At the start of the new year, people are always signing up for gym memberships. In fact, in 2017, 11% of Brits said they hadn’t used their gym memberships in over a year. Unless you have other ways of exercising (of which there are plenty) that isn’t a great way to try to achieve your fitness goals.
Here I want all of you to be able to achieve your fitness goals. You don’t need to go to the gym although it does help a lot of people and there are lots of ways you can go about getting fitter. The key is to not give up. To have motivation. To continue training.
Many of us are ambitious, to begin with, and set ourselves on attaining a certain level of fitness. That could be measured by being able to lift a certain weight, run a set distance within a particular time or lowering your resting heart rate. It could even just be to have enough energy to run around with your children every day! However, after the start of setting our sights on these fitness goals, lots of us lose motivation and give up… only to start again next January.
Don’t give up.
You are strong.
And here I’ll help you to achieve your fitness goals in a sustainable manner in which you can enjoy yourself and live and thrive healthily!
Before Embarking On Your Fitness Goals…
When trying to get fit, you should try to make sure you’re healthy first.
Think of it as you should be healthy to get fit – not get fit to be healthy. The difference tends to come from eating and lifestyle. If your mental, social and physical wellbeing is good as well as your diet, then you’re most likely healthy and ready to exercise in order to achieve your fitness goals.
Making sure you’re healthy before embarking on your fitness goals is a great way to set yourself up for success. Here are some suggestions for how you can improve your health to help set yourself up for success with achieving your fitness goals:
- Reduce stress in your life
- Think more positively and have a positive mindset
- Eliminate sugar cravings
- Eat more vegetables (if you’re not doing so already)
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
- Swap processed carbs for healthy ones
If you need help eliminating sugar cravings, I strongly recommend reading my article on 8 ways to eliminate sugar cravings
If your goal is to lose weight then know that exercising is a plus which can aid weight loss, but it is not the main factor. The main factor in weight loss is diet, in which case you’d be much better off trying to change your eating habits in a sustainable manner.
If your goal is to build muscle, then exercise is a necessity to provide sufficient stimulus for your body to adapt. This is what a fitness goal is – not fat loss which is a body composition goal. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a good goal for people to strive for and many people see tremendous benefits from caloric restriction and losing weight. However, fitness and exercise are not a good or sustainable way to attain and maintain fat loss although they will help the process.
Before you start chasing your fitness goals, do a self-assessment of how you feel. Do you feel calm? Relaxed? Is your body generally in a relaxed state or are you often agitated? Take these things into account before pursuing your fitness goals and make sure you know what your goal is, to begin with. It doesn’t matter if your goal changes, just make sure you have something to work towards. Once you hit that goal – and you will if you persist! – then you can find a new goal to help yourself grow.
Once you get healthy and by healthy I just mean healthy enough to live well and feel good then you can strive for your fitness goals without hesitation. And then by getting fitter, you will begin to improve your overall health. But to make myself clear, I’m saying you should try to make sure you have a good level of health before striving for achieving your fitness goals, which you can do by following some of the tips in the articles bullet-pointed and linked above.
And of course, before starting a fitness programme or regime, be sure to have a medical check-up with your doctor to ensure it is safe to do so (just to stay on the safe side).
15 Tips On How To Achieve Your Fitness Goals
#1 – Start Slowly
Here’s one for you. When have you ever learned a skill quickly? It takes time. Patience. A lot of us know this, but it can be hard to accept and it is so easy to just rush in and hit the gym hard as soon as you’ve set yourself a goal. You want to achieve it fast and as soon as possible, but unfortunately it doesn’t work like that.
Take your time and be patient. The body requires this time to adapt to the stimulus provided by the type of exercise you are doing. In addition, don’t overwhelm yourself by doing too much. Learn proper technique and good form to help reduce your risk of injury which could offset your fitness goals for a long time! Starting slowly gives your body time to adapt in the early phases of your training so that in a couple of weeks time you can already do a fair bit more than you could when you started.
#2 – Make It Enjoyable
“If you want to make something sustainable, at least try and make it enjoyable.” – Cool quote I made of the top of my head and decided to insert.
