By: Darrell W. Butler
– TFW/Parisi Sports Performance Coach; ACE, NFPT CPT
Okay, now I’m beginning to get a little nervous… I can’t seem to find my friends! Admittedly, I haven’t known them very long. Actually, we just met back in January, but I really thought they’d stick around forever. I mean, I used to see them literally every single day, sometimes even two or three times – with their brand new workout gear and their shoes as clean and white as new fallen snow.
They seemed so passionate about fitness and ready “to really make it happen this year”, but before the groundhog could even look for its shadow, they disappeared into the night. Have you seen them?
At least a few of you reading this article might have seen them… as recently as this morning… in the mirror while brushing your teeth. How’s that? Because I’m talking about you my friend.
What happened to that New Year’s resolution you made just a few months back? How is that going? Are you getting the results that you want? If not, here are several ways to get yourself refocused and back in the game!
1. Clearly define your short and long term goals. Before you can take things to the next level at the gym, you’ll need to figure out why you’re even going in the first place. Many will say that they just want to “get healthy” or “get fit”, but those answers are too general and won’t be enough to provide you with that extra push you’re going to need to drag yourself to the gym after a long day at work.
Instead, you’ll want to get more specific. Define “healthy” – what does that mean to you? Does that mean that you can do a certain number of push-ups or run five miles? If so, when would you like to accomplish this task by? And why is that important to you?
Once you’ve figured out the answers to those questions, don’t just stop there. Do you also have a wedding, family or a class reunion coming up? Perhaps you’ve planned a vacation and want to look good on the beach? Maybe there’s an outfit that you’ve buried in the back of your closet that you’d like to squeeze back in to?
Feel free to get as shallow and superficial as you’d like with these goals. You don’t have to share them with anyone else, so now is not the time to give cookie cutter pageant answers or be politically correct! Figure out what really motivates you to get in better shape and write those reasons down.
Of course, you’ll want to make sure that the goals are realistic. For example, if you’d like to drop six clothing sizes by the end of the week, that’s not going to happen, and you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment. So give yourself an adequate amount of time to achieve your long term goals and create short term check points to keep yourself focused and on track throughout the entire process.
2. Take your measurements. Before you can start working on your goal, you’ll need to know your starting point. Consider this as the “you are here” moment that will help you plot the path you’ll need to take to cross the finish line. If your goal is to do 50 push-ups in a minute before the summer, how many can you do now? If your goal is to run five miles straight, how long can you currently run without stopping?
You’ll also want to take your body measurements, body fat percentage, weight, blood pressure and resting heart rate. The more that you can track; the better off you’ll be; so take advantage of all that your gym or health center has to offer. This will allow you to take a holistic approach toward your current goal and create new ones for the future.
Again, write all of these numbers down so that you can compare them to your results the next time that you take these measurements. Also make sure to educate yourself on the significance of these numbers. For example did you know that every 10 pounds lost equals an approximate clothing size? Did you know that a healthy blood pressure is 120/80? What is a healthy body fat percentage for your age and gender?
Taking the time to ask these questions will save you time, energy and confusion in the long run so as they say in the construction business, “measure twice and cut once.”
3. Schedule your workout time. The biggest excuse for missing the gym is that “there isn’t enough time in the day to workout.” In many cases however, the reason there isn’t any time is because you haven’t made time! Look at your calendar – you probably have meetings, lunches and parties blocked off so why not your gym time? Isn’t it just as important?
Sure, I realize that sit-ups and crunches won’t pay the rent (although that would sure save me a LOT of money each month), so there will be times when work has to take precedence over working out. My challenge to you, however, is to analyze your day and see if you can’t find at least 15 minutes that you were doing absolutely nothing. Some examples would be watching your favorite tv show, gossiping at the office or the extra 10 minutes that you stood in the shower staring at the tiles.
Most likely there is time, so put it to use! Jog in place during commercials, walk up and down the stairs instead of hanging out by the water cooler or do something to actually justify that long shower first. Even if it’s only five minutes, something is always better than nothing, so when you can’t get to the gym, cheat fitness into your routine and keep chipping away at your goal until you make it happen!
4. Eliminate excuses! We already eliminated the time excuse, however the human mind is a powerful device and will always come up with more. Some popular excuses are that you “can’t eat healthy at work because the cafeteria only serves bad foods.” This is easy to fix, because you can pack your lunch and save money in addition to calories.
How about the old “I forgot my workout clothes” excuse? Start keeping an extra pair of sneakers in your car or office.
“My gym is on the other side of town”? Find one closer or come up with a routine that you can do at your house.
When you analyze most excuses, you’ll realize that’s all that they really are. It’s just that little voice in the back of your head that’s sabotaging your results and telling you that you can’t do it. My challenge to you is to tell that little voice to ‘shut the hell up” and push forward anyway!
5. Tell a friend what you’re doing. Of course, when you can’t tell that little voice to shut up, it might help to have a friend who can do that for you! Tell a friend that you can trust what you are doing so that they can help keep you motivated on those days that you just might not have the strength to make it on your own.
Even better, if your friend has a similar goal, you should try working together as a team. Or you can treat it like a competition and place a bet to see who can reach their goal the fastest! Either way, your friend can provide that extra motivation and support system that you’ll need to make healthier choices when you go to lunch together or for inspiration to keep going when times get rough.
6. Give yourself a break. Hopefully by this point you’re beginning to feel that same fire in your belly that you felt on December 31. That’s a great thing, but don’t overdo it. How so? As I mentioned, many people start off really strong by rushing into the gym two or even three times per day, but eventually burn out and disappear. You simply can’t keep that pace up all year long, so all things need to be done in moderation.
Sleep, rest and recovery time are just as important as the time logged inside of a gym, so you’ll need to schedule those times as well.
Depending on the style of workouts you’re participating in, you may want to allow one or two days rest in between your strength training routines. Cardiovascular exercise, flexibility training and abdominal exercises can be done more often, however you’ll still want to give yourself at least one day of complete freedom to relax and recover. This will allow you to prevent injury and come back stronger the next time that you workout.
Remember, it’s not the amount of time that you spend in the gym that will ultimately make the difference, it’s how efficiently you make use of that time so get in, go hard then go home.
7. Stop sabotaging your progress with poor nutrition. Cardiovascular exercise and strength training are obviously important and necessary; however the majority of your success will be determined by how well you’re eating. Think about it, how many times do you plan to work out each week? Now think about how many times you’ll eat or drink something in a given week? On average at least three times more right? So which do you think influences your body composition more – nutrition or exercise?
With that said, your best approach is to write down everything that you consume for at least two or three days.
Sure, food journals can be a pain, but seeing everything in written form will allow you (or a trained professional) to play “Food CSI” and figure out what areas of your daily routine may need to be tweaked. For example, are you eating enough fruits and vegetables? Are you having a balanced breakfast or having a high quality protein within 30 minutes of working out?
As tempting as it may be to skip writing at times, you’ll need to do so after every meal, because most people seem to have “food amnesia” and forget what they consumed shortly after eating it. One minute the tin of cookies is full and the next minute the tin is completely empty, but you don’t remember eating them all!
Quick! What did you have for dinner last Tuesday?
See, I told you! So just write it down, it’s only two or three days, however those who continue to track their nutrition even beyond these initial days tend to see greater results, so that may be something you’ll seriously want to consider.
So there you have it, I’ve said my piece and now the rest is up to you. Nothing is more frustrating than spinning your wheels and not getting anywhere, so incorporate these tips and your fitness goals will be back on track in no time!
I hope to see you again soon my friend!