MY HEALTHY FITNESS PLAN
GOING FOR GOAL
Any plan, in its simplest form, is a guide that outlines goals and describes how to achieve those goals.
If it is a business plan it will describe some financial goals but also how the business will attract customers, which sales channels they will use, and how much money they need to keep the business running and how they will secure financial means to do so.
If it is a household plan, also called a budget, it will include your projected income and expenses, and it will help you determine if your financial health is in good or bad condition. Everyone knows that it's a good thing to do, but still, only 1/3 of American families are actually maintaining a household budget.
However, have you ever heard about a fitness plan? Unless you're an elite athlete, you most likely don't adhere to the same good practice of setting goals and making plans when it comes to your physical health, right?
It is not that we're not exercising by running, biking or working out in other ways, but the reality is that most of us don't set long- or short-term goals and don't create plans for achieving those fitness goals. We might stick to a certain routine or a specific program for shorter or longer periods at a time but only a small group of well-disciplined individuals decide to look at the bigger picture. Where they are today and where do they are tomorrow, in regards to fitness and health?
GUILTY AS CHARGED
I have to admit that setting long-term health-related goals and creating a plan to achieve these are new to me as well. I have followed many exercise programs for the last 6-7 years. Programs of various length from 3 to 12 weeks but I have never planned for the time ahead after the program I was doing has ended.
This year, 2019, will be different though. I have not been very successful in maintaining my weight the last year, and the busier I have become with my business, the more I have failed.
With inspiration from the business world, I will in this article, get started on My Healthy Fitness Plan for the whole year. I will set long-term goals (my budget), apply reverse engineering to create a plan (strategy & implementation), and keep track of my results (bookkeeping). I call it My Healthy Fitness Plan because it is a lot more than a full year of the same stuff. In order to progress you always need to make sure that your exercise routine incorporates Variety, Intensity, and Continuity. Only then will you get the results you are looking for.
Let's get started.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Before we dive into "How to plan your year in fitness" I would like to point out, that there are many ways to do this. In the following, I am describing how I have decided to set it up so it works for me, but you might find that doing it a bit different will work better for you. That is of course perfectly fine, the main thing is that you take action and set your own goals and create a plan to achieve these.
When you set goals in any area of life, the goals need to be well defined, they need to be SMART. The primary advantage of SMART goals is that they are easier to understand and it is easier to know when they have been reached.
My primary goal: At the end of 2019 i.e. on December 31st., I want my weight to be 185 lbs and my body fat percentage to be <10%.
Quite ambitious maybe but are my goals smart i.e. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Based?
Specific: Yes, the weight goal as well as the body fat percentage goal, have a specific target value.
Measurable: Yes, both values can be measured. The weight is easy, the body fat percentage a bit more challenging if I want an accurate measurement, but doable.
Attainable: Yes, and here is why. Today I weighed myself and the needle stopped at 201 lbs. That means that I only need to become 16 lbs lighter in almost a full year. I have not measured my body fat percentage recently, but in July 2018 I had it done and that was in the most accurate way possible. At the University of Ottawa, they have an underwater scale for this specific purpose, and I was lucky enough to have the measurement performed. I was part of a study but they did not tell me what the result was specifically (yeah, weird, I know) but I know it was in the low twenties. However, for this purpose that will suffice so I will use 22% BF going forward.
If I calculate my lean body mass i.e. my body weight without any fat, for today, and for Dec. 31st. 2019, the numbers are like this:
Today: 201 - (201*0.22) = 156.8 lbs.
December 31st: 185 - (185*0.10) = 166.5 lbs.
This means that I must gain about 10 lbs of muscle mass and loose (201-185+10) 26 lbs of fat. Easy peasy? No most likely not, but certainly attainable.
It is important to do an assessment like this. If the results come out that you would need to lose 60 lbs and gain 35 lbs of muscle within 12 months, it may not be attainable due to e.g. physiological reasons or lack of time. Real life isn't like "Extreme Weightloss Makeover" on TV. You probably have a job to do, and a family to care for, so committing to 8 hours of fitness every day is something that most likely won't work.
