Are you looking to get in shape and don’t know where to start? Should you exercise more? Should you eat better? What else can help you lose those extra pounds? On this post I’m going to talk about the FITNES Framework – a structured approach I’ve developed to getting in shape. This is not an improvement plan itself, but rather the blueprint of how to get in shape. It breaks down all the relevant aspects of a physically active lifestyle into separate buckets and categories. By doing so, you can have a holistic view of your fitness path and, most importantly, you can identify your weak links and fix them.
The FITNES Framework
Setting a goal
First thing’s first. What is it that you’re trying to achieve? Do you just want to have a healthier lifestyle, do you want to improve in your favorite sport, or do you want to become a bodybuilder? Your goal will touch on pretty much every aspect of your fitness plan.
Foundations: Focus & peace of mind, Inspiration, and Training & learning
The foundations of getting in shape are the necessary dimensions you need in place in order to sustain a healthy and active lifestyle. These are the start of your fitness journey, they are deeply linked to your goals and determine how quickly you achieve them. These are:
- Focus & peace of mind. Without a clear mind, everything else stumbles. If you’re stressed, depressed, or anxious, you will start eating crappy food, you won’t give 100% on your workout, and the quality of your sleep will suffer.
- Inspiration. This is what got you started in the first place. What is it that you’re trying to achieve? Your goal and how inspired you are to achieve it will determine the type, frequency, and intensity of your fitness plan.
- Training & learning. What’s the best exercise for your? What diet suits your lifestyle? How do you recover faster? Do your homework. You should always be on the lookout for fitness and health knowledge. In fact, there is tons of free knowledge online that range from Instagram accounts that offer free tips (like this, this and this) to free courses by top universities (like this and this).
You need to constantly develop these pillars by: (i) finding ways to improve your peace of mind (e.g. meditating or hitting the gym when you’re less stressed), (ii) finding what inspires you and cultivating it (e.g. following your favorite athletes or subscribing to a fitness magazine), and (iii) never stop learning (e.g. trying different exercises or diets).
Pillars: Nutrition, Exercise, and Sleep & Recovery
The pillars are the more tangible part of your fitness journey. In, fact, it’s what most fitness professionals would tell you if they have to sum up how to get in shape. These are:
- Nutrition. Common gym wisdom says that at least 80% of your fitness journey has to do with food. If you want to see those abs, it has got to start in the kitchen. Develop your own diet or get an expert to do it for you. Rules of thumb are also useful if you don’t want a strict diet. In fact, in my experience, only with trial and error you will find out what works best for you.
- Exercise. This part has three dimensions: (i) what type of exercise you do, (ii) how often you do it, and (iii) how intense your workout sessions are. Check the foundations of the framework (most important, what inspires you) and tailor it to your condition and routine.
- Sleep & recovery. Without enough good quality sleep, it will be hard to see any results. Sleep affects both your mind and body. In your body, the effect is twofold: (i) it fills you with energy to have a great, (ii) muscles only recover when you’re resting. How much sleep you need? The consensus seems to be somewhere between 7-8 hours a day, although some people (myself included) think that 6 hours is enough.
Remember, you have to constantly measure and improve these three pillars. What’s more, you have to measure and improve your general progress, as I describe below.
Measurement and improvement
You can only improve what you can measure. That’s why you have to keep track of your progress. There are two types of metrics you want to keep track of: output metrics and process metrics.
- Output metrics. These often determine your ultimate goal. The most common ones are weight, % of fat, and body measure (either measured with tape or with size of clothes used).
- Process metrics. This is where you measure nutrition, exercise, and sleep. Nutrition and be measured counting calories and nutrients, and can be done manually or using calorie-tracking apps. Exercise and sleep are less common to measure, although it’s now more popular with the adoption of activity bands (more of this on a later post). If you lack an activity band, you can measure hours working out and sleeping. If you do want to invest in an activity band, you can even measure calories burned exercising and sleep quality.
In summary, if you have a fitness goal in mind, you’re better off following a structured approach to achieve it. Develop your focus and peace of mind, what inspires you, and always look for training and learning on new workouts, diets, and techniques. Once these three (“the foundations”) are in place, you will be better off on the more tangible part of your journey (“the pillars”) – nutrition, exercise, and sleep & recovery .
Finally, keep in mind that this is a dynamic process. You have to constantly revisit each of the foundations and pillars, as it changes with your age, surroundings, routine, and the stage of your fitness journey.