There are many factors that play into a successful fitness regimen. Unfortunately, many people do not fully understand what they need to do to be successful and see positive results in their own regimens. And the most confusing part of it all is that what seems to work for one person, may not work for another. This can make entering into a new exercise program seem like a daunting task for newbies, and can scare quite a few people away from even starting. However, there are things that can be done in order to ensure that you have a greater chance of seeing big progress–that come in the form of my Five pillars of success.
In my time spent within the fitness industry, I’ve noticed that a vast majority of the time, if a client of mine followed these five pillars, they would generally tend to see progress in the way that they were hoping to see it. This makes your own personal fitness success puzzle a little easier to figure out.
Before I get to the five pillars, I need to touch on the importance of each of these five steps. These pillars all combine together to form one big fitness machine, working together to help you increase your odds for seeing huge results. If any one of these pillars is missing, it could derail your attempts and cause you to plateau early.
Often times I will see clients who are staying stagnant in their results, and I find out that they were only actively engaging in either three or four of the five pillars, instead of all five of them. Once this was corrected, and my clients actively engaged in all five pillars consistently, most were able to restart their progress and continue moving forward with their routines.
Now, on to the five pillars:
Pillar #1: Improved Nutrition
Losing weight is all about calories consumed, versus calories burned. Therefore, if you expend more calories throughout the day than you consume each day for a period of time you will generally lose weight over that period (unless there are other underlying circumstances). Therefore, it’s imperative to do everything in your power to try to consume fewer calories per day than you expend if you are trying to lose weight. In fact, I have nutrition listed as pillar #1 for a reason, because it is by far the most important factor in regards to whether or not you are going to reach your goals. As most people already know, if you are trying to lose weight, and you are eating too much throughout the day, your efforts are most likely in vain.
The same is also true for those who are interested in putting on size and muscle; if you’re not eating enough throughout the day you won’t gain the size that you might be hoping for. Now in this scenario, that doesn’t mean that you can just go out and eat all of the fast food that you’d like, you still need to make sure that you’re feeding your body the healthy nutrients it needs to have a successful transformation. Simple carbohydrates and fats alone are not going to help your muscles improve.
Start by making small changes, find ways to incorporate more proteins in your diet such as chicken, fish, eggs, turkey or lean beef (if you are vegetarian you can also add beans, whey protein powder and Greek yogurt to your diet). Also, try to substitute the unhealthiest foods currently in your diet and replace them with healthier items that you enjoy (i.e. juice or flavored water instead of pop, ground turkey instead of beef or pork). Do this one at a time, try not to perform a complete overhaul of your diet within a couple days; fixing your diet takes time, and you should try to spread out your changes over a prolonged period of time to ensure that you stick with these habits.
Pillar #2: Strength Training
As stated earlier, losing weight is all about calories consumed versus calories burned. Here’s one of the many ways where strength training can help us out. One of the many benefits of strength training is that it helps accelerate the process of burning calories throughout the day. Not only will you burn a ton of calories while you are performing your strength training regimen, but you will continue to burn additional calories throughout the day as strength training has been shown to increase your metabolism by as much as 15%. Because strength training helps to increase your metabolism, it will also help you keep the weight off longer, as your new muscles will continue to work for you even on days that you are not active.
Many people who want to start to lose weight focus mainly on cardio exercises such as jogging, biking, walking, swimming, etc., and although these exercises are effective at helping you lose weight and in losing fat, if you do not incorporate strength training into your program, you will likely cause yourself to burn both muscle and fat. Two of the downfalls of this are that you will no longer receive that toned look that most people want, as well as you are decreasing your overall lean muscle mass in your body which will actually cause your metabolism to slow down, making you hit your training plateau early.
Lastly, for the many women out there (and some men) who are afraid that strength training is going to make you bulky and too masculine, that is far from the truth. First of all, women do not have the testosterone levels of males; testosterone is an anabolic substance that males use both for reproductive purposes but also for use in increasing muscular mass. Also, when attempting to strength train during a weight loss program, it’s important to do it the right way. You should use lighter weight, at higher repetition levels (12-20 reps) and short rest periods to maximize caloric expenditure and minimize the possibility of developing muscular size.
Pillar #3: Cardiovascular Training
Cardiovascular training, although often overlooked, is an extremely important facet in a successful fitness plan, no matter what your goals are. Cardiovascular training helps to promote a variety of health benefits such as weight loss, stronger heart & lungs, more energy and endurance, increased metabolism, improved sleep and reduced stress. Despite its many benefits, I find that many of my clients tend to slack when it comes to cardio for a number of reasons such as, “there’s not enough time”, or “I don’t like to do cardio”, or “I don’t have a treadmill at home”, etc. The problem with skipping cardio, is that you are missing out on a huge calorie burner that can help aide in the weight loss process, as well as an endurance builder that can help take your exercise regimen to the next level.
The keys to making sure that you are able to get the recommended amount of cardio in your routine are to start small, and find something that you enjoy doing. Most people tend to stick to exercises such as jogging on the treadmill because it’s what they’re familiar with, even if they don’t like it. The problem with this, is that if you are not a big fan of jogging, you probably won’t want to continue jogging in the long term, which will cause you to eventually give up on it, and it’s probably a better idea to find something that is better suited for you.
Some ideas for cardio are: walking, jogging, biking, swimming, boxing, jump rope, stair running, sprints, aerobics classes, rowing, roller skating, kayaking, hiking, cross country skiing, snow-shoeing, elliptical trainer, circuit training, interval training, exercise videos, sports, and jumping jacks, to name a few.
Pillar #4: Consistency
Of all of the pillars, I would have to say that consistency is the pillar that people struggle with the most of all. And yet, it’s one of the most important. Too many people work in cycles, or go on “roller coaster diets,” where they go all-in with their exercise and diet programs for a week or two, and then completely stop their progress for a week or two, and then start back up again. This type of on-again, off-again routine is one that is destined to keep your wheels spinning in neutral. Any gains made during the “on” part of the cycle will be immediately offset by the “off” portion of the cycle.
My biggest tip when it comes to improving your consistency is like it is with everything else, start small. People often tend to go from one extreme to the other, which causes people to burn themselves out quickly when they are not used to eating properly and exercising. But in order to see constant improvement, we must maintain consistent with the above three pillars as much as possible.
Pillar #5: Patience
Today is very much a microwave society, a culture in which we want to see results right now. And with the advent of new technologies, in many aspects of life, we often do get what we want right away. Unfortunately, the field of fitness and health does not work like this. This is where most people fall off the bandwagon, expecting to see visual results in a week or less, and not getting what they want. But what you need to know, is that it is going to take time to see results; there’s no way around it. While you should be able to start noticing improvements in strength and endurance within the first two or three weeks, it generally takes up to 4-6 weeks to start seeing physical changes on your body.
Be patient, and stay consistent with the first three pillars, and I’ll be willing to bet that over time, you will probably be pleased with your progress.