Fitness Plan Fundamentals: Four ways to find what works for YOU.

Written by Philip Walter on Dec 16 at 6:52 pm in diet, itBODYnature

Fin the right fitness plan for you with these for easy tips.

Does it feel like finding the right diet and exercise plan is like trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack? Are you well aware that there are no quick fixes, but can’t seem to get through the clutter of so-called expert advice and find a starting point? Well, you’re not alone. Finding a clear answer to your health questions is nearly impossible these days. There seems to be a study to corroborate just about any claim, and if there’s not really sound research behind an idea, somebody often claims there is anyway.

So which plan will work for you? Which is best for what you’re trying to do? More importantly, which plans are healthy and which are possibly harmful? Unfortunately there aren’t any cut and dry answers to these questions. Truth is, there are probably ten different diet and exercise combinations that will get you where you want to go.

When attempting to find a fitness plan to help you achieve your goals, I would suggest forgetting about the details of caloric intake, cardio training, strength training, low weight high rep, high weight low rep, and the like. Start with some more fundamental questions that will help you narrow the possibilities to a more manageable and tailored-to-you set of options:

  1. How far are you willing to go? The success or failure of any diet, workout plan, or combination of the two is first and foremost tied to your willingness to follow the rules. When evaluating a plan, ask yourself, am I likely to be able to do things I need to in order to make this a success? Identify the areas where you anticipate having the most difficulty and create ways to overcome those adversities. Be realistic in setting goals and adopting new habits. Take it slow if you currently have no real diet or exercise plan. It’s always easier to add one or two things at first. Once you get a little momentum going, then you can be more ambitious.
  2. Does the plan leave room for variety and improvisation? The guys at Crossfit.com say it best in their manifesto. “We believe that preparation for random physical challenges – i.e., unknown and unknowable events – is at odds with fixed, predictable, and routine regimens.” In other words, truly functional strength that is ready to go when you need it is developed through a diverse and adaptable training system. This is true for several reasons. Physically, your body will adapt to a regular routine of the same exercises, so it’s important to be able to vary your workouts regularly to throw new challenges at your muscles and joints to encourage them to be ready for anything. Mentally, you need variety as well, to keep things fun and interesting. Otherwise, boredom and eventual lethargy are likely.
  3. Is the plan enjoyable? This is a big one for me. A lot of people think of working out as a chore. It is something you do really because you have to, not because you enjoy doing it. This is unfortunate. I wouldn’t say that I enjoy it every time, and there are certainly days when I have to force myself to get into it, but usually, once I’m there, I dig it. In his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi breaks down the phenomenology of enjoyment into eight major components. For the purposes of choosing an effective workout, the first five components stick out. First, an enjoyable task is one that challenges but does not exceed our capabilities. Second, you must be able to concentrate on what you are doing. Third and fourth, the activity must allow you to set clear, short-term goals that provide on-going feedback. All these things set the stage for you to have a rip-roaring good time during your workouts. So again, be realistic. Start slow if you must. Leave your cell phone in your locker, and work out in a place that gives you the ability to concentrate on what you’re doing. And set goals that allow you to assess your progress on at least a weekly basis, so you can adjust your plan accordingly.
  4. Is the plan sustainable? Unless you’re a bodybuilder getting ready for a competition, or a movie star looking to lose a few pounds before an upcoming film, find a plan that makes sense in the long term. This applies specifically to calorie-restriction diets, low-carb diets, and the like. I will admit studies like this one, published in JAMA earlier this year have shown low-carb diets to be effective for weight loss in periods up to a year. Furthermore, the only thing proven again and again in research with lab animals to increase longevity is calorie restriction. I just have a feeling these two strategies are not healthy in the long term. I would suggest finding a balance that provides your body with an ample amount of the things it needs to flourish.

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