The road to reaching your fitness goals can be a confusing one with a barrage of information out there and wading through it all to find a plan that works for you can be quite a task. The bottom line is, your body is unique, what motivates you is unique, your training programme needs to fit into your lifestyle/goals and take into consideration your medical history. Hence a one- size-fits-all approach seldom works. Here are some points to consider to help carve out a plan that works for you.
Firstly you need to understand why you want to get fit? Perhaps you want to run a marathon or counter a certain medical condition that exists in your family history, or you just want to look a certain way? Whatever the reason is, your first order of business is to figure out your goal and own it. This is going to be your number one motivation that will see you through to the finish line.
One quick check you need to do when setting your goals is to make sure the goal is SMART: Specific (e.g. I want to lose 4 kgs in 2 months ), Measurable (4 kgs is a measurable value), Attainable and Realistic (you might need to check on this with a fitness professional) and Time-bound (2 months). If you have a big goal, make sure you break it up into small and medium-term targets that can be achieved in 1 to 3 months.
The next step is to identify the right training programme for you. This is going to be dependant on your goal, current fitness levels and time available to train. Ideally, you want to incorporate a training programme that includes all of the following training components in varying proportions — strength training (body weight and/or weights e.g., squats, push-ups, pull-ups), cardiovascular training (running, cycling, swimming) and flexibility training (yoga, stretch session).
One way to figure out how much of each component to include in the absence of guidance from a fitness professional is to base it on your goal. For example, if weight loss is your goal, then incorporating more cardiovascular training initially will help you see results sooner but in order to keep the weight off, strength training is crucial. If you are trying to build muscle, then focus more on strength training in proportion to the other components.
Now pick a food strategy that you can stick with and that is in line with what you want to achieve. Consulting a nutritionist is always the best approach when it comes to building a nutrition plan, however, if you do not have access to one, here are a couple of things to keep in mind. If weight loss is your primary target, then the bottom line is to make sure you have a calorie deficit — calories burnt need to be greater than calories consumed. Be careful not to cut calories so drastically that the body reacts by going into starvation mode and stubbornly holds on to calorie. If building muscle is the goal, then your diet needs to support the muscle-building process in your body, this means more protein (among other things) in your diet.
With regards to when you should train, the best time of the day to train is not the first thing in the morning or some particular time in the evening, but it is when you are most likely to be consistent as consistency is the holy grail to achieving your fitness goals.
(The author has over a decade of experience in the fitness industry. She is certified in various areas of fitness such as Posture Analysis, Suspension Training, Kettlebell, Advance Personal Training and Pre-Post Natal Training from one of the top institutes in the UK. In 2018, she became one of the few Sports Performance Coaches in the country.)