Many folks feel frustrated because they are putting in the time to work out, but they are sick of dieting, restricting calories and doing cardio to help facilitate getting the body they desire. Exercise can end up feeling like punishment for something you ate.
Did you know that there is another way?
If you train like an athlete, rather than just an exerciser, you can invigorate your metabolism, increase the fun factor, and make the whole process of getting and staying in shape WAY easier.
For one, performance becomes the goal - rather than a number on the scale or a clothing size. In order to progress, you start measuring your strength, your flexibility, your stamina, and possibly your performance or enjoyment factor of a sport or activity of your choice - all while learning to minimize injury and maximize fun, joy and pride!
My first suggestion is to find a sport or activity (or even just a skill) you wish to participate in, improve, or do without pain.
Examples could be: a rec softball league, hiking, kayaking, or doing a handstand.
Once you have that activity in mind, you can think of your workouts as contributing to support that goal.
Since hiking is a popular activity, I will focus on that for this article.
The level of hiking you aspire to will obviously affect the fitness demands of the activity. However, no matter what type of hiking you're thinking of, there is certainly stamina that is required.
For improving stamina, you can incorporate cardio into your exercise week. It can be a blend of longer, slower sessions alongside some shorter but more intense sessions that include interval sprints. All of those workouts will certainly help improve your stamina in order to make your hikes more enjoyable and open up the options of hikes that you will be equipped to handle.
You also will want to work on strength, especially in your legs and core. Squats, lunges, deadlifts, hamstring curls, step ups and calf raises all will assist in your leg strength. You can include movements like that a couple of times per week, sprinkling in some upper body lifts for balance.
For fortification of your core, planks, crunches, clamshells, glute bridges, and supermans all will come in handy to help. Improving core strength will help your balance and will really come in handy if you are carrying a heavy pack. These moves can be incorporated 3-5 times per week.
Finally, developing or maintaining flexibility and mobility will be paramount. Depending on where you're at with those issues, you might include some stretching sessions, yoga classes, or time with the foam roller/massage stick/tennis ball to release tight tissues. Some folks can get away with just addressing this once a week, while others need it just about daily for best results. You can choose to spend just 5 minutes on flexibility and mobility at a time if you like - consistency is more valuable than duration of each session. But if you have the time to do a full hour or more, great! More power to you.
If you think of all your workouts as culminating in a super enjoyable hiking experience that you will get to enjoy with friends or family, you will be more motivated to work harder. This means you will make more fitness gains, burn more calories, and become leaner and more toned than you would have if you didn't have a "greater goal" in mind.
You see, when you train like an athlete, you will also move away from the idea that "exercise is just to burn calories" and you will connect to the benefit of movement and fitness training - for training's sake. If your world revolves around calories and the scale, you're doing it wrong. That is not a very fun or enjoyable way to live, and if you choose to live for that, chances are you'll lose your motivation pretty quick and you will fail to stick with the plan. You need to inject fun and purpose into your training to get the most out of yourself.
That is the greatest lesson I learned from sport - the power of having a goal and the power of working for something bigger. Find your own personal definition of "bigger" and watch your motivation soar.