You've done it. You've made the decision to throw down your Twinkie, turn off the television, and get off the couch. Now what? Taking a stand against your unhealthy lifestyle is great, but if you don't know what to do after you make that stand, the battle cannot begin.
It's not easy to create healthy habits or build a better body, but change is easier when you start in the proper place. These tips are meant to help you get started so you'll be less likely to quit when things get rough, and more apt to make fitness a lifestyle rather than some once-in-a-while game. Like any journey, you won't make it far if you're weighed down with bad directions, low motivation, and unrealistic expectations.
1. Break down your big goal into smaller goals
Once you've unchained yourself from the bowels of your couch cushions, it's easy to assume that within a few short weeks, you'll be back into your "high school" jeans or running marathons. I hate to say it, but that's just not the case. Bodybuilding, in any sense, takes a lot of time. Whether you want to lose 100 pounds, gain 20, or just be able to play outside with your kids, it won't be instantaneous.
There's nothing wrong with setting big goals—you should. But, be aware that your goal should be accompanied by numerous small goals. These goals should be measureable and attainable in a specific time-period. Your 100-pound weight loss goal may take many years, but smaller goals like "lose 5 pounds," "climb a flight of stairs without running out of breath," and "run one mile" are easier to accomplish in shorter time periods.
Bodybuilding.com can help! We didn't create BodySpace, our free fitness network, because we lifted everything in the gym and got bored. We created it to help you set, achieve, and surpass your fitness goals. When you sign up for BodySpace, we'll help you set an overall goal and even offer a realistic timeline. From there, you can break your goal down into milestones and share with the community. When you share your goal, you boost accountability, visibility, and set yourself up for success!
2. Choose a goal you can maintain
Setting your goal is one challenge. Actually sticking to your program and following it through is another can of tuna. If you're realistic about what you can accomplish in a given amount of time, it'll be much easier to see improvements and benchmarks. You'll also have a more successful transformation if you stick to one program, even if it's not perfect. It's easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of accessible information, but if you are continually changing your goal and how you go about achieving that goal, you'll find yourself frustrated. As strength coach Dan John says, "The goal is to keep the goal the goal."
Bodybuilding.com can help! When you set up your BodySpace, you'll be able to choose your goal. Our programs include goal trackers and timelines so you can measure how long achieving your goal may take and how far you've come. Update your "Overall Goal" anytime to keep it fresh in your mind.
3. How you feel is more important than how you look
We all want to look good, but your transformation or resolution should be about how your body feels and how it works. Cheese-grater abs are awesome, but more awesome is the fact that your cholesterol has dropped to healthy levels, that your blood sugar issues are now under control, that you are less likely to develop cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
You should be most excited about your ability to run, your ability to jump, your ability to balance, swing a golf club, or swim. Your bulging biceps and tiny waist should be a byproduct of living fit, not necessarily the overall goal. Internal motivation makes those external changes happen much more quickly.
Bodybuilding.com can help! Sure, we feature great physiques across our site to inspire and motivate you, but fitness isn't just about looking good. Come up with your own reasons to train, from increased happiness to a longer life. They'll sustain you in the long run!
4. Banish the word "Diet" from your vocabulary
If you want to live a healthy, long-lasting life, 12 weeks isn't much more than a blip on your lifetime radar. Instead of spending 12 weeks of your life dieting, try finding a nutrition plan that works for your lifestyle and goal. If your goal is to get on stage, then your meals look a lot different than the woman who needs to lose 10 pounds before she is safe to get pregnant.
If you're a teenage boy, your weight-gainer program is going to have way more calories than your dad's fat-loss nutrition plan. Support your lifestyle. The habit of eating good, clean food all year is the best way to maintain your body health and your physique. Crash diets and fad diets don't work; they never will. Make your diet part of your lifestyle. You already decided that your lifestyle needs to change—just going to the gym isn't enough.
Bodybuilding.com can help! Our fitness programs include meal plans for any goal. Log your food into your BodySpace so you can keep track of your macronutrients and stay motivated.
5. Learn why you do what you do
There's nothing worse than setting a course that leads to nowhere. Most people don't know what a carbohydrate is, how your body uses it, or how many carbs you need. Once you decide to change, you need to make sure you give yourself the tools to be successful. If your doctor told you to switch from white rice to brown rice, find out why. If you're not sure what insulin resistance is or why it develops, find out. If you don't know how diet and exercise affect your body, do some reading. Going to the gym and choosing to abstain from the vending machine at work will get easier if you know the positive impact those choices have on your body.
Bodybuilding.com can help! Need some information? We have it. Our writers include some of the best minds and bodies in the business.
6. Identify your internal motivation switch—then flick it on
Everyone is motivated differently. For some, getting on stage is the best motivation. For others, walking around without knee or chest pain is the best thought in the world. Or, maybe you just want to give a big ol' middle finger to your ex. You need to have a strong emotional connection to your change. Your "why" needs to be so burly and tough that it will survive plateaus, missed goals, and disappointments. It doesn't matter how big or little you want to want to be, what matters is how important your physique, athletic, or health goals are to you. You can't go into a New Year's resolution half-assed. It's your life, after all. And you only get one of those.
Bodybuilding.com can help! Our fitness programs include motivation tips and tricks from industry experts like Kris Gethin and Jamie Eason. They know just what to say to get you through a tough day.