reassert themselves. Analyze each excuse as it comes up and challenge it. If you’re too tired then remind yourself that exercise will actually increase your overall energy levels. If it’s too cold outside, exercise will warm you up within minutes. If it’s too hot then ensure you are fully hydrated and take plenty of water with you.
5. Eat Sensibly
Unless you are targeting a bodybuilding competition or aiming for drastic weight loss (which can be dangerous), you do not need to follow any radical diets. Reducing carbohydrates and saturated fats is always a good idea, as is cutting down on anything that adds calories without nutrition (e.g. refined sugar). The important thing to remember is to include enough protein, water, vitamins and minerals to ensure your body has what it needs to function efficiently.
6. Be Patient
It is easy to get discouraged when a couple of weeks of exercise yields little or no results. However, if you could see how your body composition had shifted from fat to muscle; how your lung and heart capacity had increased and how your arteries were becoming clearer and stronger you would probably feel a lot happier. Be patient and remember that as your body becomes more muscular, you will start to burn more calories leading to faster results further on into your schedule.
7. Get a Health Check
Although getting more exercise is almost always beneficial, it is possible that any one of us may have an underlying health condition that can restrict our possibilities. Only a physician can advise you if your fitness schedule is safe for you so be sure to get a check up before you start.
8. Enlist Support
Some people are self-motivated enough to follow their own path to fitness, others prefer to workout with a partner and others are honest enough to admit they need a Personal Trainer. If you want to speak to a Personal Trainer for advice on fitness, Roots of Life (www.rootsoflife.co.uk) enables you to access one via a customized video service. A free ten minute ‘Meet the Consultant’ session is available.