Five Facets Of A Successful Fitness Program

Jan. 19, 2004
As firefighters, we all have certain strengths that support us throughout our career, as well as specific weakness that can, at times, make life challenging.
As firefighters, we all have certain strengths that support us throughout our career, as well as specific weakness that can, at times, make life challenging. Your approach to fitness and weight loss is probably not an exception to this general pattern. There are aspects of your fitness program that you'll find almost too easy, while other elements remain daunting and out of reach, sabotaging any success you might have otherwise enjoyed.

So, can fitness and/or weight loss be a matter of doing what you find easy and eliminating everything else? Unfortunately, it's not quite that simple. First, you'll need a plan that deals with the big picture, not just one or two parts of the whole. Then, instead of just eliminating what you don't like, learn to accentuate your positive attributes and come up with a plan to manage your vulnerabilities.

Below I'll reveal what I refer to as the 5 Facets of a Successful Fitness Program, and offer you some possible ways to reduce or eliminate any weaknesses you might have in each area. For a great workout, click here

Diet, Exercise, Rest and Recovery, Occupation, Family and Friends

1 - Diet
Virtually no other aspect of your program will affect weight loss as much as your daily diet. For those who love to eat way too much of the wrong foods, especially at the wrong time of the day, controlling weight gain can present a real challenge.

Diet Tip
Keep a food diary. Recording every drop of food and drink you put in your mouth is the single most effective way to make yourself realize the insanity that's taking place. Once you know what you're eating, you're able to shave a little off each day. Sometimes a simple adjustment such as replacing all your sweetened beverages with water can reduce your caloric intake by hundreds of calories per day.

2 - Exercise
Some of us hate to exercise. Lifting weights, running, Yoga, it's all the same to them -not good. But without some form of orchestrated physical activity, you'll never share in the infinite benefits of exercise. Besides just weight loss, which can also be accomplished with caloric restriction, your body depends on exercise to keeps its strength, shape, and ability to do work (or perform tasks we sometimes take for granted) especially as we age.

Exercise Tip
Contrary to the popular Nike slogan, just don't do it (all). You might be surprised at some of the minimum requirements associated with certain types of exercise. Experiment and find out what you like most, and combine it with the barest minimum of what you need but dislike.

For example, if you like to lift weights, but hate cardio, get into circuit training, which will give you two workouts in one. Conversely, if you're a big runner, walker, or cyclist but grimace at the thought of pumping iron, incorporate a few resistance movements performed with either body weight only or exercise bands into an otherwise aerobic workout.

3 - Rest and Recovery
Don't underestimate the importance of the time between each workout. Without adequate recovery, your body can never prepare for its next session. Tissue repair and adequate glycogen (your muscle's fuel supply) replenishment calls for plenty of rest in the form of 7 or 8 hours of sleep every night, as well as incorporating some relaxation time into each day.

Recovery Tip
Early to bed and early to rise makes you healthy, wealthy, and wise. The old adage couldn't be more accurate. If you need to wake at 6 AM every morning and don't get to bed until midnight every night, you're creating a sleep deficit that exercise will just intensify.

4 - Occupation
Besides just dealing with the inherent hazards of firefighting, excessive downtime can also be an unrecognized occupational hazard. Endless hours of physical inactivity, coupled with mental and emotional stress is a powerful formula for weight gain. On the other side of the coin, a construction worker who's been hammering nails all day sometimes doesn't have the energy to lift another ounce once his shift is over.

Occupational Tips

  • A- Desk Potato
    If at all possible, inject physical activity in your day. Get up and move any time you can. Walk briskly to and from the train or bus. Devote half your lunch hour to exercise two or three days a week. Bodyweight, resistance bands, and Yoga movements make for great a firehouse workout.

  • B- Mashed Potato
    Make the most of your time off. Devote one day totally to rest and recovery and the next to exercise. On work days, consider brief, in-home workouts that can be done before you leave the house in the morning. On days you're employment demands great feats of physical strength, don't exercise at all.

5 - Family and Friends
Chances are you didn't get out of shape alone. Sharing many habits of those closest to you has surely influenced your present condition. But drastically changing what you eat and how you spend your time can put undue pressure on your closest relationships.

Family and Friends Tip
Formerly request their help and support, but accept them when it's not given. Don't make a relationship depend upon compliance with your program. Simply let those around you know what you're doing and that you'd appreciate any support they could offer. Be neither judgmental of how others eat and exercise (remember yourself a few weeks, months ago), nor apologetic for what you're trying to accomplish.


Journaling, moderate amounts of your favorite exercise, adequate rest, management of occupational stress, and better understanding from family and friends will improve any fitness and weight loss program's chance of succeeding, but it's still up to you to make the commitment and do the work. Remember, the toughest thing to do is start.

To read more about Mike Stefano and his fat-burning, body-sculpting workouts, click here

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