The Two Critical Factors for Fitness Success

by Michael on April 6, 2009 · 0 comments

To a great extent, I love change. And nowhere in my life is this more evident than in my workout program. I’ve gone through a straight weight-training routine, became a running disciple, tried Body For Life…I don’t think I’ve spent more than six months with the same regimen. I’ve even invented my own routine. (It works. Infomercial, here we come.)

They aren't going to lift themselves. (Flickr photo by ericmcgregor)

They aren't going to lift themselves. (Flickr photo by ericmcgregor)

The one thing I’ve realized through all of these fitness plans is that any reasonable plan can make you feel and look better. However, there are two things that are absolutely required to do so: commitment and intensity.

Commitment is the most difficult, and the first hurdle you must clear. Getting started on a regular workout plan is work. If you’ve tried and failed before, you’re in the majority: gyms actually base a large portion of their revenues on the fact that most people who sign contracts lose their ambition and stop using their one-year memberships past the first few weeks or so. However, there are ways to help yourself break through the commitment barrier:

  • Put your workouts in your calendar, your Outlook, your Blackberry or iPhone (with an alarm, if possible).
  • Sign up for classes or sessions with a personal trainer.
  • Find a friend or co-worker willing to be a workout buddy.
  • Get some great workout music and comfortable headphones – tunes are inspirational.
  • Give yourself a reward when you reach your goals – especially your attendance goals.
  • Change up your workout from time to time, especially if you’re hoping to build muscle.

As Woody Allen once said, “eighty percent of success is showing up.” It’s especially true for this. And for the other twenty percent, that’s where intensity comes in.

Ever go to the gym and watch the clientele? The guys who do their 10 reps of dumbbell curls, often at a weight much too high so their form goes to hell. Then they put the dumbbells down, drink some water, go talk to the girl who’s doing her stretching, then come back, have another drink, see a buddy and say hi, then do another set and repeat the whole thing. Notice these guys usually have a gut on them. (These are the guys who check “toned and athletic” as their body type at the online dating service.)

If these guys would pick up their intensity, they would be incredibly fit.

Now, if you’re just starting a workout plan, it’s in your best interest to take it easy – I don’t want any heart attacks or fainting spells on my hands. It’s good advice to get that checkup before you begin. But as you become comfortable exerting yourself, you want to go a little faster, push a little harder (while making sure to maintain proper form), and really “feel the burn.”

One good idea is to find a plan with intensity built in. Body for Life is one. My current workout, Crossfit, is another. These workouts vary the exercises and build intensity in a measurable way. If you’re not yet excited by the idea of using a really structured workout, I’ve posted a simple workout plan that has given me good results.

Classes and trainers and workout buddies can also help, by giving you an outside push.

The idea with intensity is to build to your maximum effort. With that max effort even a weights-only workout can burn fat, without the need to hang around at the gym for an hour and a half. You won’t have time to talk to that hottie on the treadmill, but you know, there’s a time for everything.

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