Everybody knows that in order to accomplish something, be it big or small, you must set a goal. It doesn’t matter if the goal is to lose 10 pounds, to eat healthier or to work out consistently.
Although we probably all agree that goal-setting is necessary, the real problem is not setting the goal, but sticking with it. Talk is cheap, and if you really want to achieve your goals this summer, fitness or otherwise, you really need a plan.
To help you get it right this summer, here are my seven habits of highly fit people:
1. Set a goal. Similar to a business metric, you must set quantifiable fitness and health goals. For example, if your cholesterol is 250, give yourself the goal of getting it down to 200 by your next checkup, as opposed to just wishing that number would go down. Take concrete steps, like limiting or eliminating your consumption of high-cholesterol foods, like butter, cheese, eggs and meat. If weight loss is also a goal, commit to a number, let’s say 20 pounds, and figure out how many weeks or months it will take you to safely reach your goal. If you stay committed to your commitments, you can safely lose 20 pounds in 10 weeks.
If you want to improve your muscle tone and strength, give yourself a goal like achieving 10 perfect push-ups in eight weeks, and so on. Otherwise you are just wishing for results as opposed to planning and tracking your success. A wish requires no action on your part, but a plan does.
2. Write it down. Some wise person once said “failing to plan is planning to fail.” Write down every single thing you would like to accomplish to improve your health, diet and workouts. You are far more likely to reach your goals if you write them down.
3. Avoid portion distortion. Many people mistakenly think that working out is a license to eat not only whatever they want, but also unlimited quantities. Nothing could be further from the truth. With or without exercise, if you consume more calories than you burn each day you will gain weight. If you’re aiming for a sixpack, guess what — it starts in the kitchen, baby. At the minimum, diet is 80 percent of the equation and exercise is 20 percent but you still have to do both. There are no shortcuts, and no amount of exercise can replace poor nutrition.
4. Make fitness a priority. Who has time to exercise? With juggling career and family, nobody has time for fitness, right? Wrong! These days everyone is sleep-deprived and working 60 or more hours a week. At least, those are some of the excuses people give for not exercising. If you plan to get fit you must make fitness a priority and plan a daily date at the gym, your basement or bedroom for a workout. Also, I’ll let you in on another little secret: You’re more likely to get it in if you do it in the morning. The later it gets in the day, the more likely you’ll blow off your exercise routine. Besides, when you prioritize your fitness first, you are making an investment in your most significant asset — you.
5. Follow the Boy Scouts. “Be Prepared.” Preparation is 90 percent of your success. Get organized, prepare your meals, buy your gear, sneakers, gym bag, toiletry items, etc. In short, leave no room for failure or excuses. Buy what you need, prepare the night before, pack your lunch and leave your gym bag at the front door.
6. Exercise effectively. Are you exercising on a regular basis, say, three to four times a week, but still not getting the results you want? If so, then you must ask yourself: How effective is my exercise routine, or what’s up with my diet? It’s not enough to simply go through the motions, you want to be sure you are exercising and eating correctly, otherwise you could be getting diminishing returns. If you are not getting the results you want, then it is likely time to increase either the speed, length or the intensity of your training program, and/or to shake up your diet. So, look at your routine and decide which training variables you need to change.
7. Set realistic goals. Don’t expect to lose 50 pounds in five weeks or expect to look like an elite athlete after only four weeks of training. Losing one to two pounds a week is not just acceptable, but a rather lofty goal. Two pounds is the equivalent of 7,000 calories, and that’s no joke. Focus on the tangibles, like preparing healthy meals, getting stronger, increasing stamina, getting more muscle and losing body fat. Looking good and feeling great are the rewards for your efforts. It’s a lifestyle, and what you put in is what you’ll get out.