Fitness is such a broad and diverse field where there are so many options. You can get fit from walking every day or by training for an ironman. There are crazy extremes to fitness, and many people are often discouraged. Where should training fit into your life? What is your training niche?
This question is essential in establishing a training routine. If you do not know what you want, then you cannot possibly succeed. You need to figure out how serious you want to take your training. Will you be more of a weekend warrior who trains for fun? Do you want to finish an ironman? These are obviously two extremes, but there is plenty of middle ground. Finding where you fit into the spectrum is essential for success. Where you fit may also change over time as your life changes (I know my goals have)!
So where do you start? You need to begin with a realistic evaluation of where you are right now. How much do you exercise? Do you enjoy certain types of exercise? Does exercise improve your mood?
Do what you Love
When I began training, I was not doing much. I was out of shape and had little to no fitness level. So I began to look at sports that I enjoyed in the past. When I was a kid, I enjoyed biking with my Mom in a bunch of bike tours. I fondly remember going up and down hills while enjoying the scenery. My parents also called me a fish when I was growing up since I never wanted to leave the water. I was even on the all country swim team. In high school, I also enjoyed lifting weights and improving my body in the gym.
For me, there was a clear indication that swimming and biking were very enjoyable activities for me. A healthy dose of weight lifting also made sense. It made sense to begin a triathlon training regimen. Although running had never been my favorite activity, I figured I could build an affinity for it over time (this definitely happened). However, in the beginning, I focused on biking and swimming since I enjoyed them. This built the momentum to create the lifestyle of fitness I have today.
Starting a fitness routine is all about momentum. You have to ask yourself what are the activities that you enjoy? Do you enjoy them more in a certain environment? (Training with others, training alone, or training outside). Figure out the activities that you enjoy and start small. If you enjoy biking outside with a group for instance, join the local bike group and exercise with them once a week. Once you have a routine, you can add more training as you have time for.
Time is the next most important parameter. You have to ask yourself realistically how much time per week you want to dedicate to training. Do you have obligations that cannot be changed that will limit your training time? How important is training to you? I have seen far too many people fall by the wayside because they try to do much. It is so much better to work on developing a small routine than not doing anything at all. Remember good is often better than perfect!
What are your Training Priorities?
Once you have realistically determined the time per week you have to train, you should determine what priority you will place on training. How important is training to you? Your goals should align with this. There are always more important factors than training such as family, but often people place priorities on items that do not matter. Do not make the excuse that I did not have enough time to train. Realistically this means you did not make training a priority.
You need to determine how much of a priority you want to make training. Are you training for an event that will require more time? Do you just want to lose weight? The former will require much more dedication especially if you want to compete. The latter requires much less dedication since the majority of weight loss is from nutrition (often about 70% from nutrition and 30% exercise).
Determine your priorities and build habits around them. Next comes back to the all-important planning process. Know how busy a week and month are going to be. Do you need to move training to another day? You don’t necessarily need to have a preset training plan, but it is important to schedule in your head what days you can train. More serious training will require more planning! I have planned out my training for 6 months in the past.
Turn Priorities into a Routine
Planning will lead to a routine. Routines become habits, and soon you will find training to be an integral part of your life. Missing training will make you feel guilty. You would have built so much momentum that it will be very hard to ditch your routine.
The upfront work you have done will determine what kind of athlete you want to be. The execution will come naturally with the upfront work done. Just like nutrition, it is important not to let setbacks halt all progress. You are going to miss training days. You should be prepared for this. Do not let missing days stop you; keep driving towards your milestones and goals. Setbacks are normal.
I know this is a lot of info, but it all comes back to knowing what you want. Start out with what you enjoy and expand as you see fit. Add variety and exercise in new places. As a frequent traveler, I enjoy exploring new places in the saddle of a bike or with my running shoes on.
Find your Training Fit
Training differs from person to person. Don’t try to be like your friends. Everyone has a mix that makes them happy. You may be an ultra-marathoner or a person who enjoys long walks at lunch. Either approach is just as good!
Fitness has some place in everyone’s life. The quantity and types depends on your preferences. Of course, you will not enjoy every day of training, but make sure you have at least a few days per week that you do enjoy. This will keep you motivated and driving towards your goals!
In summary, training is very individualized, but finding what’s right for you follows a specific process:
- Be realistic about your current level of fitness
- Ask yourself what activities you enjoy and why
- Think about what environments you enjoy these activities (outdoor, indoor, with friends, etc.)
- Figure out realistically how much time you have for training
- Match your training priority to your goals
- Start small and build momentum making training a lifestyle
- Do not let setbacks slow you down!
- Reach your goals!
Training is a very important part of my life, and I know you can make it an important part of your own. Find what is right for you and you will surprise yourself. When you make training a priority, you will get to places you never thought possible (that ironman may be right around the corner ☺). Take a building block approach and crush your goals.
What are your biggest frustrations in setting up a training plan? What kind of training do you like to do? Do you have favorite exercises? Please let me know if you have any questions!