Spending two hours at the gym and training to exhaustion will not necessarily get you to your health and fitness goals faster. As a matter of fact, you might be overtraining and run the risk of injury. Remember it’s all about quality not quantity. It’s about training smarter not harder. Not just being active but being productive. With my clients I often talk about “efficacy”, being efficient and effective. I’m not talking about killing yourself with a super high intensity 20-minute workout routine or following a strict 600 calorie a day diet to lose weight faster. Neither of these approaches is safe or long lasting. And isn’t that the ultimate goal, to be fit over the long term, not just for a day? From personal experience, I have fallen prey to overtraining thinking that if jogging 5 miles is good, then 10 miles is better. Well that all depends on the goal right? So how can you become more effective and efficient? Start by answering these three questions:

1. What are my health and fitness goals?
2. When do I want achieve these goals?
3. How many hours a week am I willing to commit to an exercise program?

Example Answer to #1: I want to lose 30 pounds, reduce my blood pressure, and go skiing.
Eric’s Response: Those are excellent goals. I would ask for a baseline blood pressure reading and a specific goal (ie: 120/80). Regarding skiing, it’s important to find out if they have a background in skiing, and if they do how long it’s been since they’ve been on skis.

Example Answer to #2: I want to lose 30 pounds by January 1, 2013. My doctor didn’t give me a specific deadline for my blood pressure, just by my appointment next year. I’d like to go skiing this winter, if there’s snow on the ground, by December.
Eric’s Response: I think January 1st is a great goal for the weight loss. As of today, that’s about 20 weeks. Do the math and that’s 1 1/2 pounds a week, a very realistic goal. With skiing it will depend when snow falls or if the slopes need artificial snow.

Example Answer to #3: I can commit to 1 hour a day (7 hours a week).
Eric’s Response: That’s great! Just remember it will also take time to prepare meals, drive to the gym, keep a food journal, etc.

Now that you know what your goals are, when you want to achieve them and how much time you’re willing to commit, start with small steps and slowly ramp up. Gauge yourself and see how you feel. As your strength, flexibility, endurance and conditioning improve you’ll realize that you can physically do more. You can lift heavier, stretch further and bike longer. At this point it’s key to ask yourself, “Do I need to do more to achieve my goals?” The answer lies in proper nutrition and plenty rest. But I’ll save that for another time.