Eat More. Do Less.

How To Get Started On Your Fitness Goals

The new year is almost upon us. Two thirds of adults in the US set resolutions based around fitness. According to a Harris poll sponsored by bodybuilding.com, 73% give up before meeting their goal and nearly half gave up in the first six weeks. That was me for the last 15 years. Until 2014. So what changed and how can that help you?

Flickr image by adrian valenzuela

Flickr image by adrian valenzuela

After six months of eating right and exercising I realized I was in the best shape of my life. I wasn’t happy about it. That realization brought about another realization of how physically lazy and out of shape I’d always been. However, I also knew that I had only scratched the surface and the best was yet to come. I couldn’t change the past, but I could shape the future.

The First Step to Getting in Shape

This is going to seem obvious, but the first thing you have to do is decide to get in shape. Good news is that’s the easy part. It doesn’t take much to decide you want to lose 40lbs or whatever reason you have for making the decision.

Where we fall short is step two: commitment. Decision and commitment are two very different things and the latter can make all the difference in your success or repeat failure.

Before you commit to getting in shape, you need to think through exactly what will be required of you. Do not skip this step. If you blindly buy a workout DVD and start it on January 1st, you will fail. Probably within two weeks. The first part of commitment means facing your currently reality and using that as a motivating factor. You’ll need this as you get through the first few weeks.

I wasn’t happy with how I looked in the mirror, or the fact that more and more of my clothes had to come from the big and tall store. Pissed me off, but didn’t get me to change. I also started traveling for work and those airplane seats are really uncomfortable when you hang over the armrests because you’re fat. Again, I hated it, but not enough to do anything about it, I guess.

My reality check was my health. I started having frequent gout attacks and that stuff hurt! Even when my joints didn’t hurt I would get tired climbing a flight of stairs and I began to worry about developing heart disease and diabetes. As I moved into my late 30’s, I started to think about the future. I didn’t want to be 60 and taking a handful of pills everyday because I didn’t make some changes 20 years earlier. I already look back to my 20’s and think about what could have been. I didn’t want to do that anymore. I had to get healthy.

Make the Commitment

Even though I knew I was out of shape, I didn’t realize how much until I started working out. Thinking about how far I had to go was discouraging. Doing this is a great way to talk yourself into quitting. Even though I wanted to lose 70lbs, I had to put that out of my head and commit to 90 days of showing up and doing the work. No matter what the results or how much I hated it, I was in for three months. This, I figured, would be long enough to hopefully see some improvements that would keep me going and give me time to build the habit of showing up. Getting started sucks, but if you don’t quit, you only have to start one time!

Find A Workout

Maybe you want to take a short jog a few times a week. That’s a good start. Maybe you want bigger results so you’re looking for something more intense like P90x you can do at home, or aerobics classes at the gym. We all like different things and have different interests, so find something that suits your needs and pushes you outside your comfort zone as this is where you improve and grow.

I chose Crossfit because I freakin’ hate cardio. I couldn’t do 45 minutes on a treadmill or bike, so I’d get discouraged at not seeing results from just weightlifting and I’d quit. I liked lifting weights, so I figured lifting weights for cardio would be better than long runs that I couldn’t do. I also figured the high intensity would produce results faster than spending a year working up to a mile run.

I also like that I don’t have to know jack about exercise or physiology to get started. I’ve known a lot of people intimidated by working out because they didn’t know how to use the machines or have any idea of what exercise to do. With Crossfit, I have someone planning my workouts, showing me how to do everything, correcting me, and tailoring the weights and movements to my abilities. I just have to commit to showing up and doing the work.

Find Some Accountability

Sticking with this will be much easier if you have an accountability partner. I hate that phrase, but there’s truth in it. It’s much easier to skip putting on the DVD than it is skipping the gym knowing someone is waiting on you. I workout with the same group of guys because we tend to go the same class due to our work schedules. If I miss a few days, someone notices and is likely going to check in to find out where I’ve been. My workout partners have also become friends. There are days I don’t feel like working out, but I show up because I like hanging out with everyone.

It’s also easier if you have a supportive spouse or significant other. My wife and I both go to the same box. We attend at different times, but it’s nice because we still discuss how much the workout sucked and how sadistic the coaches are. My wife also handles most of our meal prep. Even though I eat twice the calories she does, we eat mostly the same foods. There are a couple things I add in that she doesn’t, but it’s all prepped together. It also makes dining out easier because one of us isn’t trying to eat healthy while the other one wants fast food. Spouses on completely different diets is amazingly difficult to overcome. It will take much more work, so be prepared.

Flickr image by Celestine Chua

Flickr image by Celestine Chua

Set Goals

A goal without a plan is a dream. It is important to write out your goals. I’m working on something that will walk you through the goal setting process, but for now I’ll hit the basics.

Your goals first need to be your own. It can’t be something someone else thinks you should achieve. If you aren’t working for yourself, you won’t have the drive to maintain your efforts. A goal should be SMART, but it must also connect on an emotional level. Goals that focus on hard results only are harder to stick with.

What does that mean? A hard goal would be to lose 40lbs. Adding an emotional connection would be to lose 40lbs so that you can keep up with your kids when they want to play. Make it personal.

You also need to write your goals down. Be specific. “Lose weight” is a terrible goal. How much weight? By when? Technically, you could have one good poop and hit that goal. Lose 8lbs by the end of the month is much better because it’s specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely (SMART).

Start small with your goals. My first one was to make it 90 days. This would give me time to learn the Crossfit system, terminology, and movements. I told the coaches when I first started that my number one priority was to build core strength and get my muscles activated again. I had no plans to start trying to add weight to the bar until I had solid base to work from. I also worked on the end of the gym with the women. And not the strongest among them. I wasn’t thrilled that half the women out-lifted me, but I also wasn’t in this for ego so I bought me a nice sports bra and jumped into the fray (figuratively, of course).

As I got comfortable with the movements and loosened up, I was able to start lifting heavier weights and do it safely. I did squats with an empty bar until I felt my knees were able to support more weight without blowing out. Setting small goals that you can achieve quickly will also build momentum, provide a sense of accomplishment, and keep you motivated.

One other thing most people overlook is listing benefits and consequences. What are three good and three bad things that will come from you hitting or missing your goal? Hitting your goal might mean lowering your blood pressure, looking good naked, and being able to do things you can’t do now. Missing the goal might mean developing diabetes, going on medication, or not being able to run that marathon next year. As you find it hard to maintain your motivation to get to the gym, this list can be an invaluable resource to help you remember why you started and why you must keep at it.

Do It Now

If this is the year you are going to get in shape, you have to prepare yourself ahead of time. Even if you plan on waiting until January 1st to start a program, now is the perfect time to start your planning using the steps above. Then, when January rolls around you’ll be ready to hit the ground running with a plan of attack.

Stick Around

The next article in this series is going to be about maintaining your motivation and surviving the first 90 days. Enter your email address in the box below or at the top of the sidebar for automatic updates. Then take a second to like the Facebook page and follow me on Instagram for updates, motivation, and funnies.

I’ve added a discussion question below and I’d love to hear from you in the comments below or on the Facebook page.

How many times have you set a resolution to “get in shape” and what is going to be different this time?