Set goals . . . Take action . . . Get results. REPEAT. Is that a bit too simplistic? I agree. Setting your health and fitness priorities shouldn’t be a daunting task, but it should not be taken too lightly either. There are a lot of considerations, mainly your time, energy and money. Let’s fast forward a bit and say that you have already defined your health and fitness goals. You’ve got a clear picture in your head or on your fridge of what your goal(s) is going to look and feel like. The next step is to take action, because it won’t just fall into your lap. Sometimes I think people believe I have super powers since I’ve been a Personal Trainer for 19 years. That I can simply assign a one-fits-all program that guarantees fast and safe results and will last a lifetime. Sorry, that ain’t gonna happen. There are too many variables. People have different goals, backgrounds, learning styles, strengths, fears, etc.
The secret that trainers, coaches, gyms, diet books and pre-fab workout programs won’t and don’t tell you is that you NEED to experiment with different exercises and different foods. You NEED to make adjustments along the way and identify what you like and what you don’t. You NEED to refine the process so that it works better for you. Ultimately you create a healthy lifestyle tailored for yourself. Something that is manageable, sustainable, adaptable and moves you in the direction of your goal(s). For years I have told people that they did not fail their diet programs but that their diets failed them. We can easily look back ten, twenty or thirty years ago and laugh at many of the diet fads. Did you really expect yourself to survive on four rice cakes? Today there are just as many ridiculous diets that people try to follow. Without starting an entirely new blog, let me say that it’s short-sighted and unrealistic to conform to a specific list of foods or one particular group of exercises and expect long term, safe and healthy results.
Realize that the person you will be in twenty years will be different from the person you are today. You will have twenty more years of experiences, and my hope is that your training will complement and reflect the new you.
Last but not least, your fit lifestyle should be fun. Let me repeat YOUR FIT LIFESTYLE SHOULD BE FUN. One more time FUN!!. Over the years you have heard me talk about fitness and fun. Why? Why not? Should getting in shape be a miserable experience? Why make it a bigger production than it needs to be? Remember that true health and fitness is different than training for an event or a photo-shoot or a doctor’s appointment. Those short term goals, for example, may make up parts of your journey, but a fit lifestyle is for the rest of your life. So why not make the journey enjoyable? I’m not saying there won’t be challenges, struggles and frustrations. We all know that life’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
Frustration has derailed many people from achieving their goals. Here I go on a tangent. When I get frustrated, for example, I sit back and ask myself, “Why am I frustrated?” Sometimes I was being out-competed in a sport, in which case I needed to ask myself “Why am I being outcompeted?”. Sometimes my opponent(s) was more experienced, or perhaps I had an off day. If it’s not an external opponent then it’s the internal one that needs addressing. We all remember the scene in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back when Luke Skywalker fights Darth Vadar in the cave. Luke strikes Vadar down and Vadar’s mask comes off revealing Luke’s face. It represents our fears and how we get in our own way.
Getting back to work is one of the best answers to frustration. Don’t get derailed, just keep on working. Sometimes frustration may be a result of bad advice, misinformation or poor coaching. When I was a sophomore in high school many moons ago, I played JV soccer. I was one of two players who moved up from the Fresh/Soph team. Unfortunately, the J/V coach kept me sidelined for most of the games. Until we were up 11-0 with two minutes to go, then he’d put me in. What a jerk! As a fifteen year old, I didn’t have the self-esteem, courage or chutzpa to confront the coach. He was an intimidating and unapproachable man who boasted about his several black belts in Aikido. I was use to a coach like my father, who wasn’t all about winning. Dad’s coaching style was about teamwork, improvement, uplifting everyone and effort. Funny thing is that each team he coached was ranked #1 by season’s end. To make a long story short, at the end of my J/V season I decided not to come back. I was a good player and enjoyed the game, but Coach Martinez was an obstacle that I couldn’t move or get around. I share this story not to whine or say “Poor me”. At the time I felt like I failed since I didn’t stick with it, but I learned from it. Quickly I channeled my efforts towards track & field and later bodybuilding.
Chances are, when it comes to achieving our health and fitness goals, our attitude and mindset are the obstacles that most often get in our way. We overanalyze. Ever heard of paralysis by analysis? We over-research, over-read, over-watch and get so stuck in the process that we don’t engage and actually do what we’re suppose to. As I’ve heard stated before, we major in the minors. Countless books and lectures have addressed and readdressed this issue, often making it more complicated than it needs to be. So back to priorities. I’m getting there in my roundabout way. Where should you be putting your time? A 5:30pm cardio kickboxing class? Preparing meals for the week? Doing one of your exercise videos before the kids wake up? Getting a massage? Driving across town for your private training session? First of all, it’s not all or nothing. Everyday decide to do something that will move you forward. Second, where you put your time depends on your goal(s). Hey, you knew that was coming, right?
Two action items that I harp on with my clients are meal preparation and rest. A high intensity training session will do you no good (and can actually do damage) if the machine (your body) is poorly or under-nourished. Additionally, working out without having rested or recuperated from your previous workout, increases your chances for setbacks and injuries. Would you drive your car on winter roads without making sure your brakes are in good working order? Would you go for a road trip on bald tires? Of course not. Take care of the machine and you will go places.
Here is my quick list of priorities (in order of importance) if you are in doubt of what to do:
Get proper nourishment
This includes grocery shopping, meal preparation, eating several times each day and staying hydrated.
Rest and recuperate
This includes a night of uninterrupted sleep (6-8 hours) and stress management (meditation, getting a massage, listening to relaxing music, reading a book, etc).
Get off your butt and get moving
This includes strength training exercises, cardiovascular activities and stretching.