7 secrets to maintaining fitness for a lifetime

As the owner of a fitness studio, the most common thing I have people ask me is how to get in shape. All too often, people don’t have any real idea what that means. They tend to see it as a quick fix to a personal problem, where they can put in a set amount of effort to receive a certain result and that’s that. What most people fail to understand however, is that fitness is a continuum: there is no such thing as a “set it and forget it” fitness plan. Today, I’m going to share with you the seven secrets to maintaining fitness and health for a lifetime. 

1. Be specific

In order to make sure you start your fitness journey off on the right foot, you need to know what you’re working for. Just saying that you want to be more healthy, or more fit, is not enough. You need to have specific, measurable goals that help indicate whether or not you’ve actually accomplished what you set out to do. Some good examples might be to run a marathon under a certain time, lift a certain amount of weight, or even a purely aesthetic goal like having visible six pack abs. Some people might shy away from making goals that seem purely vanity-based, such as our person who wants to be able to see their abs, but the reality is most people come to fitness with a similar goal. You don’t necessarily have to tell everyone what your goal is, but you need to have the information at your disposal in order to reference it while making plans to reach the goals that actually matter to you.

2. Have a plan

Once you know what you’re working towards, it’s time to make a plan that helps you move towards that goal. If you want to be a better runner, you cannot do so without practicing running. If you want to be a heavy power lifter, you need to be doing strength work in the gym. Your plan should come in three stages: a yearly goal, four three-month goals, and finally a monthly goal. The monthly and quarterly goals, should logically build towards your yearly goal. Once you know what you are aiming for in each one of these time frames, you can then build out a weekly training plan to move towards them.

3. Don’t expect miracles

One of the biggest mistakes that I see people make is expecting too much, too soon. Essentially, they expect to put in the least amount of effort and receive miraculous results. I can honestly say that this never works. You need to be very practical and realistic when setting your goals, so that your plans to reach those goals make sense and are sustainable. Some good examples of bad goals are: go from couch to marathon runner in one month, or go from 40% body fat to bodybuilding competitor in two months. (And those are actual goals people have presented to me as being “realistic” to them.)

4. Effort equals results

Now that we have goals and a plan to reach those goals, it’s time to start putting in the effort. Having the best plan and very realistic goals is not going to do you any good if you don’t actually stick to your plan. You need to be training on a frequent basis, which for most people means at least 3 to 4 times per week. You need to be consistent, minimizing the number of workouts that you miss, and whenever possible making up missed work outs with additional sessions. Don’t fall into the very common trap of assuming that just because one day was derailed, it gives you license to be lazy every other day. Failure compounds just like success, but failure is more painful. 

5. You are never done

Remember that we said earlier, fitness is a continuum. You’re either more or less fit day today than the day before or the day after. This means that even if you have nominally reached your goals, you are never actually done with your training, or done improving your fitness. If you don’t continue to exercise, you will lose the progress you’ve made. There is nothing that caps off a year of great workouts, like another year of great workouts! Keep working, and you will continue to be in the best shape of your life every day, with each day big just a little healthier than the one before it.

6. If it seems too good to be true, it is

You will see many things on your way to good health and fitness. There are as many companies out there trying to make a quick dollar with placebo drugs, illegal substances, or programs that don’t work as there are trainers and companies who are legitimate. If you are promised something that seems way too good to be true (such as six pack abs without any work, diet, or exercise) then the chances are it’s not legitimate. The nature of the free market economy, means that these places are allowed to offer these things, and that you as the consumer need to be aware of the risks of purchasing it. In the end, failure to do your research about what you’re purchasing, is all on you to police. You should be taking absolute responsibility for yourself at all times.

7. Have fun

The last, most important thing in maintaining a healthy lifestyle for your entire lifetime, is to make sure you’re having fun while you do it. If you hate lifting weights in the gym, then find a strength training program you really enjoy. If you can’t stand running (much like me) then take up biking or rowing. If traditional gym classes or memberships don’t do it for you, consider an alternative like parkour, martial arts, or even Zumba. The key is to find something you like to do, that promotes good health and wellness, and stick with it as long as you enjoy it. If you find that your natural tendencies and proclivities change over time, don’t feel that you have to stick with the same plan once it no longer fits your needs.