For many people, February is when they really make promises to themselves that they will get a six pack, get in shape, and lose a few pounds. In my fitness journey, I’ve learned that health goals are only attainable with focus, effort, determination, and a game plan. People seem to gravitate towards crash diets and any program that Jennifer Hudson, Charles Barkeley, or your favorite celebrity endorses. What do you do after these crash course workouts and diets?

Yes, you might get in shape. But if you don’t know how to sustain positive results, your fitness will go twice as quickly as it came. Take it from someone that lost 16 pounds in 6 months. It doesn’t matter how many P90X or Insanity sessions you put yourself through. You could drink as much lemon juice as you’d like for a week. If you don’t change your overall habits, that short burst of effort to get fit is for nothing. I know a lot of people that make excuses like they don’t have time, can’t make the gym, etc. You may be one of them. But I won’t pontificate on how that mindset could be keeping you from your best self.

However, I will share with you a few tips that — when followed regularly — can help you get in better shape, improve your overall health, and make it easier to maintain going forward. These might be “No sh*t Sherlock” tips for some people reading today, but information is never dangerous and costs nothing!

Track Your Progress

Metrics are important for every goal you seek to accomplish. You want to track the success and failures of different strategies to see what works, what doesn’t, and what can be improved. Fitness is no different. You should weigh yourself weekly, same day/time/situation (clothes vs. no clothes). You should measure your chest, stomach, hips, thighs and even biceps if your goal is to build muscle or lose weight. Measure your body fat and record your weekly diet (what you ate and the calorie count). Keep a log of your workout sessions. You can use all that information to build a holistic picture of your progress and determine what you need to do to get the best results. It may seem like a lot of work, but you only get one body and you should treat it like any other valuable item you possess!

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Drink Water!

Water is the source of all life. It makes up most of our physical composition, so it’s not surprising that water consumption is important. It helps to flush toxins out of your body. It also prevents you from drinking your daily caloric intake in sugary, carbonated, or caffeinated drinks. 8 glasses of fruit juice, coffee, and/or beer will catch up with you quickly. Cutting down on these beverages alone can help you save over 400 calories a day depending on how much you normally drink.

I know people that stick to the old school eight glasses of water per day. Others will swear by a gallon a day. As long as you are consistent and you make water the majority of your daily liquid intake, you will be fine.

Run AND Lift Weights

Ladies, the picture above is especially for you! Weight training will not make you a beast in a month! If that was the case, we’d all be genetic freaks! Weight training can complement any cardio that you do. Some people think that running alone (or doing other forms of cardio like the elliptical, stair master, row machine, etc) is the key to total body fitness. Yes, it’s one key. But combined with a great weight training program, your fitness regimen will be complete!

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When I first started training seriously, I did a crazy amount of running and minimal weight training. I lost a lot of pounds, but I was almost back to high school skinny! People on campus were calling me Mary Kate Olsen (Google it if you don’t get the reference). So I knew that I had to add in consistent weight training if I wanted to gain muscle and definition. Calisthenics is a great addition to all this as well.

Cut Out the Bullsh*t

Yes. The Popeyes, the candies, the cakes, the beer and liquor, the fried foods, and all other forms of culinary goodness must be limited if you truly want to get and stay in shape. I won’t sit here and consider myself a 100% healthy eater. I love bad foods as much as the next person. But I knew that in order for me to be at my healthiest externally and internally, those foods would have to be limited. I’ve learned how to not crave the junk everyday. You can never out train a bad diet. And many fitness experts will tell you that diet is 75% of the battle! I treat myself when warranted, but healthy food is just as tasty, more filling, and does more to help me exceed my goals than comfort food ever will. You have to commit to clean eating in order for this to work.

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Have a Circle of People to Help You Reach Your Goals

It’s funny, I didn’t aspire for certain things in life until I started hanging with different groups of people. The core values of family and respect and love were still there, but other goals would surface. When I hung out with people into fitness, it got me focused more on my fitness. When I associated with success-minded people, I got re-focused on my own plans and situations in life.

When you are getting in shape and have a community of people who are like you, want to be fit (or remain fit), have a wealth of knowledge on how to accomplish your goals, and live positively, there’s no limit to what you can accomplish! You don’t need to be around people who will criticize your fitness motives and bombard you with negativity. Find a crew to work out with. Discuss fitness strategy. Motivate each other to stick with a nutrition plan and fitness regimen and hold each other accountable. Any journey is easier with helpful people around you.

These are simple yet effective steps in order to get and stay in shape. They have helped me tremendously, and I have to remind myself often to keep the core steps in my fitness strong. What works for you? Any tips you would like to share? Is there anything that seems impossible?

StreetZ