There’s a lot of advice out there when it comes to health and fitness. It’s sometimes practical and well researched, and sometimes completely unfounded. But what it definitely is not is one-size-fits-all.
We’re coming up on warmer weather and thoughts start turning to shedding some winter insulation and shaping that beach body again. Before you start scouring the web for the quickest way to transform yourself, take a little time for some self-evaluation. Getting clear on your goals can help you filter out the information that is not pertinent to your objective. After all, what good does it do you to follow a program designed to chisel out 6 pack abs if that is not one of your desires?
Before you dive into research, remember that most of what you find on the internet is not vetted, so be careful what you buy into. To help you sift through the avalanche of information out there, ask yourself the following questions:
What is the source of information?
When you start seeking out information to help you meet your goals, it’s important that you evaluate the source. Pretty much anyone with an internet connection can launch a website. There are plenty of sites that claim to have all the answers to your problems, and some of them convincingly so. Do your research. Read reviews. Look for testimonials. What credentials, degrees, or certifications does the person have? If he is not credentialed, he should at least have the experience to back up his claims. It helps to find someone who has personally accomplished what you are setting out to do, although that is not an absolute prerequisite. The point is, your trust in a coach or mentor should be built on more than an after photo with flattering lighting.
What are my short-term and long-term health and fitness goals?
In my opinion, every one of us should be concerned with our fitness. I’m not saying that you should aspire to be a professional athlete, but it’s in your best interest to develop a certain level of physical competency. Doing so just makes life easier. We all need to navigate our physical bodies through the world around us.
Start thinking of fitness in terms of the physical capacity to carry you through your life goals rather than as a strictly athletic endeavor. How conditioned are you to walk up a steep grade? Can you survive a slip and fall without major injury? Does a day’s yardwork require 3 day’s recovery?
Figure out what’s important to you from a physical standpoint. This will help you determine the proper intensity and progressiveness of any fitness program you might want to implement. Do you dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail? Do you want to maintain sufficient health to travel the world when you retire? Maybe you just want to be able to carry the groceries from the garage to the kitchen without feeling like you’re dragging the whole car with you. Or you might simply want to possess the physical ability to give your all to your grandkids.
The best medical schools in the country would produce poor electricians. Likewise, if your aim is to be an elite distance runner, even the most skilled, decorated powerlifter in the world probably isn’t the best person to instruct you. Get clear on your goals and then align yourself with someone who can get you there.
What do I want to look like?
This might sound like a silly question, but believe it or not, not everybody wants to look like the airbrushed muscleman or model on the magazine cover. Everybody has different goals when it comes to body composition, and rightfully so. We are all individuals. I believe one of the most destructive habits we can fall into is to compare ourselves with other “ideals” or to degrade others if they don’t fit into our perceived mold of a perfect body.
Maybe you’re happy with the way you currently look, but you just want to increase your tone or flexibility. If so, following a plan to get you to 5% body fat will probably result in frustration and ultimately, surrender.
How much time do I have to commit to my health?
Time is a big consideration because it has such a huge influence on both compliance and results. It doesn’t matter how many infomercial success a program touts if you can’t fit their workouts in. Trying to cram an hour workout into 35 minutes will produce injury, burnout, disappointment, or all of the above. Likewise, unless you’re an Olympic athlete striving for gold, ambitions of working out 2 hours per day every day is unsustainable over the long haul.
First, get clear on what you want to achieve. Then determine how much time you can realistically afford to invest in exercise and fitness, and commit to it. Schedule it in and make in non-negotiable. We all tend to get our most creative when it comes to conjuring up excuses to avoid working out. No matter the size of your goal, change simply will not happen if you don’t invest the necessary time and effort.
When you start researching health, fitness, and nutrition, you find out pretty quickly that you’re navigating some muddy water. But a little forethought and introspection going into it can really help to add some clarity and save you a lot of potential headaches and frustration.
Be Your Best,