When it comes to getting fit and eating healthily, it pays to plan ahead. You may start out on Monday with good intentions but there are so many distractions – work, family, social life – it’s all-too-easy to let them slide as the week progresses. By planning your exercise sessions and taking the time to prepare your food in advance, the chances of success increase exponentially.
Good health starts in the kitchen so make a list of the meals you’re going to eat over the next few days and shop accordingly. Pay particular attention to those you find a bit of a struggle. If, for example, you’re always running late in the morning, make a batch of overnight bircher muesli instead of buying that coffee and muffin on your way into work. When I worked as a journalist I often found myself eating lunch on the run, picking up a sandwich from M&S or grabbing a bar of chocolate from the vending machine. Taking the time to make a sandwich or some soup would have been far better for me. These days, with the studio quite literally on my doorstep, I can easily pop into the house for lunch but as I tend to work until quite late in the evening, I need something I can put together quickly and easily for dinner.
I usually spend an hour or so on Sunday evening preparing my food for the week ahead. Yesterday, for example, I steamed some chicken and broccoli which, together with the quinoa I cooked, will form the basis of a couple of easy suppers early in the week. I made a cauliflower pizza for dinner, which is always delicious cold for lunch the next day, and a batch of raw brownies, which are my current snack of choice. I always do some hard-boiled eggs – another great snack or a protein-rich addition to a salad. It’s always a good idea to have a few standby meals in the freezer that you can re-heat if something doesn’t go according to plan. For me that might be a turkey chilli or some chickpea burgers. Par-cooked vegetables freeze really well and help to cut down cooking time and I always have a batch of home-made tomato and basil sauce.
It’s not just food that needs to be planned in advance. While your training sessions don’t require as much preparation, you still need to know what you’re going to do during the week and find a way to stick to your schedule. I write exercise programmes for all of my PT clients to follow between sessions but simply giving someone a workout and telling them to do it three times a week doesn’t guarantee they will. I still get apologies and excuses and they’re usually to do with a lack of time.
I know it can be difficult to fit in exercise. Sometimes you’re genuinely busy, sometimes you just don’t feel like doing it but one strategy. There are times when I feel the same but one strategy I find particularly effective is not only the plan what you’re going to do but when you’re going to do it. Put your training sessions in your diary. Treat them as you would any other appointment. That way you’re much less likely to forget or, even worse, skive.
Make sure you eliminate any other potential excuses by preparing advance. If you’ve planned an early morning session, get your kit ready the night before. If you’re going for a run, check the weather forecast; if there’s a chance it’s going to be blowing a gale and bucketing down, have a contingency plan.
The more you plan, the easier it will become and you’ll start to see the results you want.