Common sense, but habitually overlooked
Let's revisit the simple logic.
When you merely 'exist' from day-to-day. You know, work-home-bed, and little else – save an hour or so of channel-hopping on television.
Where are you heading?
When every successive day is like the one before it... Well, you're pretty much in limbo.
Apart from the tedium, if you had to suddenly 'stop the clock' and take a look at your life – would you be satisfied.
My guess is: you wouldn’t.
Many people I talk to seem to be in a job-situation which has them heading nowhere else but to questionable health while they strive for financial stability. The Economist carried an interesting and very relevant story on this in late 2014.
What meaning or purpose does life really have if it's all about earning money at the cost (pun intended) of your state of wellness?
Whether you're chasing a bigger paycheck or just busy doing other things, suppose you actually do manage to eke out an hour or two per week to 'move' a little. Well, that's good. But if that's all, it won’t actually get you going places – sorry to say.
A little working out here or there is only going to appease your conscience. Just enough so you can say: “I work out.” Haphazard training is probably more dangerous to an unconditioned physiology than is worthwhile risking.
Of course, gradual and consistent training in line with a fitness plan and a solid program – now we’re talking. The benefits are many.
So… if you have a compelling urge to get serious about shaping up or improving your health and fitness levels, great! It’s my sincere wish that you and many like you (and Al) have this realization, and heed the call to action.
But how do we take this to the next level?
The short answer: you start with a fitness plan. Add commitment and consistency to that plan, and you have a deal.
BELIEVE ME, YOU DO NEED A PLAN
This approach holds true for all forms of fitness from ballet dancing to hard-core bodybuilding.
Just to be clear: I cannot do justice to all categories of health and fitness on a single page.
So, in line with my target audience (Al and company), we'll take a look at those considerations for weight loss (preferably fat loss) while adding or consolidating lean muscle and boosting overall health and wellness.
Consider for a moment that you own a yacht. How would you successfully travel through unchartered waters?
Presumably you look at your map, take prevailing weather into account, estimate the travel-time, plan your route, prepare your journey and set off. I’m hoping that you will establish the destination upfront.
You wouldn't just hop aboard and sail away – right?
As with this simplified example of maritime navigation, fitness also requires forethought, planning and execution.
But the destination is all-important in reaching fitness goals – whatever they may be. Try 'winging it' and you're going nowhere.
So how do we go places?
5 Fitness Plan Essentials
Having decided you want to effectively transform your body and fitness levels, look no further than these principles:
1. Know your goal
You've made an informed (or advised) fitness-decision, visualizing your changed body within a program-window of your choosing.
Without that 'destination' as a reference, merely training and presuming you'll somehow succeed along the way – will give you the same results I once had back in the day when I had no fitness plan.
Take the time to familiarize yourself with your chosen fitness program. This means understanding the training and nutrition principles, as well as the applicable duration.
2. Decide whether you'll train at home or in a gym
This will influence your weight-training techniques and potential fitness gains. Your primary concerns here relate to the appropriate biomechanical means to work on muscular strength and muscular endurance training. Cardio on the other hand, can be done pretty much anywhere: the gym, on the road, track or sports field.
If you decide to do the weight-training at home, you'll need to learn how to use your own bodyweight and/or invest in some basic equipment like a set of adjustable dumbbells, a barbell and a bench.
Although my personal preference is to train at home, I would recommend that if you’re an absolute beginner and feeling out of your depth – to consider signing up at a gym initially. That way you can start off in a training environment with a variety of equipment options.
Once you get up to speed, you can begin setting up the necessary training apparatus at home, based on your training needs and available space.
3. Programming meals and workout routines ahead of time
No, you don't need to become a control freak!
Welcome a regular fitness program into your life, and it won't be long before this sort of programming becomes unnecessary. I don't do it anymore either. I make it up as I go along – literally.
But you do need to pay your dues for the first 1-3 months. Prepare to go through a little bit of daily planning. This is a very necessary activity. Done properly, and you'll eventually progress to doing it instinctively. Although the Sensible Fitness Program is always my reference, my training and eating is largely second-nature now.
