I work in fitness now, but I actually have an MBA. There is one skill I developed from my education, beyond getting something that looked good on a resumé and allowed me to garner well-paying jobs until I decided to throw it all away so I could write about fitness (we all have our crosses to bear), and that is in the area of strategic planning. I’m going to share that learning with you on how it can be applied to getting in shape.
Step 1: Set long-term (outcome) goals
Before you start getting in shape, you need to have an idea of what you want to achieve. It may be things like weight loss, muscle gain, a specific physical accomplishment like running a marathon or completing a triathlon – or it could be just a picture of someone you’d like to look like stuck to the fridge. These are your long-term goals, also called outcome goals. Outcome goals are achieved by going through a process, which means achieving a bunch of process goals, but we’ll get into that next.
Step 2: Figure out the process that achieves the desired outcome
If you want to lose weight, you need to do things like eat a healthier, calorie-restricted diet and engage in as much aerobic exercise (like running, cycling, swimming, aerobics classes, cardio machines, etc.) as you can handle and find time for. Also, if you want to gain muscle, then you need to consider things like weightlifting or Pilates.
How many times you engage in these various activities, including doing things like increasing fruit and vegetable intake and reducing junk food and alcohol intake, are the process goals that you need to achieve week after week to reach your ultimate outcome.
Step 3: Figure out which process goals you find most appealing
You don’t need to do every possible process to achieve your goals – just the ones you like most. Swimming would help me stay slim, but I hate it, so I run and cycle instead. Olympic-style weightlifting is good for adding muscle and creating explosive power, but I don’t like that either, so I do kettlebells instead.
So figure out – using some experimentation – what you like and what you don’t, and then get a routine together of the stuff you like. It helps if you get some training too.
Step 4: Time management
One adage of time management is that if everything is a priority, then nothing is. You need to decide that doing things like exercising on a regular basis and taking the time to prepare healthy meals is a priority for you. When you do that, you’ll find the time.
Speaking of finding the time, it doesn’t appear out of thin air; you need to search for it. Go through your schedule and figure out where the holes are. Determine what it is that you do that wastes time. How much TV do you watch, for example? Think about periods of time throughout the day that you actually could be exercising. Could you get up a little early and do it in the morning? Can you go workout at lunch? Are there times that you take your kids to events and you have some time to kill when you could do something like run or just walk?
I will repeat, you must make healthy living a high priority. Decide that it’s okay to take some “me time” to exercise, and you will be amazed at just how much time you can make to push yourself with exercise and enjoy cooking healthy meals rather than hitting the drive-through or ordering pizza.
Step 5: Adapt
Don’t expect to get it all right the first time. You need to work out a plan in advance, this is what’s called a “living document” that acts as a general guide of what to do. Just remember what Field Marshall Helmuth Carl Bernard von Moltke said: “No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.”
So keep revisiting the plan and making necessary adaptations in terms of what time of day you exercise, what exercises you do, where you exercise etc.
Step 6: Incrementally improve
If you’re not currently active and not eating the healthiest of diets, you can’t go through a dramatic shift in lifestyle overnight. People hate change, so you need to pace yourself and choose the tortoise approach over that of the hare.
You don’t have to create the ultimate plan right from the get-go. You can start with small outcome goals and small process goals. Then create a new plan as you get used to your routine and are ready to step things up a notch.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, I will leave you with a bit math to make things seem more manageable. Imagine this: You start off with exercising just 30 minutes a week, but you add just a measly five minutes to the amount you exercise each week.
Do you know what happens when you do that? Within one year you are exercising almost five hours every week. Not only is that something to be proud of, but it’s a serious commitment to the exercise process that can achieve some ambitious outcome goals.
James S. Fell, MBA, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist in Calgary, AB. He writes the column “In-Your-Face Fitness” for the Los Angeles Times and consults with clients on strategic planning for fitness and health. Get a free metabolism report at Body For Wife. Email James at firstname.lastname@example.org.