There is never a one-size-fits-all fitness program. That being said, I'm providing a general list of factors that should be considered to achieve your goals:
1. Mental readiness: If you're not ready mentally, your body is unable to follow. Mental readiness is accepting a change is needed in your life to improve your health. Your desire to finally get serious may come from a doctor saying your cholesterol, triglycerides, or blood pressure is too high. You may have been told being overweight has contributed to these issues and potential for increased risk of diabetes or heart problems.
Many times, the desire to change comes from you reaching a point of not liking how you feel or what you see in the mirror. Moments like this typically motivate you to finally commit to eating healthy and exercising regularly. You are ready for a lifestyle change.
2. Plan to succeed: Nothing happens without good planning. Whether achieving fitness goals with a qualified personal trainer or solo, you will require knowledge and a plan to succeed. If working on your own, you will need reliable nutrition and fitness books or online sources. Stick with realistic approaches and stay away from fad diets and trends. These are typically short-term quick fixes without long-term solutions.
Another strategy is seeking the help of a qualified personal trainer/nutrition counselor. Proper fitness/health coaching can really motivate you in the right direction. If taught correctly, you will gain lifelong education on healthy eating, proper exercise technique, weight loss management, and muscle growth.
3. Food and fitness journals: recording progress is a great strategy for successful weight loss and muscle gain. You can include 'before' pictures and measurements, feelings of the day, daily food and water intake, and exercises performed in your workout. This consistent information will allow you to repeat successful weeks and show you where things didn't go quite right.
4. Progressive fitness: you have heard fitness is about progress, not perfection. Getting fit will require patience and consistent effort. Every positive step toward your goal is making a difference even when you don't see it right away. Progressive fitness means you take it slow, keep going, and trust the process.
5. Eating healthy: losing weight and gaining muscle requires eating for your goals. This means the majority of your food intake will include vegetables and leafy greens, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, and lots of water. This will be a nutrition lifestyle change taking you from unhealthy eating habits to eating a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods. Physical demands will also increase the number of calories coming from these foods. For example, weightlifters and long distance runners will require more fuel than an individual selecting a light aerobics class for physical activity.
6. Exercise: workouts don't have to be extreme or long duration to be effective. We tend to overcomplicate fitness and consider workouts a burden. Find an exercise you enjoy and stick with it. Working out at least 4 times per week is recommended to increase muscle mass and reduce body fat. A balanced workout program includes exercise that challenges your aerobic, strength, balance and flexibility.
Applying a progressive workout strategy is also important. Allow yourself to be a beginner and increase in exercise intensity and duration slowly. This will give your body time to adapt, promote muscle growth, and progress at a healthy rate reducing the risk of injury.
7. Healthy lifestyle: adopting a healthy lifestyle includes a combination of eating right, exercise, adequate sleep, and balancing work and play. Losing weight and gaining muscle is just a result of living this way. It's really a goal achievable for everyone and simply applying these 7 steps is a great way to start seeing results and living healthy for life.
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