If you're having trouble finding some motivation to go from your sedentary lifestyle to a more active one, check out the four basic goals that can start you on a journey to fitness, health and overall well-being.
Instead of going blindly to the gym, these goals can help monitor progress and build habits from your initial motivation as you turn those habits into discipline.
This process takes some consistency, but consistency is step one.
1. Develop Consistency in Exercising
Set an alarm. Place it on the calendar because if an event is not on the schedule, that event does not exist. Scheduling is the most important goal to set, because we are typically creating a new habit and perhaps ending an old habit.
Both are tough to do, but you can accomplish this goal with some creativity. If getting up early to exercise is a habit you are trying to build, sleeping until your "normal time" is a habit you are trying to break. You can hit it hard and rip the Band-Aid off for the first few days and discover a natural tendency to go to bed a bit earlier, allowing you to lose no sleep and still start your new exercise habit.
However, if you are more of a night owl and do not necessarily have to be up early, you might take a different approach. Many people will tie a new exercise regimen to an evening activity that's already on the schedule, such as walking the dog, walking for 10 minutes after dinner, doing yard work or walking around your kid's soccer practice field. If you are already out and moving, tie a few more exercises to that event and create a workout with a variety of upper- and lower-body exercises in the form of calisthenics.
2. Measurably Increase the Level of Health and Fitness
You should assess your health and fitness regularly. Go to the doctor and get a physical. The truth will be seen from your blood test results, bodyweight, blood pressure and general overall health numbers. During workouts, test yourself with timed cardio events, such as walking, running, biking, swimming, rowing or elliptical machines.
I like to find out how quickly I can burn 100 calories -- run or row a mile, or swim 500 meters. These little cardio tests can be regular parts of your workout. As you progress, make them part of your warmup just to see how you are doing.
Keep notes of good and bad performance. Whether you perform well or not, look back at the previous 24 hours and track how well you slept, what foods you ate, how you hydrated and when you worked out. All of these can help create a high-performance template for your future training or testing events. You can find what to do to be at your absolute best as well as what to avoid to eliminate poor performances.
3. Become More Physically Active
Physical fitness and activity are completely relative to an individual's situation. For many, just getting up and walking more represents a huge increase in physical activity. On the other end of the spectrum, many are just trying to get better at what they are doing currently. Regardless of where you are on the fitness spectrum, consider regular changes in routines to avoid staleness, lackluster results and eventual loss of motivation to train at all.
Here is the secret. You don't need a gym for physical activity. You can squeeze it into 10- to 15-minute segments spread throughout the day by doing yard work, walking more or adding a new cardio event to warmups or cooldowns. You can change lifting cycles to calisthenics and cardio or vice versa. Consider making changes every 6-12 weeks to avoid monotonous training programming. Check out how we do seasonal training routines each year that keep training fun year-round.
4. Reach Goal Weight and Reduce Body Fat
Adding more physical activity to your day is key to accomplishing weight goals and that extra activity is usually enough to do the trick. However, adding that 30- to 60-minute workout a day is the easy part, compared to all of the time when you can be eating. Eating healthful foods and avoiding sugar drinks and snacks is key to your success, but so is portion size. Moving more and eating less is a definite requirement, but eating well is a necessity to make this work. Check out this article about other meal options.
If You Are Considering Military Service
If you are considering military or other service, you need to train your body to save another. One day, your life, your buddy's life or the life of someone you are trying to help will depend on your physical abilities. If you join as a deconditioned and non-athletic candidate, that typically will lead to multiple issues with overuse injuries (tendinitis, rhabdomyolysis, shin pain, etc.) even as early as boot camp, basic training or training at a police or fire academy.
You do not have to be an athlete to achieve above-average fitness, but you must work hard to get conditioned as if your life or your buddy's life depends on it. Yes, your fitness is that important. Give yourself a few months to build the fitness foundation that will prevent you from getting hurt during training and allow you to meet the standards of service.
Finally, it is no one's job to motivate you to serve your country or community except your own. Do not look outside for motivation to serve. There is nothing wrong with motivation, but eventually your motivation must evolve into discipline. Service is a calling, and your self-motivation and determination should come from within. Sure, you can be inspired, learn from and be coached by others, but the reasons you show up every day and maintain your physical abilities, even though you do not feel like it, will be up to you.
Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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