Excuse my silliness. Achieving your fitness goals will require you to exercise in order to gain muscle. Exercising in itself is not enjoyable for everyone which is why I suggest you try and make it enjoyable! Hopefully making it enjoyable will at least make exercising to improve your fitness more sustainable so you can achieve your fitness goals.
Here are some suggestions to make exercise more enjoyable for you:
- Train when you want to and feel good – don’t adhere to a set schedule
- Don’t force yourself to get up early to exercise before work – exercise at a time which is convenient for you
- Grab a friend to pursue your fitness goals together
- Join a fitness group or a gym class so you can look forward to socialising with others
#3 – Don’t Make It Too Hard
I mean this in two ways.
When striving towards your fitness goals it can be quite easy to set goals which are a bit too difficult to achieve. Set realistic goals to help keep you motivated and then adapt your goals as you progress.
This will help you to keep seeking progress with your fitness and will help to fuel your ambition towards achieving your fitness goals!
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, in 2017, 11% of Brits said they hadn’t used their gym membership in over a year. Many people stop going to the gym after January of each year. What is the reason for this? I can’t say I know exactly, but if I had to guess I would have a strong suspicion that it’s because they exercise hard at the gym – too hard, especially when starting out.
They begin to associate exercise with pain – and exercise is painful to an extent, but it can be moderated by taking it slow and not working too hard, to begin with. When starting out, or easing back into exercise, try and moderate the exercise intensity so it’s doable and not something you dread everytime you go to the gym or decide to exercise. This is one reason why I suggest making exercise as enjoyable as possible.
#4 – Do Moderate Cardio
Your goal may not be to improve cardiovascular fitness, but I’d strongly suggest that cardio makes up some proportion of your training plan.
Because moderate cardio provides tremendous health benefits such as reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and more.
Secondly, to get these benefits only ‘moderate’ cardio is required. By that, I mean jogging at a steady pace for 20 – 30 minutes, 2 – 3 times weekly. Really, that’s not that much when you consider the health benefits moderate cardio provides. It doesn’t need to be hard or painful, but steady so that you can get your heart rate elevated to around 70% of your max heart rate for 20 – 30 minutes to see the full benefits.
Improving your cardiovascular health will help to keep your blood pressure under control, regulate insulin, promote fat burning (by exercising at lower intensities), help to boost your energy levels and improve mood.
Additionally, you can choose the exercise you do to improve your cardiovascular health! Here are some exercises you could do to improve your cardiovascular health:
- Low-moderate intensity gym class with little rest
However, for those high-intensity cardio enthusiasts among you, be aware that too much cardio can interfere with the rest and recovery process and dull the efficiency of the anabolic signalling pathways (which help you to get stronger).
#5 – Eat Mindfully
Many people with fitness goals in mind also tend to have a body composition goal as well. Usually, this is to get leaner, stronger or lose weight. And here I’m going to touch upon the third point in particular – lose weight.
Around 80% of your body composition is controlled by diet alone. This means that even if you exercise heavily, as long as you still eat all the food you want in the world, your body composition probably won’t change much. Eat mindfully and it’ll not only help you lose weight by keeping you satiated – it’ll improve your health, wellbeing which will contribute to improved fitness gains since you’re fuelling your body properly.
Eat mindfully by paying attention to the food you’re eating, trying to reduce how much-refined sugar you’re eating and thinking about how the food you’re eating fuels your body. Try to swap the brownie for a piece of fruit, sugar-loaded cereal for scrambled eggs or the deep fried mars bar for chicken drumsticks.
By providing your body with the micronutrients you need, you will find that you will require less food until you get to a point where your weight is low enough that you simply need to maintain it by eating enough food!
Another point to make is to lose weight is one thing, but whether you lose weight in the form of fat or muscle is another. Onto that point…
#6 – Consume Enough Protein
You’ve probably heard it time and time again, but protein is what muscle is made out of. The protein you eat is broken down into amino acids and synthesised back into protein for your muscles to grow and repair.
For those in a caloric deficit and are losing weight, then consuming enough protein will help to ensure your maintain more muscle as you lose weight. I recommend 2g/kg body weight to maintain muscle whilst losing weight and maintaining with a minimum of 1.5g/kg body weight.
