What suggestions do you offer for planning a successful fitness regimen?

January 21, 2012

Q: I am getting ready to start a fitness regimen and was wondering if you had any advice on how to be successful. I have no trouble working hard but sometimes have trouble coming up with a definitive plan. Do you have any helpful hints that might help me stay on track with both my diet and workouts?

A: Ask any accomplished person and they’ll tell you that planning is the key to success. The same principle holds true when deciding to get in shape. As I always tell my clients, fitness can’t be a gray area where you halfheartedly do a few things to lose weight, but rather it should start with a specific goal and a plan that has the precision of a laser-guided bomb. Here are five techniques I believe are fitness game-changers when it comes to accomplishing your goals.

Keep a food journal
People who see you keeping a diary of what you eat will probably call you obsessive, but don’t let them bother you, because keeping a food journal can be a very valuable tool.
I have found that people have no idea how much or how little food they eat unless they write it down. Once they see what the problem is, all they have to do is make a plan to fix it.

This doesn’t have to be a long-term thing, but keeping track of at least a week’s worth of what you put in your mouth can be an eye-opening, or should I say mouth-closing experience.

Prepare your meals ahead of time
If you think you can get away with going through the day hoping there will be healthy food choices for you to pick from, I’ve got news for you. It’s not going to happen. If you don’t prepare your meals ahead of time, you will surely end up eating those doughnuts someone dropped off in the office at work. One of the best investments I ever made was a collapsible cooler with an ice pack so I could prepare my meals ahead of time and keep them chilled and ready to eat at a moment’s notice.

Keep workout records
For most people, working out is a mindless experience where all they have to do is show up and do some reasonably hard work and the rest will take care of itself.

They fail to realize that results depend on constantly challenging yourself with new and creative workouts. Keeping records of past routines will give insight on what you’ve done in the past and how to make the necessary changes to continue making progress in the future. As the old saying goes, “How do you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been?”

Periodically evaluate your success
You will find it extremely valuable to evaluate your success every three to six weeks. After you see where you are, you can make new, more ambitious goals you can strive to accomplish in the future. For people who are trying to tone up and lose weight, I’d suggest taking measurements and testing body fat percentages. Once you see real, concrete results on paper, you will be motivated to work even harder to get to the next level. If the results aren’t good, it can serve as a wakeup call to recommit to your goals and make the necessary changes to your routine.

Challenge yourself with an annual fitness event
I strongly believe that having something specific to train for at least once a year does wonders to keep you fresh, motivated and on top of your game. This event can vary depending on your interest, but a few good examples are 5K races, mud runs, triathlons or even a friendly fitness competition among friends or coworkers. I personally make it a point every January to do my own 12 Week Body Transformation program to keep myself in check and to lose any weight gained during the holiday season.

Remember, nobody ever said staying in shape is easy, but once you’re there, it’s well worth the effort.

  • Chris Antonio is a personal trainer and former world-class weightlifter. He has been lifting for more than 20 years and has trained a wide variety of clients ranging from All-American athletes to the average person trying to get into shape. To send a question to the Ask the Trainer column, email Chris at or check out

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