Going from couch potato to fitness buff won’t happen overnight, and if you don’t plan ahead and set goals, you may lose steam before you really even get started. Here are some tips for setting goals, outlining a plan, and getting off on the right foot with your new program.
1. Define your goals. For instance, you may wish to lose 50 pounds, or reduce your body fat percentage by 10%, get off your blood pressure medication, or just tone up. Writing down what you would like to accomplish, in specific terms, will help you remember what you are aiming for with all your hard work. Post your goals in a prominent location as a reminder.
2. Determine how to reach your goals. A good workout program should strike a balance between activities you enjoy and exercises that are effective. Cardiovascular activity like running, walking, swimming, or playing sports is essential for strengthening your heart, burning calories and boosting your endurance. Strength training, such as lifting weights or performing body weight exercises, makes your muscles stronger and more toned in appearance. Your program should include both cardio and strength training, although you may emphasize one or the other depending on what you hope to accomplish.
3. Figure out a way to stay accountable. Determining an accountability system ahead of time will help you stay motivated as you progress. You could workout with a friend or coworker, for instance. You might also schedule workouts on a calendar, treating them like appointments, and assign a specific penalty for skipping them–paying a friend $5, missing out on Friday happy hour, etc. No matter which method you use, you will be less likely to bail on your workout if you know that you have to give something up or let someone down when you do.
4. Go shopping. Really! You need a supportive, comfortable pair of shoes that is appropriate for the type of exercise(s) you plan to do. You should also have enough workout clothes to meet your needs, depending on your laundry schedule. There’s nothing worse than preparing to run and finding that you have no clean sports bras or socks.
5. Determine what changes, if any, you need to make to your diet. What you eat matters, and if your diet is poor or too high in calories, no amount of exercise will matter in the long run. You may find it helpful to count calories initially. This can help you learn proper portion sizes and balance what you eat with the intensity of your workouts.
6. Get started! As you begin your program, make note of what works and what doesn’t. You may have to modify goals once you start to see progress, or you might have to adjust your exercise routine as it becomes easier for you to complete.
Improving your fitness is a great step toward a healthier lifestyle. By taking the time to plan your program and prepare yourself for the journey, you will feel more invested in your lifestyle change from the beginning, making you more likely to stick with it.