Consuming enough protein will help to stimulate the anabolic (growth) response that exercise provides for your muscles. This, in turn, will aid muscle hypertrophy by providing your body with the amino acids it requires to make muscle protein which will help you to gain muscle and get lean.
If you wanted, you could oversimplify it down to this (although it’s nowhere near this simple!):
Exercise + protein + rest (and recovery) = muscle growth
#7 – Eat Enough Fats
You may have been swayed at one point by the ‘low-fat’ food trend where food manufacturers made foods low in fat and substituted the fat with sugar to make the food taste good. Whilst you shouldn’t overeat fat and I’d recommend trying to avoid refined vegetable oils due to how easily they oxidise and have the potential to cause free radical damage, you should make sure you eat enough.
Fat is required to synthesise lipid hormones such as testosterone which aids muscle growth and is essential for optimum health. It makes you feel strong, improves cardiovascular health and increases bone density.
If you consume less than 15% of your calories from fat, then that probably means you’re not eating enough fat to fulfil your body’s nutritional requirements. This can result in reduced testosterone levels so that your muscle and fitness gains are reduced which isn’t good.
#8 – Time Your Carbs
Ingested carbohydrates are broken down into glucose and stored as glycogen in the muscle tissue. At the same time, when you eat carbohydrates, particularly ones with a high glycemic or food insulin index, blood sugar levels and insulin levels will rise. This isn’t always a bad thing since the hormone insulin is an anabolic hormone which can aid growth.
Typically, insulin is associated with the ‘growth’ or storage of fat. If you time these high glycemic carbs so they are eaten around your workout, then not only will the sugar being consumed be used, but the insulin response derived from eating the sugar in your blood can help to stimulate the anabolic muscle growth pathways. This is why so many post workout shakes and bars have a combination of carbohydrates and protein.
But I’ll be completely transparent with you and tell you that the jury’s still out on this one.
This study suggests that the combination of carbohydrates with protein post workout can increase protein synthesis by 36%. On the contrary, another study says it is inconclusive whether carbohydrates with protein boost muscle protein synthesis post workout. The verdict is still out on this one.
Either way, if you decide to eat high glycemic carbs and have a workout that same day, I’d suggest eating them after a workout to minimise the effect on blood sugar. Before a workout, your muscles are probably stocked with glycogen if you’ve been doing low-intensity activity such as walking, climbing the stairs and driving your car. This is because if your body doesn’t have enough carbohydrates, it will break down fat into glycogen for the muscles via a process called beta-oxidation.
After a workout, your muscles are probably slightly depleted of glycogen if you performed at a high intensity. The muscle glycogen stores are literally begging for glycogen. That means if you consume high glycemic carbs at this time, they are less likely to be stored as fat and much more likely to go straight to the muscles to fuel your next workout.
#9 – Adapt Calorie Intake To Your Goals
The general equation surrounding calories are preached in a lot of fitness magazines and health pages.
It’s simple: calories in – calories burned = weight gain/loss
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. Stress, diet and other environmental factors can affect the way your body uses energy which may mean you expend more or less energy than what would be expected of you.
If you plan on gaining muscle, try to eat a slight surplus of calories than you usually would. I’m talking slight though. I mean 100 – 200 calories extra daily, 300 calories max. If you eat in excess of this, more of these calories are likely to be stored as fat instead of muscle, so that doesn’t mean you can have a tub of Ben and Jerry’s every day because you’re trying to put on weight and need the calories.
Weight Loss and Getting Leaner
Similarly, if your goal is weight loss or to get leaner you want to eat slightly fewer calories than you usually would. I’d probably aim for 200 – 300 calories under what your daily calorie intake is. I only suggest a slight caloric deficit because I believe this makes weight loss more sustainable than deciding to eat only 800 calories a day for a week which will probably make you feel lethargic, stressed and grumpy. Ironically, all the stress hormones produced by those emotions and behaviours can impair your weight loss goals.
Be aware though that whilst you’re in a caloric deficit your body is getting less energy than usual. As a result your workouts may not feel as great since you will be in an energy depleted state. If you feel very tired on a caloric deficit it’s probably a sign you need to eat a little more. Make sure you listen to your body!
