My apologies in losing track of my weekly blogging throughout the summer! Between full time training, presenting corporate lunch and learns, performing ergonomic assessments, training for a few triathlons, and hosting visitors in town I haven’t had much focus on the blog here.
Regardless, I have a few blogs that have been stirring up in my mind over the past few weeks, as I think they have important messages to share.
Over the past few months I have received NUMEROUS comments about how I am looking skinnier, leaner, fitter, healthier, “good”. On one hand I’ve got a lot to share around these comments in general- but I am going to save those for another blog!
Instead- today- what I feel like sharing with you are 6 factors necessary for making a change in your health, fitness, or appearance.
I know, I know you hear it all the time- quick fixes don’t work or last, you’ve got to make your habits into a new lifestyle. And it’s all true, for a person like me the quick fixes have never worked, and will never work. Instead I’ve forged a path with no short cuts or gimmicks, and I want to lay it out for you today. At the very basis, no matter what exercise strategy you choose if you follow these principles that I am about to outline below (along with choosing appropriate foods and calorie levels) you will achieve the health/fitness/appearance you are looking for.
So let me repeat that. I am not going to tell you WHAT to do when you exercise, or how long to do it. Here I am going to lay out the underlining principles for LIFESTYLE CHANGE STRATEGIES.
Here they are:
#1: Consistency: Whether you choose speed walking, soccer, circuit training, or fencing, you need to be consistent with your activity. I believe that 6 days a week of ‘exercise’ is what it takes for MOST people to look and feel healthy, fit, and maintain their weight. In the past 6-9 months I have started training for triathlons and with this shift I have been active 6 days a week. I feel like this has been the biggest change for supporting me in getting fitter and leaner. I was very active before, but probably moved my body on average 4-5 times a week. Now- it’s 6 days a week no matter what (unless I am completely exhausted and overtraining myself- then I back off). Now please keep in mind I am not going hard 6 days a week. I am lightly jogging for 45 minutes on day, swimming 1600 m the next, and riding for a few hours the next, and the cycle repeats. Most of the time my heart rate is at 60-75 % of my maximum, meaning I can carry on a conversation and don’t feel like I am killing myself when I am training (I think this is a key point- if you go hard every time you workout there is no way you can stay consistent!). This training schedule has kept me consistent in doing something almost daily that helps my body be fitter and healthier. I think where many people go wrong is getting in 3 hard workouts a week, but then not moving much the rest of the time. I want you to find a way to get active 6 days a week consistently. Perhaps ‘active’ for you is a 40 minute walk to work, or a 1 hour dance class at the gym, or 1 hour of strenuous yard work. Whatever it is if you do it 6 days a week consistently, every week, every month, of every year I can guarantee you are going to get healthier, fitter, and leaner!
Imagine everyday you told yourself you had to go for a jog. Every single day tried to get yourself to do the same activity. HOLY BORING!! I’ve been there. I’ve trained for marathons and I’ve trained hard with weights. In both cases it was always the same thing I had to do in my workouts and it drove me nuts. I find with variety, for example with triathlon training, each day is different. Each day is new muscles, new challenges, new scenery! It’s much easier to go for a run on Tuesday when you know you only have one more run to do in the week, and the next day it’s a swim! So I encourage you, find the right amount of variety in your own routine so that you look forward to each workout. If you go to the gym that might mean doing a different type of class everyday, or having a different workout you could follow each day!
Now this is a BIG one! For those of you out there who “don’t like going to the gym” or “are not into sports” or “don’t like jogging”- for each activity you don’t like to do there are just as many you would like if you tried them! When I know I have a 2 hour bike ride along the beach and UBC campus I am pumped because it’s fun! When I get to swim laps in a beautiful pool alongside the ocean here in Vancouver I am pumped because I feel so lucky to have access to these training facilities and I love being in the water. Every once in awhile I have a workout I need to work myself up to, but for the most part I am excited to do it. It’s up to you to find the activities that you enjoy and excite you! That could mean you get a rock climbing buddy and meet up 3 times a week, or maybe you buy a paddle board and take it out on the ocean after work, or maybe there’s a sweaty spin class nearby with amazing music and people. Stop doing activities you hate, start finding activities you love, and change it up once they get boring!
#4: Make it simple.
For the most part, in order to be active every day you’ve got to make it relatively simple. If you’ve got big complex plans for workouts with certain equipment, or space needed, or people needed then it might be a little bit too much to ask yourself to do it 6 days a week. Instead, have some back up activities that are super simple that you can do anywhere. My favourite back up activity is running. No matter where I am in the world I always have a pair of running shoes and there is a path, street, or treadmill I feel safe running on. Other alternatives might be a yoga practice you can do in a small space anywhere, a body weight workout that doesn’t even require running shoes, even just a long power walk. In the end, don’t complicate things. If you can’t get to soccer practice, or pole dancing, or the gym, still do something.
#5: Structure is KEY.
I don’t know about you, but I DEFINITELY work better with structure in my life. I thrive off having a triathlon training plan because it takes all the thought out of it! My plan is set up already for the week, all I’ve got to do is show up and follow it an reap the rewards. When it’s the off season and I am more into the weights I make sure I have a plan and structure there too. Structure means you can’t cheat yourself, can’t take extra days off, and makes it really simple on the day of the workout. Just think about it for a minute. What seems like more of a path for fitness/health/body image change success:
- Waking up everyday figuring out when you are going to work out, and what you are going to do.
- Knowing what your goal is and mapping out your workouts on your schedule, as well as what you will do during the workout.
Obviously #2 right! Also- the value of structure is that you don’t show up at the pool and think “what am I going to do today”. Instead you’ve got your 1 hour swim mapped out. It makes it interesting, fun, challenging, and the one hour flies by when you are varying up your workout.
So schedule it in to keep yourself accountable, make yourself more successful, and make it easier on yourself!
And on a side note- just to confuse you even more. Don’t forget that there is always room for creativity within structure. Use it as your framework and give the framework your extra flavour and twist!
The last tip I want to share with you is organization. In terms of one of the biggest changes I’ve made recently, and one that has probably most helped me get fitter and leaner is being even more organized. What I mean by this is planning ahead! When my mom came to town I had already pre planned when I would do my workouts during times that wouldn’t take away from our visiting and exploring. When we went camping I already had it in my mind when and how I would keep training. I am heading home to Ontario in a few weeks and I’ve already looked into what facilities are close by and what are the most realistic days for me to do my workouts. And to be honest- that’s what it takes for me. That’s what it takes for me to be able to do these Olympic distance triathlons, stay fit, and look healthy. It’s the honest truth. My body is not a “I can take a few days off and be ok” type of body. I am not naturally thin, lean, fit or athletic. So if you are anything like me we’ve got to put in a little extra effort. Sure- you might look a little hardcore and others won’t quite understand. But in the end you feel great, look great, get to maintain your exercise endorphins everyday, and get to reap the fitness rewards! (And remember that there is a time and a place for relaxing vacations too, where you don’t exercise).
So to summarize- I hope some of these thoughts help you in your path to get fit, healthier, or drop body fat. I am only speaking from experience here, and am not suggesting you do something that I haven’t done!
If you need another other support in getting going- let me know 🙂
PS the cover photo is a photo from my recent trip to New Orleans. We rented a car one day and walked through swamplands and forests for the afternoon. Perfect way to stay healthy and fit while on vacation. And a good way to sweat buckets in the 40 degree weather!