For the first time in a while, my primary focus in fitness is not aesthetic. I think most women would fall into the category I was in up until this year: working out for weight loss or weight maintenance. It's no surprise that women typically feel pressured to look a certain way and that pressure consumes our minds so much so that it clouds our minds. We end up viewing exercise as punishment and food as poison.
I'm so incredibly happy to be where I am now. Am I 100% always happy with the way I look? No, of course not. Currently I'm dealing with some acne issues that I think might be caused by a dairy allergy, but that's beside the point. I'm not perfect, but I'm in a much better place.
My current goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon at the NYC Marathon this November. I hired a coach to help me get there, and I'm structuring all of my fitness/training around that.
1. Make sure you have a primary focus
First thing's first. You need a goal. It could be speed-oriented, distance-oriented, strength-oriented or skill-oriented, and it could also be weight loss-oriented. Figure out what it is that you want to work towards and write it down somewhere.
2. Create your training plan around that primary focus
For me, my goal is running a long distance at a fast pace. This means most of my workouts need to be runs. It also means that I need to spend time increasing distance over time and doing speed work.
If your goal is strength-oriented, you'll want to do most of your workouts in the gym with heavy weights.
If your goal is to lose weight, you'll want to do a healthy mix of weights and HIIT cardio workouts to promote fat loss while maintaining lean muscle mass.
3. Figure out which types of cross training is complementary
This is one that I'm slowly starting to figure out. When I first started working with Neely, I was trying to do Crossfit as my cross training workouts. I quickly realized that wasn't going to work. Because I couldn't design the workouts myself, and because my competitive nature keeps me from holding back in a class like that, I would destroy my legs the day before a hard run. And my run would suffer because of it. I have since cancelled my Crossfit membership, although I have been using the time I have left there to attend their mobility classes.
Because I want to run strong, I need to make sure I can tailor my strength workouts around my runs. I wouldn't want to do a heavy leg day before a fartlek or hill day. That would be the worst. I also wouldn't want to do legs the day before a long run.
If your goal is to build muscle mass, you probably don't want to also sign up for a marathon. While it is possible to maintain muscle while training for a race like that, it's really difficult to build muscle when doing that much cardio.
If you're trying to nail an arm balance in your yoga class, cross training with strength workouts might make sense for you. Building more strength will help you hold those poses with ease.
4. Recover well
Take rest days when you need them. Hydrate before/after/during your workouts. Foam roll. Stretch. Do what works for you to help your body recover from your workouts.
I've recently been doing a lot of aqua jogging in my apartment's pool. It helps me to get blood flowing in my legs without the impact of going for a recovery run.
5. Nourish your body
Give your body what it needs to perform well and reach your goals. For me, that means I've had to increase my calories. With all the running I've been doing, I have to eat more in order to maintain my muscle and have energy for my workouts. I'm also trying to cut back on foods that I know will weigh me down or will cause digestive distress during a run (the worst).
If your goal is to build muscle, you'll probably want to make sure that you're eating enough calories, especially protein.
If your goal is weight loss, you might want to consider cutting back on things like soda, alcohol, and unhealthy food. And eating more veggies. Keep in mind, while cutting calories will cause at least initial weight loss, it is not good for your metabolism to eat an extremely low amount of calories. You'll end up plateauing in your weight loss and being stuck with only 1000 cals a day to just maintain weight. If that's where you are now, you might want to consider reverse dieting for a bit, in order to increase your basal metabolic rate back to a healthy place.
What are your goals? What are you working towards?