So you have a dream. A dream of a six pack and unflabbing arms. You spend years and countless dollars with unpredictable spouts of motivation, gym memberships, even personal training and fad diets. You find gym buddies, sweat through cardio sessions, and get into weight lifting. You cut back on the ice cream. And yet, your dream is more like a far off hope than close reality. This is the fitness plan for the stuck and given up.
Step 1: Analyze your intentions
Ok, so you want abs. Do you want abs bad enough to give up your social life and comfort food? If you’re reading this the answer is probably no. The desire for abs and toned arms is NOT ENOUGH to get you out of bed in the morning, to get you to slide on your gym shoes when you want to be sliding onto the couch, or to say no to your cravings. The hard answer is that your intentions, as good as they may be, are not enough.
Here are a few questions to help you analyze your intentions:
- What are my fitness goals?
- Are my goals about aesthetics, health, strength, performance? Do they directly correlate with improving another area of my life?
- How confident am I that I can achieve these goals?
- How essential is it to me to achieve these goals?
Take the time to write down the answers to these questions, or even come up with a few of your own. If your goals are solely aesthetic, unmeasurable, nonessential to holding up your personal passions and values, or goals you are not fully confident you can achieve, it may be time to reassess and change your goals.
Step 2: Train smarter, not harder
This is for those of you who eat super clean and train hard for a week, then take a month vacation. Then build up the motivation only to lose it again.
The biggest misconception I had about training regarded the intensity. We get it into our head that in order to get in shape we must push ourselves to the max. We think we must be completely exhausted of all energy and struggling to walk. Sure, certain people may want to train at this intensity, but if you’re struggling to get to the fitness level you desire, training til exhaustion might be holding you back. Training til exhaustion is NOT necessary to get in shape.
Instead, try training at a level where after an hour, you feel energized, like you could keep going another hour. But don’t go that extra hour. Save that extra hour for tomorrow where you will do the same thing. Then do the same thing the next day. Build consistency. Train your mind and body to want more. Think of your ideal body as your crush and play hard to get. Make that ideal body chase YOU.
Here are some questions to analyze your training intensity:
- How do I feel immediately after a workout (energized, happy, accomplished, exhausted, light headed)?
- How do I feel the following few days after a workout?
- Am I able to workout multiple days in a row performing at the same level each day?
- Do I have fun during my workout?
- What is my soreness like following a workout?
- Am I a perfectionist who has been known to self sabotage?
When we train at high intensity, we damage our bodies. We make ourselves prone to injuries. Don’t fall into the grind of training until exhaustion then needing a week of recovery where you don’t want to step foot in the gym. Don’t injure yourself to the point where you can’t perform a squat for months (nodding to myself). Exercise to the point where you end energized, not unreasonably exhausted.
After training like this, you will see results. They won’t happen lightning fast, but they’ll be more likely to happen than if you push yourself too hard. After seeing results, you can bump up the intensity little by little. Just don’t go too crazy.
Step 3: It’s a lifestyle
Yeah, yeah, yeah, here I tell you about sleep and diet, although you’ve heard it a million times. Here are the basics. Eat more carbs earlier in the day and less later in the day. Stay away from fat before and after a workout. Try BCAAs before and during a workout. Try eating smaller meals more often to avoid intense hunger. Low carb diets and intermittent fasting are great for short term weight loss, but aren’t realistically sustainable. Curb sugar cravings with cinnamon water, fruit, or pair it with a protein source (e.g. dark chocolate covered almonds). Stay hydrated, but don’t just drink water. Make sure you have enough electrolytes.
Create a nighttime routine and stick to it to condition yourself to be tired before bed. If you have trouble falling asleep assess caffeine, electronics, and any stressors that may be getting in the way.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What is my diet like?
- What percentage of the time do I eat healthy?
- Am I getting my recommended intake of micronutrients?
- Are my macronutrients balanced? How much fat, protein, and carbs am I consuming?
- How much water and electrolytes do I consume?
- How much stress do I feel on a daily basis?
- How much social time do I get on a daily basis?
- How could my sleep be improved?
Step 4: Set low pressure, but hard deadlines
Find events around you to train for. Enjoy running? Register for a race. You will be more motivated to train daily. If you’re just getting into running you can start with something as simple as a 5k. Find a friend, but don’t be afraid to go it alone. If you have the most fun playing sports join a rec team and train daily to improve you performance on the field, court, etc. If you want to increase muscle mass try MMA or boxing and the pressure and excitement of your first fight WILL be the thing that gets you out of bed or off the couch to train. Keep these events realistic to your current fitness level. Start small and build. Most importantly, get out of your comfort zone.
- What am I interested in?
- How can I translate this into fitness deadlines that will motivate me to train?
- How can I track these accomplishments and hold myself accountable?
- How do I celebrate my victories and bounce back from setbacks?
Hopefully, these four tips can help revamp your fitness routine. I highly recommend keeping a journal to asses and analyze progress and challenges. Comment what you found interesting or want to know more about.