Starting your health journey can be overwhelming and daunting, so we have outlined a step-by-step guide to get you on your way:
- Health assessment
- Goal setting
- Create a support network
- Beginning your journey
- Checking your progress
Step 1: Health Assessment
Before starting on any journey, you want to know where to begin. Doing a comprehensive health assessment helps identify some risks, frame realistic goals, and set a benchmark from where you are beginning (that is your baseline measures).
The assessments that are recommended are:
- Body Mass Index
- Waist circumference
- Waist-to-hip ratio
You can calculate these using our online tools. These measurements enable you to identify if you are at a higher risks of health issues like cardiovascular disease / heart conditions or type 2 diabetes.
Secondly, look at your past injuries – have you strained any muscles, broken bones, have joint or muscle pain. When starting an exercise program, these injuries can get in the way of your progress, and if left untreated, an exercise program could exacerbate the problem further.
Conducting a baseline assessment for strength, flexibility and aerobic endurance, which is repeatable after your exercise program, is a great way to see if your training program has been effective and how far you have come. Seeing if the assessment is relevant to your goal can often be a challenge. With some research, or a chat with an allied health practitioner, you can soon identify what is appropriate. If you are a beginner, a push-up test, wall squat and plank are simple assessments that are easy to do and measure, and are a great way to begin. Generic advice has often been, ‘go to the gym’ or ‘go for a run.’ Although, you may think, ‘what do I do at the gym?’, ‘why am I doing it?’, or ‘am I doing it correctly?’ Take time to analyse your own skill level and rank it from beginner, intermediate or advanced. This process determines how much support you may need in developing your skill-set.
Step 2: Goal Setting
When done correctly, goal setting can be a significant motivating factor and keep you focused. Thinking about what you want to achieve, and more importantly, why you want to achieve it, will create motivation. There is no right a wrong goal; and goals could certainly be improved or tweaked over time. Some examples of common goals are:
- I want to lose weight
- I want to get stronger
- I want to run a marathon
- I do want not to get injured during a soccer season
- I want to feel good
- I want to feel better
- I would like to make exercise part of my daily life
Once you have your goal, think about your why. Answering the why helps you create motivation and gives you a purpose and drives you forward in the moments where you feel like you cannot do it anymore. No one else needs to see this, but be authentic about this.
Goal: I want to lose weight to feel healthier and I do not want to put my health at risk.
- I have a young family and a loving partner. I don’t want my health to get in the way of experiencing all that life has to offer
- I want to play sport with my son when he is 18
- I want to be able to see them graduate
Next, ask yourself on a scale of 0 – 10, how committed am I to this goal? If it is a 1 – 6, you may likely do it for a short period of time. If it is a 7 and above, it is likely that you would be more committed. Changing your goal from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must-have’ is the key. Once you have your goal and your ‘why’, double-check that it is a SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-framed) goal with a why.
I want to reach 72 kg in the next 6 months so that I can feel strong and healthy and engage in more activities with my children.
- Is my goal specific – Yes
- Is it measurable – Yes
- Is it achievable? Do I have the resources to carry out the goal? – Yes
- Is it realistic – Yes
- Do I have a time frame on the goal – Yes
- Is my why motivating enough? If it is a 8 out of 10, then Yes
Now that you are hopefully motivated, and have a goal that drives you forward, clearly defining when you reach your goal is essential as it gives you an anchor point. You can distinguish if you are getting closer or further away, and if you do achieve these milestones, you have something to celebrate!
Step 3 – Planning
Step 3 is broken down into three parts of internal reflection and how will I get there, exercise, nutrition and mindfulness and checking with a health practitioner. You will want to develop a develop a tailored program that is applicable to your goals.
Step 3 – Part A: Internal reflection, how will I get there?
When planning on how to achieve your goals, you do not have to have all of the answers – part of your plan could involve researching how to get there. Checking your capacity to achieve the goal is a step that is often overlooked. Do you have the time, finances, skill-set and resources to accomplish your goal? Are you realistic about your capacity and your starting point? You do not have to rush your goal, you can take baby steps.
Some questions you could ask yourself:
- Do I have the time to address my goals?
- What financial resources do I have, and what is appropriate for me to invest in my goal – a personal trainer, a gym membership, a skipping rope?
- Do I have the expertise and knowledge to carry out my goal?
Think about and obstacles in advance, such as ‘I have a gym membership, but do I know what to do on the machine?’, ‘I have an injury’, ’Is this exercise ok for me to do, or will it cause more pain?’ After you find your obstacles, think about ways that you can overcome them.
