Probably nowhere is there more dubious information than in the fitness industry. Not coincidentally, it's doubtful there's an area of life mired in more confusion with conflicting information than the simple context of ‘getting in shape'. One person tells you to eradicate all carbohydrates and spend your free time doing "cardio" (once called aerobics). Another tells you to put on mounds of muscle so you can someday burn hundreds of calories while sitting in front of the boob-tube clicking the remote. Still others get more esoteric by convincing you to "eat for your blood type", or "exercise your core". It seems that most experts in this field are more concerned with coming up with new gimmicks for outdoing each other than helping YOU get in shape.
But really, getting the body into better shape is fundamentally simple. We are considered to "be in good shape" when our body fat is low and our lean body tissue is relatively high. In other words – when our muscle to fat ratio is favorable, we are typically stronger, healthier, and of better appearance. Pretty simple – huh?
So where does the confusion set in? It starts in that typically ambiguous area where we need to reconcile fantasy with reality.
Yes… you do need to build muscle in order to maintain youth and burn calories more efficiently. But tossing some weights around a few days a week on some generic, regimented schedule will more likely waste your time than produce muscle.
Yes… you do need to improve eating habits. But neglecting to shift better eating practices into intuitive and subconscious desires through self-image enhancement will likely lead to unnecessary struggle and backsliding.
Yes… you should add some aerobic activity to your schedule so you burn more unwanted fat. But doing this haphazardly or overdoing it can cause inefficient wastes of time and counterproductive wastes of solid body mass.
And yes… you should start an effective workout regimen as soon as possible. However, you should probably procrastinate just long enough to make sure you're mentally prepared to begin. False starts, followed by recidivism, can contribute to long-term self-doubt. That won't help.
So let's go over four crucial keys that I think you need to have covered in order to improve the shape of your body and get fit as quickly and efficiently as possible:
1. Make Sure You're Mentally Ready.
What do I mean by being "mentally ready"? I mean that you know deeply in your mind that you've hit the point of resolve. Let me clarify this by illustrating the opposite of resolve.
A former coworker of mine spent most of his time being out of shape with a 40-inch waistline (I've been there too). When he finally told himself he'd had enough, he decided he wanted to add the occasional meal replacement shakes he'd seen me drinking to his daily menu. He handed me forty bucks and asked me to pick up a box for him the next time I was getting some for myself. Well, I did that. But when he asked me again several weeks later (after I'd gone through three boxes in the interim), it was clear to me that he hadn't resolved to get in shape. He was just sticking his toe in and testing the water.
Unsurprisingly, he appeared to be getting in worse shape during the time he'd professed to be getting in shape. I'm not claiming this was due to an unwillingness to drink meal replacement shakes. Rather, the reluctance to pick up his own products was symptomatic of a lack of resolve – the results of which probably rearing their ugly head by way of other steps he wasn't taking.
Without resolve, we don't achieve anything significant.
2. Build Muscle with an Easily Measurable Feedback System.
That former coworker I mentioned (I know – I'm picking on him) was allowing himself to become deficient of muscle tissue while only in his mid-forties. This was undoubtedly making his fat loss a bigger uphill battle with each intermittent attempt he made at getting in shape. He'd been a non-muscular youth and now the unencumbered process of age-related muscle degradation was creating an ever-worsening ratio between his adipose tissue and muscle.
To turn this around, he needed an efficient and highly effective muscle building routine. Basically, he needed a routine that would be simple to use and that would provide easily measurable feedback to see whether progress is being made. That's what's needed for ongoing motivation.
If you want to really improve your body, don't get in the habit of thinking any activity you do in the gym is conducive to reaching your goals. Like success at anything, you must have a simple method of planning and measuring your progress. Otherwise, you might as well spend that time you used at the gym to do something else.
3. Burn Body Fat with Low Intensity, Short Duration Cardio Exercise.
When I went through Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training in the Navy, we did high intensity aerobic exercise and calisthenics all day. Guess what… we didn't really look all that great.
My former coworker used umpteen mile walks each day to try to lose fat. When he handed me the greenbacks for his second box of meal replacements, it was apparent that all the time spent walking wasn't doing much except burning off what little muscle he had along with miniscule amounts of fat. Sure, walking is low intensity. But he was doing too much while slowing his metabolism with infrequent meals consisting of assumed-to-be-healthy foods – such as salad.
To really improve your body, you need to burn fat while building some muscle. Then you need to retain the muscle you've gained – not lose it. This creates efficient fitness gains. Keep your cardio work at low intensity for thirty to forty minute sessions.
4. Condition Better Eating Habits in to Your Self-Image.
Those who go on diets will go on and off diets indefinitely. Those who take on the eating habits of a high performance person and then adopt that self-image will not struggle to stay lean.
I used to crave junk food. Now I crave foods that make my body feel good, energetic and high performance. This is a matter of subconscious changes. That's beyond the scope of this article, but I think you get the idea.
There you have it; four basic principles (or keys) you need to get in shape. Sure, you can fall for the latest fitness fads if you choose. But when you want lasting results, it always comes back to simplicity and diligent execution. You CAN have a better body.