So many of us start or want to start, a fitness or diet regime and while a few of us brave it through trying something new, most of us fail at some point. Some of us fail due to lack of motivation while others due to lack of information and help. But whatever the reasons, there are a few simple steps to maximising your chances of success:
(1) Set a goal, define what you want to achieve and why. Do you want to loose weight? Do you want to gain muscle? Loose fat? Be more defined? Eat healthy? Whatever your goal is make it a measurable one and break it down into steps.
For example, let’s say your overall goal is to loose 10kgs of weight. Brake down the goal further into steps so that you have a monthly target like: month one -2kg, month two -1kg etc. Do a little research on this first to get an idea on what’s healthy and achievable. Don’t set yourself insane goals or ones that others achieved. Have a general goal and brake it down into steps that are manageable for you.
Similarly, let’s say your goal is to incorporate more vegetables or water etc in your diet. Set a goal of drinking or eating a defined amount a day for a week or two, and then increase or decrease it gradually (so it doesn’t feel forced or too unnatural) until you meet your target.
If you are changing both diet and fitness, I would suggest starting for a week or two with diet and then moving into fitness. Give yourself some time to adjust physically and mentally. These two areas are huge and if you tackle them at the same time, it can be very difficult.
A general goal broken down in smaller achievable chunks is VERY important for motivation and success. You are not superhuman, so make sure that the steps are achievable.
(2) Do your research. Look around. Search through blogs, friends, colleagues, books, gyms etc for information on different fitness or diet classes, types, regimes. See which one sounds the most interesting or achievable for YOU and start with that one. Take what others say with a pinch of salt and remember that fitness and diet can be very personal things so what works for one person might not work for you and vice versa. This doesn’t say anything about you or them, there are many factors that can influence this, including genetics. Don’t judge yourself so hard!
Obviously there are some limits to this, just because someone eats McDonalds all day and doesn’t gain weight (damn those genes!) doesn’t mean you should try this. Apply some logic here. Whether you want to increase vegetables, reduce sugar, increase protein intake, decrease or increase fat or carbs, you have to find what works for you and your body.
This applies to exercise too. Some people might enjoy fitness classes, going to the gym weight lifting, going outside for a run, working out alone or with a buddy, working out at home, doing yoga, zumba or bodybuilding. The key here is to experiment and find what works for you. Genetics can play a huge part in this but also your mental state. So it is very important to find something that you enjoy and you think you can do but make sure it also matches your goal. Do not get pressured by trends and opinions. YOU DO YOU. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t stick to it not to mention that you will also make yourself feel like you failed.
If you don’t like the gym or find the idea of exercising boring, try fitness classes or HIIT circuits. If you are out of cooking ideas, subscribe to a monthly fitness or health magazine, they often contain nice recipes. Buy a book or subscribe to a food blog! Fitness and cooking magazines and blogs can be very motivational too! Spend some time and find the right thing for you.
(3) Take evidence. Before you start your fitness or diet regime, weigh yourself (preferably in the morning when your stomach, bowls and bladder are empty), take pictures, measure yourself, measure your body fat or even your resting heart rate. This can be super intimidating and depressing but you have to face the facts. If you are not realistic about this you won’t get anywhere. You need to know what your start point is in order to find and define your destination so do not skip this step no matter how painful it is. Tell yourself that this is the worst case scenario, the last time you have this much weight, or this little muscle, or too much fat etc.
In terms of dieting, you might want to write down the status of your skin, hair, eye circles, body fat, mood, tiredness levels, blood analysis results or whatever it is you are tracking. Update your evidence once a month. You won’t see many changes if you weigh, take pictures or measure yourself weekly or daily and you will only sabotage and convince yourself that your regime is not working.
(4) Keep a log. This is similar to taking evidence. Write down how much you are able to do physically, how long you can run, how fast, how much you can lift, which exercises you have to modify and how many reps you can do etc.
Keep a diet log and be honest with what you had. Don’t disrespect yourself by lying! We all have that chocolate that made us feel better after a horrible day at work. It’s ok! The point of the log is not to shame yourself, but rather to see what you can improve next week or in the months coming. It is also a nice way to see your improvement. If you don’t write it down, you will forget and miss out on the fact that last month you could only do half of what you are doing now!
(5) Gather motivational material. Create a motivational board somewhere in your house or bedroom, cut out pictures of yourself of where you are now or where you want to or used to be, add quotes or other motivational pictures. If you are on the go a lot or like social media, simply create an electronic board like Pinterest!
Every time the weather is bad, you had a bad day, you are tired or you are simply not feeling it, have a look at the board, maybe sit down with a coffee and remind yourself of your goal and why you are doing this. Maybe call a friend or loved one and talk out your fears or what is holding you back. When things get tough remind yourself of that visual image of your goal and the reason why you started.
(6) Know that things will get tough and be prepared. Both mentally and physically. The first time I ever tried HIIT I could swear I was 1 minute away from throwing up. It’s ok. Your body is getting a little shock but remember the human body is amazing at adjusting. Next week won’t be as hard as this week and the week after you will even laugh at it. Have a friend on standby, or a trainer, a dietitian or even a medical doctor or psychologist. Remember, YOU DO YOU! Setup whatever you think will help you through.
If you are changing your diet it is likely that your stomach or your bowls might get upset. As long as your changes are gradual, you will be fine. Laugh at it. If you are getting into or changing your fitness routine, chances are you will be sore! That’s also ok. The fitter you get, the less you will experience this and it will also last less time. Some people even admit to enjoy this! If you are training hard, you might also find that when you push yourself physically you can break emotionally and all you feelings come out. Take a time out and sit with yourself and ask: what you are feeling and why. It can be very educational and cathartic!
(7) Start slowly and build up. If you can’t find the strength to start, maybe begin by building the habit first. Just walk to the gym, look at it from the outside and head back home. At least you are a getting a walk out of it and eventually, you will enter the gym and going to it will be a habit. If you can only workout once this week that’s fine. If you can only march instead of run that’s also fine. And if you have to do those damn push ups on your knees, remember we all started there!
If you are making diet changes, maybe start by spending a week on clearing your cupboards and fridge (yes all of it) and gathering recipes. Then next week try one new recipe and another one the week after. Or start by having one spoon full more of vegetables this week and next week a little more. Whatever your goal is, don’t rush it and don’t force it. Start low and build up.
(8) Give it time and be consistent. Fitness and diet changes take time. Be patient and persistent. If it was easy, everyone would do it and also there wouldn’t be as much value in it! Try your fitness or diet regime for at least 2 weeks (although science would ask you to try for 21 days in order for it to at least become a habit) and see how you feel about it. Don’t expect major changes yet and don’t judge this by immediate results but rather by feelings on how you are finding it and if you are likely to stick to it.
(9) Experiment until you find what works for you. Don’t get upset, it is only normal that not everything would work for everyone, where is the fun in that! There are so many fitness types and classes you can try and similarly so many diets. If you are not feeling what you chose or you don’t think there is any change (if you gave it a few months) just simply and playfully ask yourself what’s NEXT? and go through the list again. There is no shame in this and it can be rather fun to try different things until you find what is best for you. Take advantage of the experimental process and have fun with it.
There is no magical plan or recipe. The secret to success is YOU. Don’t force it and find something that you enjoy and works for you physically but also mentally.
YOU DO YOU.