Planning is Key

“If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.” -Benjamin Franklin

We all know that in order to get somewhere, you need to plan. Whether it’s landing a certain job, taking a vacation to a destination you’ve dreamed of, or losing weight. These all require you to plan out what you are going to do to achieve your goals. If you don’t have an action plan, you are in a way setting yourself up for failure.

This is especially true with diet and exercise. If you are new to the fitness world, or if you are like me and have been at it for a while, it can be hard to find motivation to work out. You’ll wake up, think about working out, realize you don’t know what to do for your workout, and decide that you’ll just skip it and do it tomorrow. I’ve done this many times. I would get overwhelmed with all of the options and different programs I could use for my workout that day, and spend over an hour going through different videos trying to find one that I felt like doing that day. I now realize that this is not the best way to go about fitness. What works best is planning your workouts out at least the day before, that way when you wake up it doesn’t require any work on your part to figure it out. You can just get dressed and start up with your exercise for the day (or you can come home from work and not stress about finding one after a long day at work). This has helped me tremendously, especially with a busy schedule due to being at college and balancing classes, a social life, and family life. It is one less thing to worry about.

I also find planning ahead with food is helpful as well. I tend to get hungry often, so I plan out when I am going to eat along with what I will eat so I can eliminate getting to the point where I am too hungry and end up eating everything that sounds good. This helps me stay on track too, so I can get in nutritious foods when I might want pizza or pasta instead. I can evenly spread out my calories throughout the day and visualize when I am going to eat, and that gives me peace of mind. I don’t have to worry about what I am going to eat or trying to come up with a healthy idea, and I won’t run into the problem of becoming overly hungry.

With fitness and health, I’ve found that winging it just simply doesn’t work. You have to take the time and plan out things that are important to you, and two main things in losing weight are your diet and exercise. Once I started planning those two things and stopped hoping everything would work out, I started seeing better results quicker. I was never an organized person and I didn’t really plan things, so it took some time for me to start to regularly plan and incorporate it into my every day life, but now it takes no effort or thinking. I simply do it. And I like doing it. This has helped me tremendously with figuring my life out and keeping my stress levels down while getting into shape. This is just one tool that can help you get on track and stay there.

 

Counting Calories + MyFitnessPal

So today I’m going to talk about caloric intake and counting your calories. And to be clear, not everybody needs to count calories. For some people it doesn’t work, they have different goals and it wouldn’t benefit them, or they are trying to be free of restrictions and maybe even an eating disorder. However, in order to lose weight it will be beneficial to be aware of how many calories you are consuming.

To take it back to basics: in order to lose weight, you need to have a calorie deficit. This means burning more calories than you consume. This will be easy if you track your meals while adding in exercise. To begin the tracking process, you will need to see how many calories you as an individual need to function. If you google a calorie calculator you can type in your information such as height, weight, age, and activity level, and it will give you how many calories you should be eating to maintain, lose, or gain weight depending on your goals. When I am figuring a new calorie goal for myself, I usually go to a few different calculators just to make sure they are all giving me around the same amount. (It is also important to note that sometimes they will give you very low amounts if you want to lose weight quickly. I would not recommend going too low because your body needs nourishment to function properly, and losing weight too quickly can cause issues. You may also be grumpy or tired if you don’t eat enough.)

After you have a rough idea of what you need, a calorie counting app will make it easier to track. I have had success with MyFitnessPal, which is a pretty common tracking app. It lets you enter in food you’ve eaten and exercise, and keeps track of how many calories you have left throughout the day. It can also give you a breakdown of the macronutrients you’ve consumed, so what percentage of fat, carbs, and protein your meals have consisted of. I find that feature helpful so I can see if I’ve gotten enough protein in for the day. Also, once you complete your entry for the day, it will give you a projected weight that they predict based on how your day of eating went. A personal example would be I am 152 pounds, and I ate 1,633 calories today. Once I hit the “complete diary” button, it said that if every day was like today that I would weigh 148 pounds in 5 weeks. That can be extra motivation, because I can imagine losing 4 pounds in 5 weeks and it seems attainable. I’ve used this app off and on throughout my journey, and I plan to use it until I reach my goals and then see if I can maintain my weight by eating intuitively. However, this has been a great tool in my weight loss journey; this past time when I started using it again I’ve lost about 15 pounds. I also know this has helped other people, and even my mom uses it and likes it!

