As summer approaches, we often think more about our personal fitness levels. Maybe there are activities we’d like to get out and do as the weather becomes nicer, or maybe we struggle with anxieties about not being covered up in multiple layers of clothing.
No matter what your reason, if you want to get fit in time for summer, you need to create a plan and work it. You have to decide what your diet is going to consist of and what kind of exercise or toning strategy you’re going to follow. With a little bit of effort, you can achieve your goals.
Be Honest About Where You’re At and What You Can Achieve
To achieve your goals, you have to start with honesty. People can easily err on either side of the truth here, either overestimating their physical condition which risks them possibly getting sidelined by an unexpected health issue or injury, or they underestimate themselves, blowing minor or cosmetic issues out of proportion which may limit their confidence or make things more stressful than they need to be.
It is also extremely important to understand that true honesty can’t be achieved if your feelings about physical fitness are too tightly bound up with your personal self-esteem. You won’t be able to accurately assess anything if you also have to protect yourself from the ramifications of such an assessment instead of being able to work with it objectively.
If your primary motivation for pursuing fitness is to try to earn your value as a person either in your own eyes or others’, then you will struggle more to reach success when fueled by negative feelings rather than positive ones, and you might damage yourself mentally or physically in the process rather than seeing any gains. Rather, you should pursue fitness because you are a valuable person, so you deserve a healthy life and the energy to enjoy it, and the rest of the world will benefit from having you around longer and able to participate more, whether or not other people have the sense to see and acknowledge that value within you.
So, to be able to work toward the results you want to have, you have to look at yourself honestly. You need to know what your weight is and whether that’s a good fit for your age and height.
Take a look at yourself in the mirror. Turn sideways and see if your stomach has a pooch to it or if you’re carrying a spare tire. Turn your back to the mirror and look over your shoulder. See if you can spot areas of cellulite and parts that need tightening.
Once you know what you need to work on, then you can put your plan into motion. But understand that there’s being honest with yourself about the shape of your body and then there’s being honest with yourself and knowing what you can achieve.
If you set a goal that’s too difficult and tougher than anything you’ve ever tried, you could be setting yourself up for failure. If your goal is unachievable, then all you’re doing is sabotaging yourself. You’ll end up discouraged and give up before you’ve even really given it a chance.
For example, aiming to lose a couple pounds a week is something that can be achieved. Setting a goal of losing ten pounds a week is not. At least not in a healthy way.
When you set your exercise or toning goals, make those realistic, too. If you decide that you’re going to work out for an hour every day, seven days a week, when you know your schedule is already overbooked, the odds are not in your favor.
Set realistic goals to achieve the body that you want. These goals should be broken into small steps that you can achieve on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. If you want to lose sixty pounds, the odds are you’re not going to do that in just two months.
It’s better to set smaller, more achievable goals and reach those to help keep yourself motivated rather than to demoralize yourself by overshooting and coming up short.
Plan for Fitness Milestones
One of the best ways that you can motivate yourself is to set a series of small goals. If you set a major goal such as having a beach body in time for summer, that doesn’t really give you anything to measure your success by. So then time passes and you don’t really see any changes. This can lead you to question whether or not what you’re doing is even working. Or it might cause you to get frustrated and quit.
By setting milestones that you can check in with over time rather than fixating on just your end goal, you’ll stay motivated to keep on going.
You can do something like setting a fitness milestone that drops your percentage of body fat. This is easy to check, and you can use a body fat caliper to do this with. You can check things like your abdominal fat, and it’ll tell you your millimeter reading. You can measure your milestones by observing that your number or percentage of body fat drops as you progress with getting into shape.
Checking your percentage of fat lost using a caliper is one way you can set a milestone, but another way is to check in with the number of pounds that you’ve lost. This is fairly easy to do – you just step on the scale. But you want to keep in mind that your weight is going to fluctuate based on the time of day, what you’ve had to eat, and water gain or loss. Don’t weigh yourself every day. You can fluctuate between 2-4 pounds a day just based on certain variables.
Instead, set a particular time to weigh yourself about once a week or every ten days. Then make sure that you weigh yourself at the same time, the same way, and wearing the same clothing as you did all the other times.
Some people weigh themselves first thing in the morning before they’ve had anything to eat or drink to get a more accurate reading. One of the first places that most people notice weight loss is in the face. When you notice this, you’ve lost between five and ten pounds.
Another fitness milestone you can set can be based on sizes lost. It takes approximately ten to fifteen pounds to go down a size of clothing. So when you notice that the things you wear are getting looser, it’s time to try on a smaller size. Break down your milestones in sizing so that it feels easier to accomplish.
Measuring weight loss by inches lost is another way to plan fitness milestones. You can tell when you’re losing inches simply by measuring your chest, waist, and hips. You’ll often notice that you’ve lost inches long before you notice a change on the bathroom scale.
Choose a Non-Food Reward
Weight loss and getting fit can make you feel good about yourself. It can make you feel like celebrating. And you should celebrate! You set a goal and you stuck to it. You deserve to be rewarded.
But the area of rewards is where many people end up sabotaging their best efforts. If you lose weight and then turn around and celebrate by binging on foods that make you gain it back, you’re undermining all your hard work. Not only that, but you’ll end up regretting the choices you make that take you away from your goal rather than propel you toward it.
It’s important that you celebrate all of your accomplishments – even the small ones. This will help to keep you on track and push you to want to keep on going. However, you want to stay away from ordering your favorite calorie-laden pizza and eating several slices of that.
