It is the goal (or rather resolution) of many to achieve a level of fitness that they are comfortable with, and maintain it for the long haul. As such, many will embark on fitness journeys with vigor and excitement, only to drop out when they realize that it requires a much tougher mindset than they thought. Well, a few reach their goals and from there on strive to go even further in their fitness dreams.
It should be said here at the beginning that attaining fitness should be a lifelong goal, and not a seasonal one. It takes a lifetime commitment to achieve fitness, and maintain it. The best instructors will be for naught if you aren’t willing to commit to it up to the end.
So, if you are willing to take on the mountain ahead, here are a few steps you can incorporate that will help achieve your goals. You should note that the steps given assume that you are reasonably fit, and that your goal is to increase it. You ready? Here we go.
1. Be specific about your goals
Come up with specific and realistic fitness goals, write them down if you have to. Lose 20 kilos, run a mile in under 5 minutes, improve my appearance, get rid of the tummy. Having specific goals helps you focus on why you want to increase fitness levels. It also helps with the scheduling, so you know which exercises and body areas to put more emphasis on.
2. Step up your exercise program
Many fit people don’t exercise consistently; rather their training is sporadic at best. Most times, if you want to increase your fitness levels, training regularly is going to be the norm. Exercise needs to be part of your daily routine/ lifestyle, and as should be treated with high regard. Before starting off a regular regimen, it is safe to sign off on the plan with a physician. A personal trainer can also be consulted, if only to assess your current condition and advice you on what steps to take. The plan should incorporate time, frequency and duration. It should have a certain time of the day allocated to it. If you can find a training partner, that would be the best case. A training partner is someone who is more or less like you, who also want to increase their fitness levels. A partner will help you focus and stay on track, as well as light a fire under you in case you start slacking off.
3. Monitor yourself continuously
Come up with a measurement scheme or chart to keep track of your progress. Since the target is to increase fitness, monitor your heart rate, weight and body fat percentage. Have a baseline from which to compare the subsequent results. Regular checks ensures that you stay on track, and that you also note what is working, and what isn’t. If possible, keep the chart somewhere you can see it, probably stuck to the refrigerator with a magnet. Constantly seeing it will push you to get out there and work even harder.
4. Don’t over-train
Overtraining is the biggest reason why many don’t see their exercise plans to fruition. Many start off with a bang, but are unable to keep up that initial high intensity for long, and eventually fizzle out. You want to start off slow, and increase the intensity over time. Other than slowly allowing you to gain more strength and endurance, adequate training also ensures that your body develops at the right speed. You don’t want to overwork the body’s muscles and central nervous system. That could lead to major problems down the line.
5. Set short term goals
The goals you set in step 1 were the overall goals. They were realistic too. But to get there, you must have had to win some smaller battles. You don’t expect to lose 20 kilos in a week, but you can lose 5 in a month. Write down the big goals, and let the smaller goals be the steps to reach them. Refer to these short term goals often, as they keep you on track.
6. Have fun
Sure, constant exercise requires seriousness and a good work ethic, but it doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun as well. Find an exercise routine that incorporates something that you love. It can be swimming, running, or biking. Whatever it is, be sure to include in your training regimen.
7. Make it a long term thing
This cannot be overstated; make exercise a long term lifestyle routine. Sometimes workouts get overlooked due to busy schedules but if they are made a part of life, they become harder to miss. To make it more interesting, incorporate variety into the exercises. If you like to bike, why not try a new trail, or enter a 10k bike race. If it’s running, take a new route, or increase the distance you normally do. The purpose is to make the exercise interesting, so you that keep on the path.
8. Rest, rest, and more rest
The only way you are going to improve over the long term is by giving your body the time to heal. This can be a whole day, or a week in between workouts. Normally, 24 to 36 hours are enough for the body to heal and replenish lost supplements. Get enough sleep (6-8hours), eat well, and hydrate all the time. It sounds simple, but it plays a huge role into how well you improve your fitness levels. All in all, getting to increase your fitness levels should be a fun experience if you are wholly into it. A positive attitude will help a lot, especially on those days when you don’t feel like getting out of bed for that early morning run. Always tell yourself it’s worth it, and for sure you will see the results. If you are just starting out, things may seem a little harder, but with patience and perseverance, you will reach the summit of your fitness goals.