Let's say you've been nailing your nutrition habits and crushing your workouts. Maybe you're working with a fitness coach or following a solid training program. You're following the plan to a 'T' and starting to see and feel results. Fuck yeah!
But what happens when the magic fades?
When you're left to your own devices?
When you hit the inevitable plateau?
How do you maintain your weight loss and hard earned #gainz for the long term?
I've seen it a million times before. Someone follows a program, gets results, then once the program ends wanders the desert aimlessly in search of strippers and cocaine.
This is where most people struggle. The point after the program ends or what I call the 'maintenance' phase.
The truth is, this is the bulk of where most of your training life happens. I certainly don't recommend following a strict program 365 days a year.
It's what a mentor of mine, Coach Dan John, calls 'park bench' workouts. The ones you do to pass the time and ENJOY life.
Here are a few tips to maintain weight loss when you're not following a program.
1. Do Things You LOVE!
For one, there are a TON of different ways to nail your fitness goals. You can sportsball, Jazzercise, power lift, use kettlebells , run, or anything that gets you moving. Second, and more importantly, life is to damn short to force yourself to do things you don't enjoy.
The goal with fitness should be to give you the ABILITIES to do more things in your life. Being in shape includes certain characteristics such as being strong, able and maintaining a healthy bodyweight. However you define YOUR fitness, there are so many variables you have control over to achieve those goals. Find something that works for you.
If you hate running and force yourself to do it day in and day out, you're probably going to dread every minute of it. It will be easy to find excuses not to do it and you'll surely give up at some point. On the other hand, if you truly love it, it will be easy to enjoy and build up to things like a 5k or marathon.
Personally, I don't enjoy running. I may run a handful of times each summer a short distance (like 1-2 miles) to enjoy the weather and may even run a fun 5k with Lindsay or the AMP Tribe but I wouldn't be able to do it regularly. It's just not fun to me. I'd rather lift weights with friends, joke around and have fun while I train.
There is no blueprint to fitness for everyone and as long as it gets you sweating and your heart pumping, do it. Obviously some exercises do burn more calories than others, but I’d rather spend an hour doing something I absolutely love than 30 minutes doing something I hate.
If you do what you love, you're more likely to stick to it and your results are more likely to stick, too. You'll be happier and sexy AF!
2. Keep NAILING the Basics
We totally understand that there will be periods in your life where things will just get chaotic. You'll get busy and you won't have as much time to focus on your fitness goals.. and that's okay!
That doesn't mean you have to lose your fitness, strength gains or weight loss results once you're "off the wagon" (P.S. There is NO wagon) or finished a program.
This would be the perfect time to get back to the basics with your fitness and nutrition and focus on the 'easy' things for the time being. The fundamentals, if you will.
"What do you mean by 'the basics'?"
For fitness, the basics are the fundamental movement patterns: squat, hinge, push, pull, carry, core stuff. These are the bare minimum movements you should work on improving on a regular basis to keep your body moving well and staying strong.
Getting in the minimum effective dose when you're not training as regularly will go a long way towards maintaining your hard earned fitness gainz.
On the nutrition side of things, we recommend focusing on the basic habits such as just eating more vegetables or stopping eating when you're satisfied (not about to explode). Intense dieting or following fad diets rarely works for the long term since their usually difficult to follow.
In the end, the basics are what will yield the most sustainable results when you you're not able to devote as much time to making big changes. They're also enough for you to maintain your results.
Having trouble getting started with the training part?
3. Pay Close Attention to the 'Weak Links'
We all have things we nail and we also have things we're not so great at. When it comes to yielding the best possible results it often makes sense to focus on bringing up the weakest link rather than continuing to focus on what you're already good at.
For example, let's say you really good at your nutrition during the week. You make sure to eat a protein filled breakfast, have a large salad for lunch and some combination of meat, rice and vegetables for dinner each night.
Then the weekend comes and the wheels come off the bus. You find yourself bringing home a pizza and 6-pack of micro brews every Friday. You wake up hungover on Saturday and have a boozy brunch and go out to a decadent dinner that night and have a couple drinks. Sunday comes and you just say 'fuck it' because you've already over consumed.
Important Note: I'm not saying having a pizza (slice or two) Friday night or going out Saturday is a bad thing but every week isn't a good approach for longterm health.
In this example it would make more sense to just set your weekdays on autopilot since you're nailing it and focus on creating better habits on the weekend.
Maybe creating a ritual and getting in a quick workout Friday night. That might set into motion brining home a delicious salad from Sweetgreen or other healthy post-workout meal. And having one beer, or course, instead of 6.
Start there and then work on bringing up another weak link. Do this and you'll find it super easy to maintain your hard earned results for the long term!
The Keyword is 'Maintain'!
Focusing on these key steps will help you maintain your weight loss and prevent you from going backwards during times when you're not working as hard on your fitness. They are some of the skills you'll need to keep your results to continue living your best life.
If you're looking to hit the gas pedal and build the skills necessary to lose the weight we want to help! CLICK HERE to find out more about joining the fitness party at AMP!
Steve is co-founder and head coach of AMP Fitness, downtown Boston's most inclusive personal training studio. His background is in posture, performance, injury prevention and strength development and packaging fitness in a way that is accessible to everyone. He's a brand new father, an avid reader and enjoys nerding out to science fiction.