As a health and fitness coach, a common question I hear is, “What’s the best nutrition and fitness routine?”
The answer is simple:
The best plan is the one you can stick to!
Tell me if you’ve been here before… You’re following someone who represents an ideal you aspire to. They seem to have it all figured out, so you decide you’ll just do what they do. Simple! It may seem harmless to jump in and try the next fad but this approach can lead you down some random paths that may not support you in reaching your goals in a sustainable way.
Imagine this, you’ve stumbled upon a svelte, successful influencer who preaches that carbs are poison, fasting is holy, and intense circuit training will change your life. So, you proceed to throw out your favorite foods, ban breakfast forever and sign up for boot camp. Two weeks later you find yourself crying in your driveway, halfway through a baker’s dozen, with a nagging pain in your knee because you aggravated an old injury trying to defy gravity in an advanced group fitness class.
Okay sure, I may have added a touch of drama here for humor’s sake, but the point is… If you want to be successful in finally reaching your health and fitness goals, your time is better spent finding what works for you – versus sponsored advice you’re getting from a stranger with a completely different lifestyle and history.
So, how can you design a plan that fits into your life, allows for flexibility when things change and is sustainable for the long-term? Here are some simple steps to guide you!
Step 1: Identify Your Priorities
Before you draft any sort of plan, you need to clearly define your goals, your motive for reaching those goals, and your timeline. You’ve probably heard of SMART goals ad nauseum, but the formula is popular for a reason. In case you could use a refresher, effective goal setting requires that your goals be:
- Specific: Want to become a better runner? Awesome! What does that mean? Are you improving speed or endurance or both? Is there an event you’re preparing for?
- Measurable: You must have a tool to qualify your progress (or lack thereof). Plan to track this data regularly!
- Attainable: You’re not preparing to meet a genie who is going to grant you three wishes. Is this goal something you can actually do, given the proper support?
- Relevant: Here’s where you identify your why. Are you setting this goal for you? If you’re not 100% ready to commit to the change, you may need to work on making the goal more attainable. Or you might need to revise your goal to one YOU are excited about!
- Time Bound: Goals set with an end date in mind are super motivating! Don’t have a date? Create one, or better yet, make an event of it! What a great reason to plan your next vacation!
Once you have your SMART goals drafted, you can identify your priorities more clearly. What is most important to you, not only when it comes to your goals but in everyday life? Here is a non-exhaustive list of examples:
Once you’ve identified your goals and priorities, you can start prioritizing them in order. So maybe you want to build muscle and lose weight while eating clean, but you also need time for work and family. Decide which of these things take precedence over the others and you’ll be much more informed when defining your plan. But before you can start planning, there’s one more detail…
Step 2: Personalization
If you haven’t caught the primary theme of this blog, it is to AVOID jumping on the latest trend because it’s new and shiny and you haven’t tried that yet. Those plans don’t consider you. Only you can do that! Once your goals and priorities are clear, it’s time to start thinking about your personality and preferences. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to get started:
- What time of your day do you feel your best? Your worst?
- When do you tend to need an energy boost?
- Are you a planner or do you prefer to go with the flow?
- Do you like to be led or prefer to be in charge?
- Do you enjoy community, or do you like your solitude?
- How much time do you have to devote to your goal?
- What makes you feel inspired or motivated?
- Do you prefer to be indoors/outdoors?
- Do you want to get healthier for aesthetic reasons or are you just looking to feel better?
From here, you can add a personal touch to your plan. Let’s say you’re a person who wants to use your fresh brain power for work in the mornings, feel sluggish by late afternoon, need people around to feel motivated and only have 30-45 min to work out before going home to be with family. If so, you might do well logging into work in the early morning hours so you’re able to sign-off around 4pm for an afternoon fitness class. Then you can head home at a good time to enjoy the freezer meal you prepped last weekend so you could spend time with the people you love instead of being stuck in the kitchen.
The key to finding a plan you can stick to forever is taking the time to personalize so your routine fits into your life.
Step 3: Outline Your Plan
It’s finally time to outline your plan! Now that you’ve identified your goal, ranked your priorities and pulled in the personal touches, you can start plugging all of these elements into a plan. Here is where you will consider the tangible, logistical details and put the plan “on paper.”
If you enjoy planning, you might do well outlining by month, considering social events, family commitments/scheduling, work conflicts, holidays, etc. From there, you can start penciling in your priorities. Maybe you’re going to work out on Mon/Weds/Fri and meal prep on Sundays. Or perhaps you’re scheduling based on group fitness class times or pre-made meal delivery/pick-up. Maybe your spouse will be out of town for a week and you’ll need to get in your workouts at home or ask for help. Write it all down so you don’t feel like you’re constantly “winging it.”
If the idea of planning a month in advance feels overwhelming, break it down. You may do better planning by the week or even the day prior. Just be sure you set a reminder to look at your month at a glance as new ones begin, so you aren’t caught off guard.
Bonus tip: Inevitably, life gets in the way. Perhaps something comes up at work, sickness sweeps your household, family drops into town unannounced, etc. Decide on a short list of non-negotiables that you will commit to on the hectic days. I advise some sort of self-care practice – like meditation, a skin care routine, a walk outside, getting 7+ hours of sleep or drinking ½ gallon of water. It should be a list of 1-3 things that you can definitely do and feel like you didn’t let yourself down or fail to follow-through. Feeling like you’re winning and keeping your momentum is huge when it comes to staying consistent and maintaining a positive mindset!
Step 4: Reflect & Adjust
This is probably where most people “fall off.” You design a plan, it works really well for a time, and then eventually things change, and you lose your gusto. You think, “That doesn’t work for me because…” and start feeling hopeless because you can’t maintain what you think you must do to experience success.
Everything changes! Of course, your circumstances are inevitably going to change, and your plan should too! Also, there are SO many ways to adjust – you might just need to get creative and keep an open mind when problem solving.
Experienced weight loss when you woke up at 4am, 5 days a week to hit the gym before work - but found your mental clarity and energy fading from a lack of sleep? Time to change it up! Maybe you work out over lunch instead or increase the number of rest days, so you have time to recover.
Work in tax and busy season is coming up so it feels pointless to start something new? You might do well focusing on those non-negotiables mentioned above, or consolidating workouts to 2-3 days a week, or stealing away for a walk whenever possible and leaning on healthy done-for-you meal prep. Once busy season is through, you’ll update your plan again – so don’t put yourself on pause!
Treat yourself more like a science experiment and less like a lost cause – stay curious and delight in the fact that you can always try a different approach and design a new plan that works for you. As long as these new approaches are made consciously and not from a place of desperation, you should be on the right track.
Feeling more optimistic about planning your commitments but not sure where to start? Check out my recent blog that outlines the most impactful changes you can implement to improve your health (and it’s packed with some awesome, free resources too!).
Interested in a little more support?
I provide one-on-one, personalized nutrition coaching, training plans, accountability, and an amazingly supportive community – so you can reach your goals without all of the guesswork. Contact me to learn more.
And if you found this helpful, don’t forget to share it with a friend!