1. Set VERY Specific, Targeted, Achievable, Motivating Goals
Ask yourself the following: What exactly do I want to achieve with my routine? Have a body that looks like a swimsuit model? Look like an old high school photo? Be able to run a marathon in under five hours? Lose weight? Feel better? Walk longer? Run 5 miles?
Once you have that goal in place, you need to figure out if it is achievable. Can you look like a swimsuit model? Possible? Then fine. Will you be able to run 26 miles in less than five hours? Maybe not. Or it might take several years to get to that point. Make sure your goals are "doable" within the time frame you've allotted.
Also, read this on SMARTER goals: dietdetective.com/weekly-column/getting-smarter
2. Write Down Your Exact Workout
Once you've come up with a specific, realistic target, write it down. That's what a trainer would do. What exercises should you be doing? What shouldn't you be doing? What's best for your intended goals? Write down the exercises you will have to do, how many reps and how many minutes you will have to do each one, how many days per week, etc.
There is no messing around if you have your exact workout written down. Bring a chart to the gym to check off each and every workout, or use a phone application. Remember to use a stopwatch for exercises that involve time.
3. Assess EVERY Week
Goals should be measurable, so you know if you're on the road to success. For example, weighing yourself once a week tells you at a glance if you're heading in the right direction. WRITE IT DOWN, or use an app to keep track.
4. Take Measurements
It's really important to look at measurements, in addition to the number on the scale. Most good personal trainers will take body measurements during your first session. No reason why you shouldn't do the same.
Neck: ________________ Abdominal: ______________ Waist: _________________
Shoulder: _______________ Hip: _________________ Chest: ___________________
Thigh (Mid): ________________ Arm: (L) _______________ (R ): _____________
Blood Pressure: ___
Resting Heart Rate: ___
Make sure to take these measurements every month to track your progress. Again, keep a log and write it all down.
5. Fill Out an Initial Fitness Assessment - Know Thyself
When you're developing your fitness program, ask yourself a few key questions (again, just like a personal trainer should):
A. Where do you prefer to exercise?
B. What time do you like to exercise?
i. Early Morning
v. Late Afternoon
vii. Late Evening
C. How many times per week can you exercise/train?
D. How much time can you spend daily on exercise/training?
E. What are the best days for you to exercise/train? M T W T F S S
This assessment will give you clues that help to organize your workout schedule.
6. Take A Fitness Assessment
Take a look at shapeup.org/fitness/assess/strength1.html for a variety of fitness assessments. Take these every six weeks and note your progress. Also, take a look at my column titled "Are You Really Fit" for similar assessments: dietdetective.com/weekly-column/are-you-really-fit.
7. Keep A Training Log
Write down everything you're doing and take a look at the numbers every four weeks. Trainers know what your body is capable of doing not because of their expertise but because they're taking the time to measure your successes and failures. The best tools on the market right now are the apps for your phone. Nike Training Club not only helps you keep track but also has a full-body training application: nike.com/nikewomen/features/ntc?locale=en_US. There is also GAIN Fitness, which costs $2.99 per exercise pack. According to PC Magazine, "MyFitnessPal is one of the best all-in-one calorie counter and exercise trackers for the iPhone." I also like Fitocracy as a tracker. It's free and loaded with wonderful features, including a social media component.
Using an app is a quick way to keep up with what can be a time-consuming chore that is essential for success.
8. Learn to do Your Routine Correctly
Plan your specific exercises and learn how to do them correctly. There are many websites that have fantastic, helpful instructional videos on how to do exercises correctly. The University of Florida has something called Trainer Time which offers instructional videos with personal trainers. See recsports.ufl.edu/fitness/personal-training/trainer-time/. One of the best video libraries is from the American Council on Exercise (ACE); see their Kick Start Workout Guide goo.gl/Srxtm and make sure to check out their complete library of great exercise resources: acefitness.org/acefit/exercise-library-main/. If you want to add yoga exercises to your routine, go to Yoga Journal's extensive library here: yogajournal.com/video/level/beginner/.
9. Plan as You Rest
Instead of counting seconds between sets, use the time to start planning your next move. Grab the weights you'll be using next; check how many repetitions you did during your last workout; ask the big guy in the racerback tank if he's almost through with that bench. Thinking two steps ahead will keep you from wasting time during your workout.
10. Become a REAL Personal Trainer
There is no reason why you can't become a certified trainer yourself. Go to the American College of Sports Medicine: acsm.org/join-acsm or the American Council of Exercise: Acefitness.org
11. Put Pressure On Yourself.
Money can be motivating. You're less inclined to skip a session for which you've already paid. If you need that kind of incentive to stay psyched, make a deal with a friend or significant other that you'll pay him or her $5 every time you miss a scheduled workout. Or go on some of the betting sites. Sign on to Stickk.com, register, choose your goal (weight loss, exercise more, etc.), pick what's at stake (e.g., money), get a referee and you're done. Some sites, such as makemoneylosingweight.com, allow bettors to challenge one another.
12. Ward Off Distractions At The Gym
Having a trainer is the best way to keep people from interrupting your routine, because people are less likely to chat with you when they see that you're busy. To achieve that same "I'm-too-involved-in-my-workout-for-the-likes-of-you" look, try listening to music on your smartphone. It might be a great idea to sign up for a music service such as Pandora or Spotify. That way you can always listen to music you love and create uplifting song lists just for your workout.
13. Buy Key Fitness Equipment from Online Classifieds
You can get a very good treadmill, elliptical, bike or any workout gear by looking online at sites like eBay and Craigslist.org. Do your research to find good quality units, and make sure to test one first. Recently, I was able to buy a $4,000 treadmill for about $600. The best way to make sure you'll actually use the equipment is to watch TV or do something special only while you're on it. I pick a TV series (from DVR, Netflix, Roku, On-Demand or purchase) I haven't seen and watch it only while I'm on the treadmill.
14. Try an At-Home (No Equipment) Workout from The American Council on Exercise (ACE)
I really like the idea of getting in shape without using any equipment. For more at-home exercises go to dietdetective.com/weekly-column/home-fitness-8-exercises-you-...
15. Use a Heart Rate Monitor
You should be aiming for your target heart rate zone, which is the minimum and maximum number of times your heart should beat during one minute of exercise. You can find your target heart rate by going to the American Heart Association's website at goo.gl/6fuMx. It's recommended that you exercise within 60 percent (even lower for beginners) to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.
16. Keep It Fresh
Change your exercise routine and shock your body. Your body adapts to repetitive training stimuli. Change your routine every two weeks. Try some new exercises, and change the intensity of your workouts.
CHARLES PLATKIN, Ph.D., M.P.H., THE DIET DETECTIVE is one of the country's leading nutrition and public health advocates, whose syndicated health, nutrition and fitness column, the Diet Detective appears in more than 100 daily newspapers nationally. Dr. Platkin is also the founder of DietDetective.com, which offers nutrition, food, and fitness information. Platkin is a health expert and blogger featured on Everydayhealth.com, Active.com and Fitnessmagazine.com. Additionally, Platkin is a Distinguished Lecturer at the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College in New York City.The information provided is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her existing physician.