You also want to stay away from doing things that take your eyes off your end results. Don’t skip a workout and go to a party as a reward. You don’t want to switch out something that works toward your goal and make that a reward. That would make exercising seem like punishment. You want to keep all your good habits in place. You want your rewards to be things that back up your goal. These items or actions need to be things that reinforce all your hard work.
So choose things that are related to your fitness goals. For example, a positive reward that would help you stick to your plan would be choosing a new swimsuit. This helps you remember why you’re doing what it is that you’re doing in the first place. Or maybe you can plan a trip to the beach to lie in the sand or to catch a few waves.
Another good idea to choose as a non-food reward is to go get a massage. This will help relax you. Take yourself out to the movies or a concert, or buy yourself the new book that you’ve been wanting. Invite friends over and have a girl or guy’s night in. Go buy a new outfit or a new piece of exercise equipment.
Choose something that commemorates your hard work at getting fit. This might be something like buying yourself a special piece of jewelry or getting a tattoo.
You can take a weekend trip to the mountains and go hiking or take a long bike ride somewhere you haven’t explored before. You can splurge on hiring a professional trainer to help you tone your body. Take a cooking class or a pottery class. Do something that interests you and celebrates you taking control of your fitness.
Take Before and After Pictures
Progress can happen when you’re trying to get fit, but if you’re not careful you can miss it. When most people are trying to lose weight and fit, they don’t think about catching their progress in ways that they’ll remember.
While stepping on the scale is important because seeing the numbers go down can motivate you, it doesn’t pack the same punch as when you can see what others see. Numbers going down on a scale don’t always translate well into viewing yourself in the mirror.
People become accustomed to what they look like, so you don’t always notice the changes that are apparent to other people. That’s why you need to be sure that you take before and after pictures.
You don’t need a special camera, you can use a digital one or the one on a smart phone. Lighting does matter. If there’s a lot of shadow, it can cast shadows on your body. You want to make sure whatever area you choose to take the photo in has plenty of either natural or interior light. You also want to be sure that you’re the star of the photo. Don’t have things around you that draw the focus away from you.
It’s best to take a photo in front of a plain wall or in front of a door. What you wear also matters. You want to wear clothing that fits closely. If you wear baggy or loose clothing, you can’t really see the transformation as easily.
Most people dress in clothing they would wear to the beach or they dress in workout clothes. You want these clothes to be revealing enough to show particular areas of your body.
Make sure that your abdomen clearly shows. You want to do this because you’ll be able to see your belly fat then. You’ll be able to compare your after photos to your before photos and you’ll see the change in your body throughout your journey.
The photos that you take should be taken from all angles. Take a photo of you facing the camera. Then take ones where your side is to the camera. This helps you see how much your shape has trimmed up.
How many photos you take throughout your effort matters, too. You don’t want to just take a before photo at the beginning of your fitness goal and then one once you’ve reached your end goal. Instead, you want to take photos as you achieve each milestone that you’ve set. If you have a goal to lose thirty pounds and you’ve just lost your first ten, then you should take a photo.
When you do this, you might notice small changes in your body right away. Then take another photo after twenty pounds lost. You’ll see that your stomach looks flatter. Take your final photo once you’ve reached the last part of your goal.
Your photos will each tell a story marking the steps that you took to get where you are. They’re important to keep you motivated as well as to show you how far you’ve come. They can spur you on to other milestones and also prevent you from going back to old habits that were detrimental to your health.
Align Your Food and Exercise Plan with Your Goals
When you decide what your goals are, you have to align your food and exercise plan with that goal. Otherwise, you won’t reach your goals. If you want to lose pounds, you’ll need to follow a weight loss diet. Otherwise, you can work out hard and faithfully but if you’re not also eating to lose, then you won’t.
Exercise is not a substitute for eating well. You can exercise and still gain weight. You need to make sure that your food plan lines up with your weight loss goals. One should complement the other. Each part of your goal is equally important in order to help the other side.
So if you want to lose pounds, then you’ll have to make sure that your plan lines up with a weight loss diet combined with an exercise routine that includes cardio. It’s up to you to create the plan that works for you.
Watch your calorie intake to lose weight. If your goal is to lose body fat, then you have to do a different exercise routine. To lower your body fat percentage, you want to add strength training to your exercise program. But you still need to be sure to eat a low calorie or low carb diet. And because you’ll be strength training, you have to make sure that diet includes plenty of protein.
If you want to shed inches off your body, you need to make sure that your diet is low calorie or low carb, but you also need to pay attention to the types of exercise that you do. Different exercises can target specific areas of the body. For example, if you want to take inches off your thighs, you would choose exercises that reduce thigh circumference, such as distance running, squats, or lunges. You can’t only spot train your body to lose weight in one specific place, but you can work in exercises that help tone and firm up certain areas.
For toning up your body, you want to make sure that your eating and exercise plan focus on toning more than on shedding pounds. These would be things like ab exercises, bicep curls, pushups, or sit ups.
If building muscle is your goal, then your eating plan has to include muscle-building foods. You need to make sure your diet has a lot of protein because muscle-building exercises require a lot of protein to be effective. Your workout routine would be one that’s known as a muscle-building workout rather than something like just cardio. You could incorporate gaining and cutting into the routine if you wanted to bulk up a bit rather than simply tone.
Motivation is one of the main ingredients people fail to have enough of whenever they begin their fitness routine. They have a short supply to push them forward in the beginning, but then not enough to tap into when the going gets tough and progress slows down.
Make sure you find methods that work to encourage, support, and push you to stay on track. If you see that you’ve begun slacking with your efforts, find a way to reignite the passion you previously had for getting fit and healthy and focus on that.