The Perfect Exercise Program

Identifying your “What,” “Why” and “How”

Last month I outlined the various factors to consider when designing your own personal workout program, emphasizing that there is no one-size-fits-all exercise program. Over the next few months we are going to delve a little deeper into each factor so you can design the “perfect” workout program for you. WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS?Let’s start with goal setting. What are your health, wellness, and fitness goals? Do you want to improve your appearance? Do you want to get stronger? Do you want to be more flexible? Do you want to compete in an athletic event? Your goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. The goal most commonly stated in fitness centers across the country is “I want to tone up and lose weight.” So let’s take this goal through the ringer. Be specific. Do you want to lose weight or do you want to lose body fat?

DO YOU REALLY WANT TO LOSE WEIGHT?

Weight loss and fat loss are different and can actually be opposing goals. Body fat percentage is a better indicator of overall health and physique. If you are a jockey and need to maintain a certain weight for your profession, then weight loss is important. There are other professions and hobbies where weight is important, but the majority of people are more concerned with their physique, their appearance, or how their clothes fit. Weight loss can be achieved by simply creating a calorie deficit. Weight loss can mean loss of water, muscle, fat, and even bone density. Fat loss is more specific. “Toning up” typically refers to being able to see some level of muscle definition. It takes fat loss, hidden below the skin’s surface, to reveal the muscles underneath. You must also maintain, or possibly even gain, a substantial level of muscle tissue to be able to achieve that “toned” look. Therefore, if your goal is to “tone up and lose weight” I suggest getting a measurement of your fat mass, lean mass, and bone mass and focusing on those key factors.

These measurements can be taken safely, easily, and accurately with a DEXA Scan. From there you can set your specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound goals. A fitness professional can help you with this. You can repeat the DEXA scan at the end of your journey to see if your results have been achieved. I recommend also having a check-point along the way to evaluate whether what you are doing is working for you. Then you can re-adjust if necessary. Write down your goals, your starting point, and record your progress along the way.

WHY DO YOU WANT TO ACHIEVE THESE GOALS?

Now let’s examine our goals a bit further. Our initial goals are typically physical in nature. But we also have more personal and emotional goals. Why do you want to “tone up and lose weight” or whatever your stated goals are? Do you want more energy? Do you want more self-confidence? Do you want to improve your quality of life? Do you want to live a longer life? Do you want to feel better? These goals hold more weight than our physical goals, no pun intended. We need to peel away the layers to find our reasons “why”. To find your “why”, you can take your stated goals and dig deeper until you get to the very root of it. If you want more energy, then ask yourself, “Why do I want more energy?” Let’s say the answer is, “because I am tired all the time.” The next question is “Why does that matter to me?” or “What does that mean to me?” Let’s say the answer to that question is, “because I don’t have the energy to connect with my children or my spouse after I get home from work.” So you ask again, “Why does that matter to me?” or “What does that mean to me?” This will bring you another step further, “I feel I am missing out on their lives and I long to be closer to them.” This technique can help you identify your motivations on their deepest level.

Once you identify the true reasons for your health, wellness, and fitness journey write them down in a journal or on a piece of paper that you keep in your wallet and read them daily. As you embark upon this journey, your mood will change day-by-day, even minute-by-minute, but these deep motivations are firmly planted in your heart. They are calling out to you and now that you have named them, it will be difficult to ignore them. You will feel a sense of discomfort if you ignore them. They are your best defense against the many challenges and obstacles that will come your way. Adherence is your only chance of success. You must remain devoted to your goals and continue down the path. Use your “why” to help you stay the course.

HOW WILL YOU ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS?

Once you have identified your “what” and “why,” you can identify your “how.” How will you get to your goals? This is where a plan is needed. This is also where a fitness professional would be beneficial. You want to make sure that your how is directly tied to your specific goal. If running a marathon is your goal, then your “how” is to follow a training program and nutritional program which prepares your body to run the best race possible. This means maintaining proper hydration and keeping your nutritional levels high so you have energy for long distance running. It also means focusing on recovering from your runs so that you can get out and run again in a few days. This includes self-myofascial release, adequate sleep, and possibly working with a running coach. Whatever your goal is, it should be progressive.

WATCH OUT FOR BURN-OUT

Many of us have a tendency to be “all or nothing”. Our society lends itself to that type of thinking. But a good exercise plan should be progressive. In the beginning, there will be workouts that you can do. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Your body needs to get used to the type of exercise you are asking it to do, even if you have done it before. Unfortunately, when it comes to exercise, we do not get to pick up where we left off. We have to take our body through the movements and each week we can add to the challenge. If you try to progress too quickly you put your body at risk for injury and put your mind at risk for the all-to-familiar “burnout”. We can also get burnt out if we try to do too much at one time; especially if our various goals conflict with one another. This leads me to my last point.

BE AWARE OF CONFLICTING GOALS

Make sure that you are not trying to achieve opposing goals at the same time. For example, if your goal is to run a marathon, it is probably not the best time to get on a low-calorie diet and try to lose weight because that is going to take away from your ability to run your best marathon. Cutting calories creates a deficit of important nutrients that your body needs to run well and recover effectively. If you are pursuing an athletic endeavor and want to reduce your body fat along the way, you will need to have a modest fat loss goal. It will also be important to maintain a steady stream of protein throughout the day to ensure you do not lose lean body mass or bone mass. This is where supplementation can come into play. Pre-workout, post-workout, and protein supplements can help you to maintain your lean body mass and athletic performance while attempting to reduce your body fat.

Now that you have examined your “what”, “why” and “how” we can start to expand the topic further into what makes an exercise program “perfect” for you. Stay tuned for May’s blog.


Alison Blake is an experienced Fitness Professional in the Washington DC area. Most days you can find her at Equinox DC. She is the creator of Kettleballistic, a series of dynamic Kettlebell workouts that improve strength, power, flexibility, and endurance in one calorie-crushing workout. She is passionate about her role as an Independent Consultant for Arbonne International: sharing pure, safe, and beneficial skincare, personal care, and nutrition products with others.

Alison Blake

Alison is a personal trainer and nutrition consultant. She believes in helping others to live and love fully through a healthy body and mind! A former collegiate athlete, she has been training herself and others to utilize Kettlebells in a fun, safe, and effective way to achieve a variety of fitness goals. Alison helps guide her clients toward healthy nutritional behaviors.