So, you are thinking about starting a new fitness plan. That’s great! Having a solid plan to stick to makes it easier to see consistent progress and reach your goals. Maybe you have downloaded a cool looking plan from a trainer you follow on Instragram, or you are thinking about joining a fitness challenge at the gym, or a friend has asked if you want to be their gym buddy and do their trainer-made plan with them. All of these options can be great ways to introduce yourself to a new type of exercise, get on a solid workout schedule, or work towards a new goal. But, how do you know if you will actually be successful? Not all plans are created equal or will give the same results to different people.
Before you start your new plan, ask yourself these three questions to determine if it is, in fact, the right plan for you.
Is it safe?
In fitness, safety should always be the first priority. No one starts a fitness program with the intention of getting hurt, but time and time again, it happens. Before you start a fitness program, take a good look at the exercises and types of workouts that you will be required to complete. Then, consider your body’s physical needs and limitations. If a knee injury prevents you from jumping and running, then a workout program that includes lots of sprints and burpees is likely not the best choice. Or if mobility restrictions make it challenging to complete certain exercises like squats and overhead presses, you may want to consider a mobility program before a weight lifting program.
Injuries and musculoskeletal limitations are not the only safety considerations. Some types of exercise can be dangerous because they can contribute to chronic inflammation, hormone imbalance, and mental health conditions in certain individuals. For example, if you are struggling with amenorrhea (absence of a menstrual period), conditions associated with irregular thyroid function, or have struggled with disordered eating and exercising behaviors in the past, workout programs that emphasize fat loss, high intensity workouts, and large amounts of cardiovascular exercise, may do more harm than good.
If you are struggling to figure out if a workout program is safe for you, or if there is a way to modify a program to make it safe, I highly suggest consulting a fitness professional. Be honest about your concerns and really listen to their answers if they caution you about the program or certain parts of it. There are so many types of workout programs out there for you to choose from. It is not worth risking the health and safety of your body and mind just to complete the one you are considering right now. Take your time to make the safe choice!
Is it accessible?
Many factors can make a workout program inaccessible to you. The most important being how well the program suits your physical abilities and limitations, which we just discussed. Other factors, while not making a program unsafe, could make it really hard to complete the program or see the results that you want from it.
Before getting sucked in by flashy marketing and peer pressure, really consider if you have the resources you need to do everything the program is asking you to do. Do you have access to the right equipment? Can you realistically commit to the frequency and length of the workouts? If the program requires you to show up to classes or training appointments, can they be scheduled during times that you can work into your schedule?
Starting a new program almost always ends up feeling like more of a commitment than it seems like it will be. Adding a new element to your schedule and using physical and mental power to master new exercise skills can be time consuming and energetically draining. If starting a program means you would have to turn your life upside down to make it work, I would suggest finding a different program that feels like a more reasonable commitment. In the end, the only workout program that will give you good results is the program you will actually do.
Is it in line with your goals?
A workout program is always designed to target a specific goal. Most programs out there focus on weight loss, but there are programs for all kinds of goals including weight gain, strength, endurance, or general fitness. Before you start a program, make sure you know what your goal is. If your goal is to get stronger, then a weight loss program isn’t the best choice. If your goal is building a habit or regular exercise, then choosing a program that will allow to to exercise at around the same time each day may be more successful that a program that jumps around your schedule.
I think it is also important to take this question a step deeper and ask: why is this your goal? Understanding your “why” is crucial to fully understanding the goal itself and finding the best way to reach it.
It is an unfortunate reality that, much of the time, fitness goals are not about fitness at all. The desire to lose weight, get abs, grow your muscles, or even increase your strength or endurance is often rooted in an ingrained fear that we are not worthy or valuable as we currently are. The narrative that media and advertising will sell you is that you must earn your worth by maintaining certain standards of aesthetic and ability. But this narrative is not reality! A person’s weight, body fat percentage, muscle mass, strength, athleticism, or ability to adhere to a training schedule do not make them morally superior or more deserving of love, success, happiness or anything else. Your worth is inherent in your existence. It does not need to be earned through fitness.
With that in mind. What is your real goal? Is the goal to lose 15 lbs really about the weight? Or is it about the fear of being unhappy, rejected, or unloved? Do you really want to go to spinning seven days a week to build a healthy habit? Or is it to prove that you are in fact hard working, disciplined, and deserving of success.
If asking these questions and thinking about your goals in this way makes you feel uncomfortable or maybe even defensive, I encourage you to dive in even more. Make space for your discomfort and use it as a way to learn more about yourself, your values, what you really want out of life and how fitness can contribute to that (or not.)
As you do this, it may be a good idea to hold off on starting a fitness program all together and find a program or professional that can help you work on the deeper meanings that you have discovered around your “why.” A body image or confidence coach, life coach, therapist, meditation teacher, or nutritionist may be the type of professional to seek out now, and the personal trainer or fitness instructor can come into play later.
Fitness should contribute positively to your life, not take away from it. If a program you are considering may be dangerous for your health and safety, an unreasonable or inaccessible commitment, or out of alignment with your “why” then it you should look elsewhere. By thinking critically about the types of programs we spend out time and money on, we are so much more likely to see success and reap the many benefits of exercise.
If you need help figuring out a fitness strategy that is right for you, I’m your girl! As a Health and Wellness Coach and a Personal Trainer, I can help you define your goals, find your “why,” and develop a workout program that is perfect for you.
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