Trying to get into shape for many people can often feel like a tough challenge.

Many people whom start often want to quit when things get hard or motivation dips. In order to help you stay on track here are five questions you should be asking yourself.

1. What are the barriers that have stopped me losing weight in the past?

Identifying the barriers that have stopped you losing weight and keeping it off permanently in the past can be important in helping you create solutions to overcome them. Barriers can appear all too common because many diets and exercise programs cause people to encounter the same barriers and that is a lack of adherence, consistency and sustainability.

However, many people who want to get in shape are impatient and want immediate results (I mean who doesn’t?) They’ll embark on ridiculously intense and harsh exercise and diet programs, which provide results, but more often than not, people can’t keep up with it and soon revert back to old habits.

Whatever your barriers may be, write them down in order of importance and think of solutions that you may think help you. Don’t fall into the trap of unrealistic solutions to your problems though.

2. Is the diet and exercise plan I am about to use, something I can use long term?

I mentioned briefly about how many diet and exercise plans are harsh and unsustainable and that still holds true.

Getting in shape should be about making smart lifestyle changes that improve your life not consume it.

Ask yourself this question: How good is a program a few months down the line you revert back to old habits and put the weight back on that you lost?

A diet and exercise program should not have to involve hours and hours of exercise each week and neither should it involve denying you foods you love. If you cannot keep a diet consistent then you are on a path to yoyo dieting. If you choose one make sure it is one you can honestly stick to long term and integrates within your lifestyle.

3. How can I stay motivated?

It can be hard to stay motivated with something that you’ve never previously enjoyed or wanted to do. In an ideal world I can imagine you’d rather stay slim without having to worry about exercise or your diet. But the reality is that both these components need to be taken into account for you to get into shape.

Exercise and nutrition does not have to be hard, but as mentioned before consistency is key. One of the main things is staying motivated to continue to pursue your goals.

That may seem daunting, but after a while actions become habits and motivation gets easier, not harder (past a certain point). The main thing in the beginning is trying to create an environment that encourages you to commit to positive habits that contribute to long-term goals.

An example to use straight away:

Motivation to you in the beginning may come in the form of a support group. Finding those that support you and your goals by helping you prepare food, going to the gym with you or giving you positive words of encouragement can be a powerful thing.

4. Is the exercise I am going to partake in something I’ll enjoy?

The main outcomes of exercise should be increasing the amount of calories you are burning and the maintenance of muscle tissue.

Even for the average person maintaining and even increasing size of muscle tissue is important for health, longevity and getting into shape. People are too caught up on trying to find a “fat burning zone” and scared of building muscle when in reality getting moving on a regular basis is the single most important thing you can do.

Whilst everybody may have exercise preferences, I always recommend some form of resistance exercise to help with bone, muscle and joint health as well as develop muscle ‘tone’. How you do this should be down to personal preference because there is no right or wrong as long as whatever you do is done in a progressive manner, safe and fun.

So if you enjoy a type of sport or want to try a new one, start doing it! You don’t have to run on a treadmill or cycle on a stationary bike to achieve your goals, pick a type of physical activity that you are likely to stick to and then continue doing it.

5. What can I do to make the process easier?

One of the burning questions that people always asks themselves but rarely other people are what can I do to make the process easier?

You’ll often hear a response somewhere along the lines of “you’ve just got to toughen up and do it!”

A lot of people in fitness make getting in shape out to be some obsessive practice where you have to have 100% commitment all the time and jump on that “grind” to get to where you want to be.

But let me tell you that the above philosophy is not an approach that many should be taking. Sure, like most things, effort can be correlated with results and some of these 12-week transformations are possible, but you’ve got to ask yourself whether that is the right approach for you.

You want to make the process easier? Here are five actions you can do straight away:

1. Pick exercise that you enjoy.

2. Use cues such as preparing meals for a week or having your gym kit in your bag to save you time.

3. Don’t always exclude foods you enjoy; just control the amount.

4. Train at a time that you enjoy and work best at. 5am is not the only time to train like some people suggest.

5. Take mini mental breaks if necessary to break the long-term goal up into smaller chunks.

Want to learn more? Drop me a line here: jake.gifford@phitlifestyle.com

Personal trainer Jake Gifford