Planning ahead can be a critical piece of the puzzle in seeing the results you desire and progressing towards your fitness goals. In the beginning stages, it can feel pretty overwhelming and stressful to get all the pieces in the right place. Don't let it overwhelm you! “Winging it” is usually a recipe for inconsistency. When life gets busy, it's second nature to resort back to whatever habits come naturally. The key is to “trick” yourself into building new healthy habits. Coming up with a system that works is going to be a very individualized process, but once you discover what works for you, its easy to include some basic routines that help you remain consistent and on-plan.
1. Be specific about your fitness goals.
Know what you want and what you are expecting out of a lifestyle change. Simply saying that you want to “get in shape,” “be fit,” “look better,” or “feel better” is not enough! Is your main fitness goal to get stronger, improve athletic performance, lose fat, or gain muscle? Start there, but take it a step further by narrowing those goals down a bit more. Maybe you want to run your first 5k, add 20 pounds to your squat, lose 5% body fat, or gain 5 pounds of muscle. Narrowing down those goals will help you determine what type of nutrition and training program you need to stick to. Understand that some goals might be hard to attain at the same time, and usually one goal will need to take priority over another. For example, it can be very difficult to gain strength while losing fat. Decide which goals are your first priority and plan accordingly.
Disclaimer: For the first year or two, pretty much anything you do will get you results, so keep it simple and enjoy those newbie gains while they last.
2. Tackle your nutrition head-on
It's been said that success boils down to 80% nutrition, and 20% training. Other people will tell you that you “can't out-train a bad diet.” It could be argued also that you can't out-diet bad training, but you get the idea. Nutrition is a critical component, if not THE critical component in seeing the results that you want. If your nutrition is not on point, it is pretty much useless to add in supplements, metabolic conditioning, finishers, or the latest strength training plan that you found on the internet. Contrary to what you may have heard, eating less and moving more is not always the answer. Undereating can cause more harm than good long-term, resulting in metabolic problems that make it more difficult to lose weight. Eating enough of the right nutrients is a big piece of the puzzle. Balancing a sound nutrition plan with heavy resistance training is a surefire way to look and feel your best for years to come!
3. Stay one step ahead with meal planning
Given that nutrition is such a key part of the puzzle, it is wise to plan ahead to succeed. Generally “winging it” in the nutrition department leads to inconsistency and frustration. In the beginning stages, it can feel downright stressful to think about eating “all that food”. Don't get overwhelmed! A little organization and forethought goes a long way in this department.
- Coming up with a few meal templates in your food diary can be incredibly helpful. Choose at least 3 go-to breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks and store them in your nutrition tracker of choice (We're fond of My Fitness Pal!). Keep it simple, and make sure that you have staples for these meals on hand most of the time. This puts you at a huge advantage when you just can't imagine adding one more thing to your plate.
- Try to limit your trips to the grocery store to once a week, with maybe a larger trip to a warehouse store (like Costco or Sam's club). The night before you do your grocery shopping, take inventory of your fridge and cupboards and come up with a loose structure for weekly meals. I like to come up with six meals to serve my family, assuming that one night a week we will either do leftovers, order pizza, or go out to eat. I post these meals on a dry-erase board on the refrigerator and when asking, “What should I make for dinner?,” the choices are pretty simple. After coming up with my list of meals, I make sure I either have the ingredients already or add them to my grocery list.
- Devote one day to food prep. This doesn't mean you need to spend all day in the kitchen, but do make up some lean protein sources and store them in a way that is convenient for you. Make up some rice, quinoa, or potatoes and chop your veggies and fruits for the week. This will seriously cut down on the amount of time you spend in the kitchen and if you work outside the home can be a huge time-saver when it comes time to pack your lunch. Think about using the grill for preparing your protein sources. You can generally get away with cooking up a lot of meat in a very short amount of time, with minimal clean up. Investing in a rice cooker or a good slow cooker might make these ideas easier as well! I prefer to do my food prep days on the days I do grocery shopping because it seems to make sense for me. I'm usually able to get quite a bit done in only an hour or two, and this saves me a ton of time in the kitchen throughout the week!
4. Make a date with yourself
Once you have your nutrition in place, commit to making time to exercise. This does not mean that you need to spend hours in the gym! 30-60 minutes per day of an efficient workout can be very effective. If you have trouble getting to the gym, think about investing the help of a friend or workout partner who can keep you accountable. You're unlikely to skip the gym if you know that you have someone depending on you! Write down your workout times in your calendar, or set up alerts on your smart phone to remind yourself to get moving. For best results, strength train 2-4 days per week and add on some cardio if you like it and it complements your fitness goals.
5. Set up your own support network
Having people in your life who are willing to support your goals can make a huge difference! Enlisting the support of your spouse or significant other is often very beneficial. Even if they don't have the same set of goals as you do, share what you are trying to accomplish and a brief description of your plan moving forward. Be clear about ways they can support you and examples of things that may be a hindrance to your fitness journey. They are likely to be your biggest cheerleader and encourager! Who knows, they may even decide it wouldn't hurt them to make a few changes in their own life! Apart from your spouse, you may find there are others in your life that want to join with you on your fitness journey. Maybe there is someone at your workplace who could use a little encouragement and accountability as well. Take your headphones out occasionally while you are at the gym and get to know those who work out at the same time you do. Meet a friend for a weekly HIIT date in the park. Having a training partner to bounce ideas off of can be an invaluable resource, but isn't always practical.
Our EM2WL forums are a great source of support and friendship as well.
Photo credit by Stuart Miles, LeeGillion, Ambro of freedigitalphotos.net
Becca is a busy wife and homeschooling mother to five children ages 5 to 13. About three years ago, she embarked on a journey to health and fitness that resulted in the loss of approximately 100 pounds. Today, she is a competitive powerlifter and strongwoman who loves ice cream and deadlifts. As an ISSA certified personal trainer, she is passionate about helping women to get started on a lifestyle of strength and fitness.