The story of the month for March 2011 comes from Mark Dilworth of Your Fitness University.

Mark is a certified personal trainer and blogger. I had the pleasure of meeting Mark in person back in the fall of 2009 at the Nutrilite Sports Nutrition Blogger Event in Long Beach, California. It was a great treat to do so, as I had the opportunity to talk a little with Mark about his work and personal journey in health and wellness. He is a super nice guy, who is clearly very dedicated to helping people achieve their weight and fitness goals, while getting healthy at the same time.

Mark runs a series of sites and his blog called My Fitness Hut. He has put together a wide variety of resources with his sites all designed to help others along their own path of wellness, and even catering specifically to both men and women. Topics focus on weight loss, fitness and nutrition.

With a passion for fitness, it is no surprise that Mark shares with us his personal story of how fitness played a role in his life and how he got past the excuses to get actively healthy. And so with his story, Mark encourages and inspires us to do the same. Most importantly he shares how to make fitness fun!

And so without any more from me, here is Mark sharing his story with us:

Area(s) of My Health and Wellness that Needed Change

I grew up as a physically active child in New Mexico. That was how I “did fitness” for the first 21 years of my life. How did I do fitness? Walking, riding a bike, playgrounds, Boys Club and playing sports year-round. I never thought about training heart rates, body fat, muscle mass, eating right or any of those things growing up.

That is always the best way to exercise and stay fit: find activities you enjoy. You will never stop doing anything that you enjoy. If you have kids, don’t let them spend hours and hours on the computer or playing video games! When the homework and chores are done, they should go outside and play ‘til dark. That’s the answer to our childhood obesity problem.

When my playing career ended after college, I had a problem. What would I do to stay active? Exercise had always come automatically with my lifestyle. Now, I was working behind a desk as an accountant most of the day and I had become sedentary. Except for the occasional memberships on rec sports teams, I was not very active. I gained 30 pounds in about 2 months time!

So, I did what many people do. I joined a health club and began to exercise. It seemed like work instead of fun because I had never exercised this way. My exercise habits would basically go this way: good workout habits for 3 months, sporadic workout habits for 3 months. I didn’t really pay close attention to my eating habits.

Over my years as an accountant, I would gain and lose that 30 pounds depending on my workout habits. I had settled into a routine I was pretty happy with until…I began studying to be a certified personal trainer in 2004.

Strategies I Implemented & Their Results

As a trainer, I have learned to eat right by finding nutritious foods I enjoy. There’s no reason to eat anything you don’t like. For example, there are tons of vegetables to choose from, find what you like and eat it. I follow a balanced menu based on enough calories to fuel my activities. For me, that’s about 2200 calories a day (basically a little more than my metabolic rate). You might have to write down what you eat until you get used to eating with your new menu.

Calorie control is the most important factor in your diet if you want to manage, lose or gain weight. That’s not severe calorie restriction, but that’s eating enough to fuel your body and reach your goals.

You can do a Low-Carb diet, High-Protein diet, Vegan diet, a Balanced diet or any other diet out there. The fact is this: if you eat too much, you will gain weight and fat. This was hard for me to learn because, as an athlete, I could eat 5000 calories a day and not gain weight. My activities would burn tons of calories every day.

I now plan my workouts based on exercises I enjoy. My workouts are usually 30-40 minutes of circuit weight training or 20 minutes of interval cardio sessions. I will usually take at least 1 day off a week from workouts. I will walk 30-40 minutes on days off. Its really that simple. A workout plan for you will become dried ink on paper—if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing. At some point, you will stop if you hate your workouts.

How My Changes Benefitted Me

I was fortunate enough to be invited to a Nutrilite Health Blogger’s Event in 2009. As part of that event, we were given a full physical exam. It was the most thorough physical exam I had ever had done on my body. My previous physical exams were those required by the sports teams I played for (i.e., pee in a cup, blood pressure, and cough).

At the Nutrilite event, I was tested for things such as blood fat, vitamin D levels, GGT, homocysteine, folate, B12, CRP, bone density and BcoR. I found out my vitamin D levels were low.

My workout plan prior to becoming a trainer would not have been sufficient to pass this type of physical exam. I suggest this type of exam for everyone.

Next Steps on My Health and Wellness Journey

My top fitness goals continue to be improved overall health, heart health, bone density and body composition.

My motivation is never focused on weight loss. The other goals will manage my weight just fine. I learn from other personal trainers and health professionals every day. This helps me improve my fitness, as well as my clients.

Wisdom & Inspiration for Others

First, be realistic about your goals. Some of us just don’t have the genetic makeup to look like cover models. That’s okay! You can set a goal to look and feel the best that you can. The transformation will take time. That’s why quick weight loss programs don’t work.

Second, determine how you will achieve your goals. Do you need help visualizing goals? Do you need professional help to overcome emotional or behavioral problems? Do you need a personal trainer to help you with a program? This is about much more than weight loss. It is a lifestyle change.

Third, make the commitment to get it done—-no matter what! If you really want to improve your health and change your body, you will do it. We eventually do what we really WANT TO DO! Recovering from setbacks and failures will be part of the process.