I am writing this on the coldest day of the year thus far. When I awoke it was 2 degrees outside, at least with the wind chill figured in. Yet at 6:30 a.m. while it was still dark outside I got out of bed, put on my workout clothes and went to the gym.

When I tell most people this, they think I am crazy.  I know I am not crazy, simply dedicated to my lifestyle. I make a plan for the week out of habit and my love of planning. Even without a written plan, I know instinctively this is what I have to do take care of myself. It is part of my healthy and fit life. After 10 years it is a habit. I don’t think I just do.

For those of you just starting out, your habits may not have been built yet. You need a clearly defined plan in place to make sure you are accomplishing your goals and staying on course. I have 3 steps that I want you to follow to make sure your plan is solid and in place.

  1. Develop and document clear goals. Goals should be SMART-Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Bound. To me the most important parts are specific and time bound. You want to lose weight. Great, but how much by when? You can keep losing the same 5 lbs over and over again and not be any better than when you started. A good place to start for most people is losing 10% of your body weight. Take that number and divide by 8 lbs (a safe weight loss per month). That will be your goal date. Then write it down.
  2. Keep a food journal. Studies have shown that those who keep a log of everything they eat are more successful at losing weight.  It doesn’t matter what method you use. A notebook can work just as well as an online tool. Knowing what you are eating, that the portions are correct and being honest and aware of what you are eating is very important until eating clean and correct portion sizes become habits.
  3. Document your workouts and measurements. Every week plan your workouts for the week ahead. Have a work out journal that documents the details of each workout and make the appointment with yourself in your planner or Outlook calendar. This will keep you accountable to the task at hand. You can also better measure your progress as you see weight or intensity increase.

These 3 items will help you build a solid plan for starting your journey. They can also be helpful to keep you on course at any stage for those who really need the structure or like the constant data and feedback.  So give them a try whether you are new or just need to refocus during this busy time of year.

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