Relevant: Are my goals worthwhile and will they meet my needs? Yes, I believe so. As I get older I must focus on a lot of things in order to stay healthy and holding on to my muscle mass and staying lean are areas of importance. I have a lot to do in the rest of life so I need to stay healthy to the very end.
Time-Based: Yes, absolutely. December 31st. is a well-defined date.
LET'S START PLANNING
Based on my goals and the attainability assessment I just did, it is obvious that I don't get to meet my goals by sitting on my couch eating chips.
Losing fat isn't enough. I also need to gain muscle, 10 lbs to be specific and in order to build muscle, I must lift weights. Some sort of weight program must be added to my routine.
In my opinion, cardio workouts must be the cornerstone of any exercise routine, so I will add that to my yearly plan as well. Cardio burns fat if it is done right, and I have 26 lbs to burn.
In my earlier years, I ran more than I have done last season (2018) and since I also enjoy biking, I will add that to my plan too. It will indeed be a year with a lot of activities.
Running is a great group activity, and since I belong to a group of friendly runners who I have let down a bit too much in 2018, I will make 2019 my comeback year. I have actually already signed up for five runs which takes place throughout the year, so I will start by adding those to my "2019 Fitness Calendar". I actually purchased a cheap calendar for $1.50 at the Dollar store and I intend to fill out every week with activities.
April 14: 10K Road.
July 7: 9K Trail.
August 11: 11K Trail.
September 15: 15K Trail.
October 27: 21K Road.
Since I haven't been running on a regular basis for a while, I have decided to follow a "10K Program". It is 8 weeks long, so I must start no later than Monday, February 18 in order to be done on race day. I found the program on Nike's website and since it adapts to all levels of runners, it is perfect for me too.
With the running program in the calendar, I have the best of 7 weeks to do some indoor workouts before I lace up the running shoes. To build some basis stamina and endurance, I started an 8-week program on December 31st. 2018 i.e. a week ago. The program I picked to kick-off the new year is high-intensity bodyweight workouts only and since I stream them online I can do them at home. No gym needed. Very efficient. That is a great way to get some fitness squeezed into a busy schedule.
With that pencilled into my calendar, it is full until the 10K race in April. Great.
Since my longest and most challenging run is a half-marathon on October 27th, I better plan for some extended running training between the 10K and this date. Heading back to the Nike programs, I see a 14-weeks half-marathon program too, so I will go ahead and add this program to my calendar as well. The programs from Nike looks appealing to me as they consist of Speed, Endurance, and Recovery. Lots of variety.
So, counting back 14 weeks from October 27 will give me a start date for this program on July 21st.
With that in the book, I have 14 weeks between the 10K run in April and the first day of the half-marathon program on July 21st.
Going back to my goals I know that I have to add a weight lifting program to my calendar in order not to fall short on the muscle mass gain. Luckily, my online fitness provider has plenty of options for streaming just that, so I will fill in these weeks with some pumping. First I will do an intense 6-week bodyweight program followed by an 8-week lifting routine. That is the 14 weeks I need. Awesome.
After the half-marathon at the end of October, I have about 9 weeks to meet my goals for 2019. Having a plan that covers most of the year isn't a bad start and I will let that be sufficient for now.
I will, of course, keep track of my progress throughout the year, so whether I need to finish with cardio or weights, is simply to early to tell.
HOW ABOUT REST AND RECOVERY?
The programs I have added to my calendar are all-inclusive programs. This means that within each and every program, sufficient rest days are included. No worries. It is all taken care off.
Also, besides the activities added to my calendar, I will throw in some relaxing biking and kayaking. Both are activities I enjoy and they are performed at a relatively comfortable pace, so doing this will not add any significant load to my plan.
I know it can be quite overwhelming to look at a fitness plan for a full year. Thinking about all the kilometres I/you have to run and all the workouts I/you have to do can seem to be too much. However, if you break it down to one day at a time, it becomes a lot easier. Don't be discouraged though. With the plan in place, you only have to focus on one thing: TODAY.
WHAT ABOUT NUTRITION AND HOW DO I KEEP TRACK?
One can not lose weight, gain muscle mass, and become healthy without taking nutrition into consideration and at the same time keep some sort of logbook.