#10 – Train In A Social Environment
Doing things alone is always harder than doing them with other people. Training in a social environment can help put you on track to achieve your fitness goals as you will be motivated to workout, train and others will support you along the way!
I recommend searching for fitness groups within your area which are easily accessible for you to attend on a regular basis to help motivate you. Knowing that other people are waiting for you to come and train or workout with them will make you more likely to take part! The same as committing to workout or train with a friend. You don’t want to leave them for a scheduled run in the rain all by themselves!
#11 – Train For An Event
I’d suggest signing up for an event whether that be a race, triathlon or lifting challenge. Give yourself a fair bit of time before the event so that your body can adapt and get fitter as a result of your training. By signing up for an event, it helps to keep you committed – especially when you tell others about what you’re doing.
This helps to give your training a purpose which will increase the likelihood you stay on top of your training schedule. And to make training more enjoyable, commit to the event with a friend or partner so you can share your experiences with someone else you care about!
#12 – Spread Meals and Try Not To Snack
The common way bodybuilders eat meals is by snacking throughout the day or ‘grazing’. Whilst this may allow for a ‘constant supply of protein’, it really isn’t something you should worry about.
After about 3 hours of eating, our body becomes desensitised to the anabolic stimulus of protein which is why eating too frequently can reduce the rate of muscle protein synthesis.
Since it takes the average meal about 4 – 5 hours to digest then it seems ideal to spread your meals so that you eat every 4 – 6 hours, 3 – 4 times a day depending on the size of your meals.
#13 – Make It Routine
The human body loves routine. The sooner you can make your exercise habits routine (and try to make healthy eating routine as well) then the more likely you are to be able to stick with your fitness plan and achieve your fitness goals!
The first two to four weeks may be difficult at first, but if you stick to a routine it will get easier. Just don’t get caught up in routine if you’re feeling particularly fatigued or tired. In that case, it’s much better if you take care of your body and rest. Rest is essential to build muscle and improve fitness! It’s where the adaptations occur, so don’t feel lazy or guilty if you’re really feeling tired and need a day off from training.
#14 – Don’t Use Food As A Reward For Exercise!
Those embarking on health and fitness goals should try to refrain from using food as a reward for exercise. You shouldn’t exercise just to eat more food (although that is a bonus), or exercise because you feel guilty from having eaten a lot of cake one evening. It creates a negative connection between food, health and exercise which could hinder your progress.
Try to eat healthy most of the time. Of course, it’s fine to indulge once in a while, but don’t give yourself a bar of chocolate after every workout. Instead, try to reward yourself with a well-cooked healthy meal, maybe your favourite protein bar, a new pair of running shoes or some home gym equipment which will make working out easier to fit into your daily routine.
#15 – Destress
Stress can make us feel terrible, irritable and hangry (yes, that hungry and angry in one word – look it up). It can throw your hormones crazy which can make it more difficult to lose weight (in the form of fat) and harder to put on muscle. In addition, you’re more likely to overeat when you’re stressed, and binge on sugary foods in particular.
If you feel like you’re in a chronically stressed state, try the following strategies to eliminate stress as it is will make you feel a lot better:
- Meditation (use guided meditation, do it in silence or listen to a natural sound like raindrops on replay).
- Positive thinking – be thankful for all the good things that have happened to you.
- Thought stopping – whenever a negative thought comes to your mind, try to eliminate it straight away.
- Use essential oils – oils like lavender, myrrh, frankincense and various adaptogenic herbs have been shown to reduce the effects of anxiety and stress. Try using them in a bath, or simply inhaling the scent.
- Yoga – helps to reinforce the mind-body connection and can help to reduce anxiety and stress.
- Breathing exercises – deep breathing can help to calm the body by overriding the sympathetic nervous system (responsible for the fight or flight response) and letting the parasympathetic nervous system take control (which lets us relax).
- Socialising – this helps to provide a distraction. When you are out doing activities with people you love and care about, it reliefs stress in many ways.
What did you think of these 15 tips on how to achieve your fitness goals? Were they helpful? Let me know down below!