Five Steps to Build a Fitness Plan
I love being fit. It just feels good. Because it feels so good, I’m willing to have habits that promote fitness and I’ve dropped (okay, mostly dropped) the habits that deter fitness. But everyone’s different. Here are some quick tips that may help you with establishing a fitness plan that work for you:
Start with WHY
Make it FIT your WHY
Then make TIME for it in your schedule
After that, REFINE your personal program as needed
You have to have a WHY. The things that motivate you to make daily choices that put you on the track of fitness versus daily choices that will derail you. Like I said for me, I like the way I feel in my own skin when I’m fit. I also want to age as healthfully as possible, to the extent that is within my control, because I admire elderly people who are still relatively limber, lean and active. I also prefer to just buy one size of clothing and not have to keep an additional size laying around for yo-yo weight gains.
What are your motivators and goals? If you want to compete in a marathon, that WHY will drive a very different FIT and TIME than someone who wants to reduce depression or increase self-esteem, or than someone who just wants to stick around long enough to see the grand kids grow up. Your WHY may change over time. Knowing what it is will be key to shaping a fitness plan that you can stick with.
Create a fitness plan that’s FUN for you. Maybe not everyone needs this, but I can’t force myself to engage in exercise I hate, eat foods I don’t like, or spend more time than I want to on fitness. If it feels like torture, I’ll drop it before I get the results I want. Which means, I’ve had to find the specific exercise types that I enjoy doing and the foods that I enjoy eating, all within the time I am willing to commit to this.
“Your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits” ~Atomic Habits
Now you can make your fitness habits and plan FIT your WHY. Meaning, you have to device a workout and meal game plan that will help you fulfill the WHY. If your WHY included ‘I want to have six-pack abs to impress the ladies’ (God bless you, by the way), then you will need to have more cardio and more core work in your routine than someone else might. Don’t overthink this! I put off my regular exercise for months because I was trying to devise some perfect workout routine. No, you know what you like (your FUN), and what you hope to accomplish (your WHY), now you need to figure out the most direct way to get there.
During your exploration of what you find FUN, you probably did some research and experimenting with different workout options and dietary guides. If not, you may want to do a bit more of that now. Here’s a quick example from my own life:
I’ve found that a combination of weight lifting a couple times a week with target exercises, Pilates 2-3 times a week, substantial cardio once a week and maybe a day of yoga or bellydancing works well for me. While I may work out almost daily, several of those days I’ll only spend 30 minutes exercising so it’s not a huge time suck. And on days when I go for a hike or work vigorously in the yard, I will typically skip a formal workout.
For diet, I keep it lean and low carb. Frequent light snacks rather than several big meals works best for me. But because I dislike cooking and want to spend next to no time on that, I will buy healthy deli, pre-cooked or other quick cook options (like salmon and broccoli, yum!) and have a salad once a day (I buy a few days’ worth of toppings at the salad bar… why should I waste my precious time cutting up toppings when I can buy it that way!?). I will occasionally fast for a day or just half a day to ‘reset’. I’m not a fan of fasting, but my body seems to appreciate it.
If this isn’t obvious, you were hopefully drafting a game plan for your new fitness habits that you can make TIME for. So if you devised a general plan of action that requires exercising 2 hours a day and spending the rest of your time preparing meals and you’ve just realized that you still have to work for a living, you may need to revise the game plan a bit. Here’s the tip - be realistic. Turn the plan into a bunch of habits that are relatively easy for you to fit into your schedule by replacing the things you can live without (like watching TV shows that add no value to your life or eating out a lot).
That wraps up my recommendations. Of course, every plan needs maintenance, so you’ll want to REFINE and tweak your plan whenever you realize something isn’t working (i.e. you’re not getting the results you want or you get derailed too easily). Because I travel periodically, for example, I take a resistance band with me and have some go-to videos that I can use for working out when I’m on the road. Likewise, I’ll make plans for how to still stick to my preferred diet ahead of time so I don’t come back feeling cruddy and completely off-track.