How to eat well and keep score will be topics for upcoming articles in which I will let you know about my personal nutrition plan and about which tools I use to keep track of it all i.e. my workouts, my nutrition, and my progress.
A FINAL WORD
I hope you can see the benefits from setting goals and planning ahead of it comes to health and well-being. Good intentions aren't enough. Getting fit and staying fit takes energy, sweat, and commitment.
However, I assure you that it is worth doing. Apart from knowing what to do on a daily basis, creating and sharing your fitness goals will create commitment. If you inform your tribe that this is what you intend to do, chances are that they will be watching.
I for one certainly want to reach my goals for 2019 and by writing this article and sharing them with you, I have created commitment for myself.
All the best for 2019.
PROGRESSION UPDATE #1 - February 28.
If you read the full article which not only describes the importance of creating a fitness plan but also outlines my own plan for 2019, you will know that I had planned to start the year with an 8-week high-intensity bodyweight program followed by an 8-week running program in order to get ready for a 10K run I have signed up for in April.
We are now eight weeks into the new year and I am happy and proud to report that I am still on target. I have just finalized the 8-week high-intensity bodyweight program, and I am ready to hit the road tomorrow with my first run in this "10K Program". The only unplanned change to my schedule so far is that the 8-week program has been cut short with a week, as the weather hasn't been cooperating. I should have had my first run a week ago but lots and lots of snow plus extremely low temperatures made it near impossible to start as planned, but tomorrow there's no way around it.
Apart from focusing on physical activity, I have also paid a lot of attention to my diet. I am primarily eating plant-based food, so sticking to some of my favourite dishes has proven to be essential in order to stay on track. I have also tried to track my nutritional intake by use of My Fitness Pal, which is an online service and app for exactly that purpose. There's a room for improvement though.
NEW AND BETTER HABITS
For a very long time, I have had my mobile phone next to me at night but for the last month or so it has been banned from the bedroom, by myself that is.
By doing this has been a way for me to getting back to reading more books instead of succumbing to Netflix which often has been a way to unwind before falling asleep. However, reading books is a much better bedtime activity than watching movies, so I have managed to grow on the inside too as my preferred topic is biographies and personal development books.
In a later article, I will write some reviews on the books I am currently reading or listening too.
That's it for now. Next update will be after the 7 weeks running program and my 10K run in April.
PROGRESSION UPDATE #2 - May 21.
I had planned to make an update after my 10K run in April but sometimes things don't unfold as planned. However, the run I participated in on April 10 went a lot better than expected based on my preparation for the big day. Sticking to my 8-week program proved to be a lot harder than expected. First I blamed the weather as the winter kept on going with no end in sight but I found a way to deal with that as I bought a short term membership to a gym so I could get some running done. Secondly, we had bought a house at the end of last year and on April 1st. we got the keys. A lot of moving related work had to be done, and as I was busy with my business too, the first thing I started skipping, was my workouts. I think I managed to stick with the Nike 8-weeks running program for 3 weeks only, so when I was standing at the starting line on race day, April 14, I did not expect to do well at all.
However, the whole atmosphere surrounding an event like a race can bring all sorts of good energy, so when the starter pistol went off, I couldn't hold myself back. One kilometre down the road I took a quick glance at my watch and saw the pace was sub 5 minutes per kilometre and I felt fine at the same time. Wow. Somehow I managed to keep the pace up and with the finishing line in sight, I squeezed a bit more speed out of me and clocked the 10K race at 50 minutes sharp. I was surprised.
MOVING FORWARD FROM HERE
Since my run in April, I have tried to get out on runs "as much as possible". Our move from one house to another has been a major task which has required a lot of energy and it has taken a lot longer than expected to get organized. Our fitness room is finally set up and I can start adding some weight training to my routine, while keep doing longer runs.
Since I read the books "Finding Ultra" by Rich Roll and "Can't Hurt Me" by David Goggins, a desire to be able to do those long ultras has found a place in me, so I have shifted my focus from fast/intense to long/slow paced. And it seems to be working. I have had a love-hate relationship with running for a long while but I can feel a shift since I started doing longer (10+ km) runs.
My next race in July and it is a 7 km trail run, which I am ready for already, so until then, I will keep running three times a week plus add a weight training program.