I often get the question of how one can "lose weight". Usually most people want to lose at least 10 pounds and quite a few want to lose even more. Exercise is often a great way to start. However, before you even begin to lift that first dumbbell or before you go out to buy your gym membership, you may want to sit down with a friend or a coach and have them ask you a few pointed questions.
A common question I like to ask a client who is just starting a new way of life is, "Where do you want to be in 3 months?". Then I ask them where are they right now. This usually helps to identify the gap they presently face between where they are now and where they would like to be in 3 months time. I usually use 3 months time since most people have difficulty focusing in on goals that are beyond 3 months in duration. In coordination with this though is identifying your health/fitness "Dream". This is not always easy to develop but is most crucial in staying with a training program. Some want to be able to one day complete a triathlon or marathon. Others may simply want to be able to play with their grand kids. However, it must be something that makes their hair on the arms stand up. It has to scare them a little but also inspire them.
Once we identify their fitness "dream" we can get to work on their gap we can begin to cut things down to size and discuss the feasibility of losing "X" amount of weight in 3 months if that is their goal to get them to their "dream". We also discuss the 2-3 most major obstacles getting in the way of the client's progress. 9 times out of 10 they include some combination of the following three areas of one's life that needs to be adjusted (time management, diet, and exercise). I have found that most individuals over-estimate the amount of exercise they need to do and under-estimate the affects nutrition has on their overall appearance and/or results.
DEVELOPING A PLAN:
Everyone is different but based on a client's response to the initial questions above we usually begin to identify what their "Fitness Dream" is, what is getting in the way of that dream, and how we can begin to develop a plan of attack.
This is where organization and knowing what to do becomes important. When should you push yourself? When should you rest? How long should you rest? All these variables become important to your success. Your plan is much like building a house. If you have a strong motivational foundation you are more likely to continue to do that. If there is one secret in becoming fit and healthy it is consistency in diet and training.
Everyone usually starts out with the best of intentions but ultimately becomes sidelined by either an illness, injury, or outside responsibilities (Job/Family/School). This is where a plan becomes crucial.
Plans can be written on paper or be developed by your coach through any one of the several training platforms available on-line. I like to use Trainingpeaks.com to deliver daily workouts via e-mail to my clients. It is useful as an organizational tool but also as a communication tool. We can track their training and nutritional progress and also find a source of motivational articles and topics at a common source. However, for those of you just starting out and who can't afford a coach you may want to consider keeping a workout log and a diet log on a website and/or in a journal. Be sure to write everything down. After all, what is measured usually improves over time. Be sure to plan in sufficient rest and never add more than 10% to your training volume at any one time. It also helps to continually change up your training intensity and volume on a weekly basis to keep things new and interesting. Again, the most important thing is consistency and small incremental improvements that are powered by your plan, measured, and tied into your fitness/health "dream".
ADJUSTING THE PLAN:
With any plan, it is just that. A guide to your goals. However, things happen and plans are meant to be changed. Changing your plan based on how your body is responding to the training is critical in maintaining your progress and keeping you moving forward. A common mistake with most self-trained individuals is that they get into a training rut and do the same things day in and day out. At first this will work. Unfortunately, over time your body will adapt to this training and you will not get the same bang for your buck when it comes to training time. At this point you or your coach will want to change gears and tweak your plan accordingly.
MAINTAINING YOUR NEW LIFESTYLE:
Once you have made the necessary changes in your plan and you realize you have been now training for 3 months it soon becomes time to re-evaluate your goals. Did you get to where you were trying to go? Are you closer to your "Health/Fitness Dream"?
What can you improve upon and what is up for the next 3 months? Usually a weekly phone call or email from your coach will keep you on the right track. I have also found it crucial to get those close to you on board in order to support healthy lifestyle changes. For example, if you are trying to eat healthy but your husband is constantly buying cookies and cake you are going to have a much harder time than someone who is loosing weight with their spouse who is also eating healthy. Let those close to you know what you are doing and why you are doing it. Usually, they will support you but it takes a team effort, communication, and hard work. Imagine if your entire family began to be more active and fit.