Before I wrap this up, I want to add a few notes in about counting calories and weight loss in general. It’s going to be hard. When I first started counting, I would track for half of the day, realize I was going to run out of calories because I didn’t make healthy food choices, and stop tracking for the day. It took a while for me to be able to make good decisions with food and add in more fruits and vegetables instead of processed foods so I could stay within my calorie limit. You may also end up stopping, or kind of going out of control with this. Which is what happened to me. I was afraid of eating because every time I ate I saw how many calories it was instead of seeing the health and nutrients I was getting from the food. It took a while of not tracking to be able to see food as food again, and even now I think about calories before I eat something. But I also see it as nourishing my body, tasting good, and part of living. If tracking turns into you worrying about the next time you are going to eat, or you not wanting to eat because it will take up some of your calories, you may want to take a break from tracking and focus on your health. Your health comes first, weight loss comes second.

I hope this can help if you are trying to lose weight or are thinking about tracking calories. I know I’ve had success with this, and I hope you do too if you decide to!

Exercise for Beginners

My fitness journey has been a bit of a wild one. I’ve tried many different things and programs, and I’ve had a lot of trial and error. Here, I am going to give you a bit of insight on what I have tried, and my experiences with exercise while on this journey. These basic videos are free, and most are around 30 minutes I believe, and they range from 10 minutes to an hour. Hopefully these programs can help you or give you ideas if you are just starting out, looking for a change in your routine, or looking to incorporate different things into your life.

Blogilates

The first workout program I remember trying is Blogilates, and honestly it was great. Cassey Ho is the one running this site and she is a great motivator. She creates videos, which are available on YouTube as well as her website blogilates.com. She even creates a free monthly calendar for you to follow and gives you specific workouts each day. They target the different muscle groups of your body and incorporate cardio too. I really enjoyed following her workouts, because you can make your own lineup of videos or follow her guide. There are tons of videos, and she is so energetic and makes the time fly by with her coaching throughout the video and the stories she tells. I would recommend this for beginners and experienced exercisers, because there are videos for everyone on there. I personally have found that I’m not good with following calendars, but I would definitely give this a try. It’s what got me started on fitness and inspired me to get to where I am now.

Fitness Blender

Another program I stumbled upon while looking for workout videos on YouTube is Fitness Blender. Fitness Blender is run by a couple dedicated to health and fitness: Kelli and Daniel. Their videos also have a range of focuses, from strength training to cardio to stretching to pilates. It has something for everyone: newbies and oldies. As I said, I found them on YouTube, but you can also visit their website at fitnessblender.com. I really liked following along with these videos too, and felt like I was getting in an effective workout. It is also nice because if you prefer to follow the workout with a female, you can watch the videos featuring Kelli, but if you prefer a workout with a male leading, you can watch the ones featuring Daniel. I really liked this program and how they did their videos, so I would also recommend giving this one a try.

Yoga With Adriene

Yet again, another YouTube channel. But this one is a little different because she focuses on yoga. A woman named Adriene runs this channel, and she is a great motivator to complete the routines. She always puts me in a positive mood when I follow along with her sequences, and they make my body feel good as well. Yoga really helps me to calm down and slow my thinking, especially when I’ve had a busy day at school or work. I like to take 20 or 30 minutes to simply relax and do something good for my mind and body. She also has different focuses on her videos, like yoga for weight loss, stretching, and more!

Right now, in my current situation, I am doing a combination of things for my workout routine. I have been incorporating running on the treadmill, as cardio burns fat and that is my main goal at this point. It is also cool to see your body improve and be able to go farther and harder than you did last time. I’m also incorporating light weights to begin building some muscle and toning up, as that is my other goal. I’ve been using moves I’ve learned from the sites listed above and making my own personal workouts from them. I am also going to be incorporating some stretching and possibly yoga into my routine as well, because I would like to become more flexible now. I’m sure I will end up changing my routine again, because that’s what I do, but this is how it’s going for now. Good luck to you on your fitness journey!