It’s no surprise that many of you are resolving to improve your health and maybe shed a few pounds this year.
But if you want yearlong success and beyond, you need an action plan, because wanting it isn’t enough.
There are many changes that need to be implemented regarding nutrition, exercise and mindset. Here is the blueprint to use to get the ball rolling and to achieve the results that you deserve — over the long haul.
You have to believe in yourself
It all begins here. Henry Ford said it best: “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.” Simple and true.
There needs to be a paradigm shift for true change to take place. You need to “believe it before you see it” — especially if you’ve “failed” in the past. Realize there is no finality in it.
And chances are, you’ve had proof of successes in the past as well. Reflect and harness your energy on these victories. Regardless of how big or small they were, they are the proof you need that it’s possible to make positive change and sustain it.
Create a supportive environment
You are the average of the five people closest to you. If you look closely, collectively, you will share similarities in socioeconomic status, hobbies — and nutrition and exercise habits.
So be prepared for potential pushback when you make the decision to start a fitness program — whether it’s a friend trying to get you to skip the gym for cocktails or your spouse lamenting that you don’t spend enough time with him or her.
So invite your friend to join you for a workout and grab a healthy dinner afterward. If your spouse feels you are “taking away” his or her time with you, be understanding but emphasize that these healthy changes will only improve the quality of the time you spend together.
If you can’t find the support you need, seek out a hiking/running group, a recreation sports league or fitness club. You will naturally develop a solid support group with people who share the same goals, have experienced the same struggles and will help increase your chances of long-term success.
Start with the nutrition basics
There is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to nutrition. Factors such as genetics, environment, food allergies and daily energy demands will influence how an individual responds to dietary intake.
Getting down the basics and eating to improve your energy should be your focus. Once you get these basics down, you can alter your intake based on your needs.
▪ Eat fruits or veggies with each meal. There is a good reason why mothers harp on their children to eat these foods. Nutrient-dense and low in calories, fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals, and they help buffer the body’s acidic response to protein and grains.
One medium-sized fruit, one-half cup of raw chopped fruit or vegetables or 1 cup of raw, leafy vegetables each equals one serving. Aim for 1-2 servings per meal.
▪ Eat “quality” carbs. Cut back on the processed, sugary carbs like juice, white flour and muffins and eat more whole food and fiber-rich carbs. This includes vegetables, beans, legumes, whole-grain breads and pastas, quinoa and long-grain rice.
Typically, vegetables, beans, legumes and most fruit can be consumed often and at any time of the day. Breads, pasta and rice should be consumed after workouts or physical activity, especially if fat loss is a goal. This is primarily because the body has its highest tolerance of carbohydrates post-workout than at any other time. This will help refuel the body without any carbohydrate “spillover” into fat storage.
▪ Include protein-dense foods and health fats. Up to 1 serving (20-30 g) for women and 2 servings for men (40-60 g) should be included with each meal (a serving of protein is about the size of the palm of your hand). Protein-dense foods include lean meats such as ground beef, chicken, turkey and bison. Other great protein sources include salmon, tuna, eggs, cottage cheese, tofu and beans.
And don’t forget fats. Vitamins A, D, E and K, are critical to optimal human function and can only be absorbed by a body with adequate fat in its diet. Eating a variety of meats, cheeses, nuts, olive oil and a fish oil supplement are all great ways to get our daily dose of fat.
Remember to drink water
Current research from the Institute of Medicine found that the average water loss per day was nine cups for women and 13 cups for men, which is the minimum daily recommendation for each sex, respectively.
If you’re active, then you will need more. Approximately 19 percent of our fluid intake comes from food (approximately 4 cups on average). So by eating the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables, you are getting a great source of additional hydration.
You must include resistance training
There are many benefits to resistance training, and it should be an absolute staple in everyone’s fitness routine. With a solid resistance training regimen, you’ll have increased strength and endurance, increased metabolic rate, fat loss and increased bone density, to name a few.
Focus should be primarily on compound movements that involve many joints and muscle groups within one exercise, leading to more calories burned per workout.
Compound movement examples for lower body exercises include deadlifts, lunges, step ups and squats. For the upper body, try pullups, pushups, rows and bench presses. Shoot to train each muscle group at least one to two times per week. Either do two total-body workouts per week or split the workouts into a lower and upper body focus. In general, The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends 1-3 sets of 8-12 reps per exercise when starting out.
If you are just beginning an exercise program, start out with a lower-intensity program for the first two months. The focus should be on building endurance and gradually increasing the length of the workouts each week while keep intensity the same. This approach helps minimize risk of injury, better prepares the body for the demands of exercise and increases your body’s production of fat-burning enzymes and mitochondria, which aids in improving cardiovascular fitness and increased weight loss.
Once you have developed a cardiovascular base, add 1-2 short and intense interval workouts, as well as 1-2 moderate length and moderately intense workouts. Remember to still include longer, moderately intense workouts in your program 1-2 times per week; they will aid in recovery and training adaptation.
The sessions should be structured as follows:
▪ Structure 1-2 short and intense interval workouts into your program each week. These workouts should last between 20 and 30 minutes and should be at a Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) of 8-9. These workouts will definitely be above your comfort zone or where you would prefer to exercise.
▪ Structure 1-2 moderate length and intensity aerobic workouts each week. These sessions should be 30-40 minutes in duration and a RPE effort level of 6-7. The level of effort in these workouts should be comfortable but challenging.
▪ Structure 1-2 long and easy intensity workouts each week. These sessions should be 45-plus minutes plus in duration with a RPE intensity of 5-6. These workouts should be low impact, feel very comfortable, almost like you’re going too slow. But keep in mind these workouts effectively target your aerobic energy system, which will help develop fat-burning enzymes and help maximize recovery.
Jason Wanlass, the owner of Champion Fitness Training in Meridian, has more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or championfit.net.