Monday, August 24, 2015

Choosing Your Path - Part Two

(This is a three part series on getting started with an exercise program.  In Part Two, we'll look at choosing a program - you can read Part One here.)

Once you've decided where you're going, next you have to figure out your mode of "transport".  This can have a significant impact on your success, since the most important part of any program is - wait for it - actually doing it.  So consider the following questions your "Gatekeepers" - the checklist you'll apply to your various options to help narrow them down to the perfect fit.  If the program or training method you are considering fails one of the litmus tests below, then you're probably better served looking elsewhere.

Is It Safe?
This should be obvious, but given some of the programs that are out there being utilized, clearly it's another example of "common sense ain't so common".  Maybe it would be easier to think of it less black and white, and more in terms of scale of balance - does the reward outweigh the risk, and is the risk something you are capable of  taking?  For example - if you rely on being physically fit for work, then any program that offers a significant chance of inhibiting this ability through injury is likely not worth the gamble - no matter how great the payoff. 

Is it Effective?
This goes to what you've already done in Part One, where you've defined your one or two primary goals.  Assuming it's passed the first Gatekeeper (the risk/reward balance is acceptable), you now have to figure out if the program is efficient in helping you reach your goal.  Given that most of us already have to carve out time to dedicate to our health, we don't want to be putting this commodity towards a wasted effort.  If you want to run faster, you probably shouldn't make the bulk of your training high intensity metabolic work - and if you'd like to lose body fat, then your time is better served in ways other than hours of running on a treadmill.

Is It Fun?
Like the "is it safe" question, maybe this needs to be worded somewhat differently.  After all, there are a lot of training styles that, in themselves, aren't inherently "fun" but that offer an intrinsic satisfaction.  Rather than trying to measure this by whether or not you're smiling the entire time you're doing the chosen activity (which, frankly, would probably be a little creepy anyway), ask yourself : a) if there is a significant element to the training that you enjoy (hitting a new PR in a specific lift, or earning your next belt in a martial art), and b) if you're going to be able to do this for weeks/months/years on end.  Anything that feels too much like a chore - like something you're doing because you "have to" (self-imposed or otherwise) - likely sets you up for failure.

Now, the final step towards success - finding the right guide...


Monday, August 17, 2015

Choosing Your Path - Part One

(This is a three-part series on how to get started with an exercise program.  Today in Part One, we'll look at getting started in the right direction from the beginning).

When embarking on the road to fitness, you're faced with many, many different possibilities - some good, some... well, not so good.  It can be difficult to find the right path when media and peers are throwing you so many different options - so what is the best way to go about it when the sheer number of choices can be so incredibly overwhelming?

I find that the best approach is similar to when I'm trying to clean a very messy room - pick one area, deal with it, then move onto the next, whereas looking at the entire room at once can be completely demotivating.  Thus, using that (somewhat tenuous) metaphor, try the following and with luck you'll start the process confident in the direction you've chosen...

Determine Your Overall Goal
Don't look at specific exercises (yet).  Before you even start, determine the primary thing you want to achieve.  Is it simply to live a healthier lifestyle?  To lose bodyfat?  To run a 10km race in a certain amount of time, or to finally complete a chin up?

Any and all of the above have merit - don't let anyone tell you otherwise.  But knowing where you're going is a key part of taking the first step.

Understand What Is Required to Reach Your Goal
This is an important part of getting in the right mindset.  For example - losing bodyfat will require an adjustment to your diet, and likely involve a conscious awareness of what you're eating.  Alternatively, running a faster 10km race will involve, not surprisingly - a lot or running.

Decide If Requirements of the Goal Align with What You're Willing to Do
Bottom line is you can't change lead to gold.  So if your goal doesn't match what you're willing (or able) to do, then you need to either adjust the goal, or change your mindset.  Choosing a destination when you're unwilling or incapable of doing the work to get there can only lead to disappointment and frustration.

Keep in mind, goals can change - the route is rarely, if ever, a linear path.  But there is a significant difference between adjusting to obstacles along the way and going down the entirely wrong path in the first place.

Next: Choosing the Right Coach