Think about how you would achieve your goals and if it falls within your capacity, example:
- Online trainers
- Personal trainers
- Gym membership
- Guided by Health professionals
- Nutrition guidance
Finally, create your programs in 6-week blocks, this way, you have an end date to see if you are closer to your goal. Re-doing your assessments again after your 6-week block will make sure you are tracking and getting closer to your goal. 6 weeks block are a good time frame as they have been shown to be the minimal amount of time for neural programs to be established and muscles to recondition in response to load.
Step 3 – Part B: Incorporate Exercise Nutrition & mindfulness – Create Habits
A health program ideally has three components – exercise, nutrition and mindfulness.
Exercise programming is essential and is based on your goal. Programs can range from strength building, weight loss to cutting weight (for body builders). As this piece is aimed at beginners, the best advice is to do something you enjoy, instead of it feeling like a chore. If it is enjoyable, you are more likely to engage with it. Also, start with realistic times in a week that you will engage in physical activity rather than having goals like, ‘I will exercise 3 hours a day, 7 days a week to get my six-pack’. Start with a few times a week for 30 minutes and one of those days could incorporate a leisurely walk.
Research has shown that weight loss specifically, a large component has to do with diet. Become familiar with the Australian guidelines for healthy eating and build healthy habits. A strategy that has been shown to be effective is keeping a diet diary. Instead of journaling your food take pictures of everything you eat and drink for three weekdays and the weekend. Having a visual representation of what you have eaten over the course of the week gives you insight into your portion size, how much junk food you are having and gives you a benchmark of where you are starting from.
Mindfulness tends to get overlooked, however as we become more aware of our mental health and its benefits. Mindfulness can take many forms such as meditation, journaling your progress and feeling or writing your goals down daily. Do what helps you best and helps you remain centred and focused on your goal.
Step 3 – Part C: Check with a Health professional
Now that you have baseline health assessment, your goal, and your plan, check it with a health practitioner like a doctor, physiotherapist, exercise scientist, or personal trainer. This process ensures that you are not putting yourself at risk and the journey you are about to embark on is safe for you, most importantly. Speaking to a health practitioner will also highlight if the strategy you have outlined in reaching your goal is the best way forward. It is worth noting that allied health practitioners (physiotherapists, personal trainers etc.) would be able to conduct an assessment, help you identify goals and develop a plan to help you achieve your goal. You do not have to do it all on your own, and you can be assured you are getting the right advice.
Step 4: Create a Support Network
Having a support network has multiple benefits, such as keeping you accountable and motivated. It enables you to express and share your journey and troubleshoot your problems and barriers and have people around you who can share your accomplishments. If you do not have a support person or group, think about some less conventional options like:
- Online groups
- Community groups
Step 5: Beginning Your Journey
Now that you have done all the preparation work – you are ready to begin your health journey. This day can be confronting and you may be experiencing some fear and anxiety. If so, break the task down into smaller manageable tasks
Day 1 – Go to the gym and park the car outside and leave
Day 2 – Go to the gym, park the car and walk inside. Pretend like you forgot something and walk back out.
Day 3 – Go to the gym, park the car and walk inside , get on the treadmill and walk for 5 mins, then pretend like you got a call and walk out.
Keep building on the previous day’s success and move forward until you feel comfortable. It’s important to develop a growth mindset to try and push beyond your comfort zone. If you do nothing, nothing will change. The current recommendation for maintaining fitness is a minimum of 3 sessions of moderate intensity exercise per week.
We recognize that the hardest part of any exercise program is the 2 or 3 weeks after you start the program. The body takes time to adapt and you will need to rely on your resilient mindset to get you over that hurdle. If you still find that you have a barrier, see what support systems you could tap into, or speak to someone like a psychologist or counsellor. Having a personal trainer can be very helpful as they provide you with one-on-one support and encouragement.
Step 6: Checking your progress
So, it has been 6 weeks since you have started your program, and it’s time to do your re-assessment. Do the same baseline test as you did at the beginning of the program and see how far you have come. Are you closer to your goal or further away? After your first 6-week block, you could go through the 6 steps again and refine your goals and strategy. During this re-assessment, reflect on how things have gone over the six weeks. What went well? What could we improve upon? What can I celebrate? The more you engage in the process, the more you will find what works for you and what keeps you engaged and motivated. Take all these factors and incorporate them into your next 6-week blocks. From Tier 1 Training, we would like to wish you good luck on your health journey, and if there is anything we can do to assist you, please contact us.