A short 5-10-minute prep using a simple program log is all it takes. While you may think you can prepare meals on the fly, it's far more difficult to ad-hoc the exercise part, and still get results if you're new to fitness. This holds true whether you are on a cutting cycle (shedding body fat to enhance definition) or building phase.
4. Recording physical exercise activity
Your success will be highly contingent on this.
Keeping a log also allows you to gauge 'when' and 'how' to make incremental adjustments to your program activities. Tracking these is vital to helping you stay on course and continue progressing. You'll want to ensure that you can lift progressively more weight while performing your cardio sessions with increasing intensity.
You cannot make these advancements as a newbie without a logging your progress. But the time will come when you fully know and understand your body's needs and tendencies.
When you get there, you'll most likely not need to keep regular records any longer – other than checking your personal bests from time-to-time.
(A training log is available for the Sensible Fitness Program here.)
5. Recording Weight and body fat levels
Record your numbers so you can make adjustments to your program and/or nutrition. However, don't obsess about doing this on a daily basis though – what with hormones, fluid-balance and daily habits all thrown into the mix. Weekly values will show a truer indication of your physical change.
Along with your measurements, do a weekly self-inspection using a mirror. To keep a check on body fat levels, perform a skin-fold pinch about an inch above your hipbone.
The Accu-Measure entails a fairly efficient way of doing this. Another practical progress-indicator is the 'fit' of your clothing around your waist and buttocks.
As an additional measure, you could consider having periodic pictures taken of yourself – for example at monthly intervals. Not only does this help you to see 'where' you've made (or still have to make) improvements – it also works great to keep you motivated.
Keep in mind that the bathroom scale merely shows an overall body weight. Although it's useful to note, far more important is increasing your muscle-to-fat ratio (body composition). You can actually become leaner and heavier while reducing body fat. This is why the scale is not the all-important indicator of your progress.
When you're ultimately familiar with your body and fitness needs, and in maintenance-mode, an occasional weight-check and glance in the mirror is all you need.
Please note: I do not advocate recording and monitoring body stats beyond beginner/intermediate status (1-3 months), unless following a cutting or bulking program.
You have the plan now. Why not put it into action with a program?
Now that we've gone through what a fitness plan should include – what will 'getting fit' entail?
For the most part, people like Al who finally step up to the plate, will benefit primarily from Health-Related Fitness conditioning. (More about this on the page: How To Get Fit?) Maybe you’ll want to go after more specific goals later on like endurance sport or aesthetics.
But first, you’ll want to consider these 5 integral components in establishing and building functional fitness – prior to any attempts at specialization:
- Cardiorespiratory Fitness
- Body Composition
- Muscular Strength
- Muscular Endurance
Looking at these components should give you a clue that an effective fitness program includes both aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Simply put, this means enhancing the capacity of your heart-lung function, and the strength and condition of the major muscles of the body.
Health-related fitness also extends to adequately address biomechanical functions for the improvement of overall mobility, joint-health, and connective tissue conditioning.
Finally, body composition is an important indicator and predictor of health and/or the risk of illness – depending on whether you lead an active or a sedentary lifestyle. Basically, your body composition will reflect a desirable ratio (a higher lean body mass) given you adhere to a regular fitness program and follow a solid nutrition plan.
Tying it all together
For optimal health-related fitness, you'll want to increase your lean body mass by optimizing your muscle condition. Improved musculature – in and of itself – boosts your metabolism, and can help you maintain or reduce your body fat (depending on your goal and nutritional protocol).
How? Simple. More muscle = more fat burned.
At the same time, a complementary eating plan and regular cardiovascular exercise, work in tandem to give the WIN-WIN-WIN situation you need (and can have).
Now that you have a good idea of what's entailed in enhancing your physical condition and improving your health, you can jump right in and start working out, right?
In a manner of speaking yes, but having made the commitment to 'go for it' doesn't automatically mean you're going to reach your objective.
Yes, you guessed right: you need that fitness plan.
Harnessing it to an effective fitness program is going to get you from your 'here' to your chosen 'there.'
There you have it. The fitness plan essentials and pointers to help you successfully plan and execute your health-related fitness or body transformation program.
To cite an oft-used Churchill proverb: "he who fails to plan is planning to fail."
There is a method suited to Al and other similar folks
Make the most of your fitness endeavors and leave as little as possible to chance.