It’s now the end of the summer and you’ve been working towards perfecting your bikini body, six-pack, and tank top arms since March but can’t seem to reach your goals.
Or, instead, maybe you are that person who really wants to get into better shape but has no clue where to start. Either way, you need a fitness check-up!
There are many factors that go into a fitness regimen or diet – much more than calories in vs. out or exercise itself – and several of these elements could hold you back from achieving your goals. These include: What you are eating and drinking (how much, what, when), how much exercise are you getting (what types, what quality, how often?), how much sleep are you getting, stress management, you’re motivating influences towards your goal (why do you want to lose weight, tone up, etc.), and the goals themselves.
A good way to find out where you currently are is to take out a sheet of paper and put it in writing. It’s easier to analyze and organize thoughts when they are in front of you rather than dancing in your mind. Remember that everything your write is just a testament to yourself and not something that will necessarily be seen by, judged, or used against you by anyone else. It’s purely a learning tool.
First – what are your goals? A good way to set goals is to make them all S.M.A.R.T., or specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. An example of this is, “I would like to lose ten pounds before I attend my best friend’s wedding on November 1.” Rather than, “I want to be in better shape.”
A concrete goal will help you see that you’ve achieved your goal (get on the scale, it never lies!) so you can feel more successful and directly see your results and not just think you may have reached them.
Another important part of defining your goals is discovering exactly why you want them. Do you feel physically better when you are a little lighter? Do you want to be able to lift your four-year-old nephew without back pain the next day? Do you want to look better so that “he” will notice you? There are any numbers of reasons why you may want to start a fitness regime. The most important thing is that ultimately you have your own goals and best intentions in mind. You cannot make someone else happy if you aren’t happy yourself.
Next- what are you consuming? This is a much bigger question than, “What are you eating?” because everything you consume – food, alcohol, other substances- will affect your success. Journaling everything that you intake for a few days can be a surprisingly revealing tool towards your struggles in the diet/fitness realm. It is surprising how few people have any concept of what they are eating.
“It’s just a donut; it probably doesn’t have many calories!” -Dunkin’ Donuts donuts range from 200-550 calories/donut. It’s amazing how fast unwanted/extra calories are amassed and how detrimental they can be towards achieving your goals.
Here’s your homework. Take five sheets of paper (pages of a notebook, etc.) and label five columns: Time, What you’re eating and how much, Nutritive value (yes, you will need to look this up and not just guess. There are many smart phone applications and web sites that make this easy), Reasons for eating (hungry, bored, stressed, lunchtime), and What you feel after (guilty, full, energetic).
Make sure you write down everything, including coffee, water, cigarettes, alcohol, that two o’clock Hershey Kiss, etc... Remember that this is for you and no one else. Is there truly any better person to be honest for?
Exercise! Love it or hate it, to be healthy we all have to do it. Are you being effective with your workouts? Do you go with a buddy that talks more than they workout? Do you spend more time catching up on the stock report while on the elliptical than trying to outpace yourself? How much are you (honestly) getting? Yep- time to journal again!
You can add exercise as an addendum or list it separately. The important things to write are: What you are doing (specific – treadmill, 35 minutes, 3.4 miles), When you are doing it, What intensity are you working (on a scale of 1-10, 1 being you could continue all day, 5 being that you are sweating and breathing hard, 7 being you can barely keep a conversation, and 10 being you cannot continue for more than a few seconds without needing to rest), and How you felt afterwards (tired, accomplished, rushed).
When you know all of these details about your exercise habits you can use it to find your strengths and weaknesses and turn them all into more effective, productive, and fun (woo!) workouts!
Stress management and sleep are two often overlooked components of diet and fitness. They are the evil step-siblings that attack silently without leaving any discriminating marks. It’s as simple as this. Your body needs adequate sleep in order to heal itself and make it stronger. When you are tired, everything you do is more challenging – from brushing your teeth to quality time at the gym.
So, how much do you get? When you are under an oppressing amount of stress it can become impossible to function in the ways that you should. Your diet is harder to maintain, you may have sleep troubles, it’s easier to make excuses, and numerous other factors come into play. The biggest factor is the release of hormones that actually make your body hold onto its fat cells-yikes!
Rate your stress levels- Mild: You are occasionally frazzled but able to control most situations and move on. Moderate: Most days you feel some type of tension which occasionally last for several hours to days. Extreme: Constantly angry, frustrated, trying to make ends meet, or other emotions that leave you feeling out of control. Stress can be good in small quantities to keep you motivated and make you work much harder, but debilitating if it gets out of hand.
Once you have all of this information gathered you will have a much more complete picture of who you are and where you stand in a fitness perspective. Why are you waiting- the sooner you begin the sooner you will reach your goals and be a fitter, healthier you!
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