It's just about that time again...
New fitness enthusiasts flock to gyms across the country with hopes of building bodies like Greek gods. Once-or-twice-before lifters decide it's time to hit the gym again — it'll be different this time, they say. That's the beginning of every new year from the eyes of a seasoned fitness professional.
Often times this process happens under the guise of a tradition we all know well: new year's resolutions. They usually look something like this:
- Lose 25kg
- Run a marathon
- Increase bench press by 15kg
There's nothing inherently wrong with these resolutions, and there's no reason anyone who sets them can't achieve them. Sometimes the resolutions themselves are the problem, but more often than not failure stems from a lack of follow-through. People manage to set the goals just fine, but they have a hard time creating a system that encourages completion. Unfortunately, that's why so many new year's resolutions are never achieved. It's sad, and a little insane, because this time of year should be all about success.
I know...that's easier said than done. Believe me, I know. I see it all the time. So, here's the deal. With a solid plan and smart goals, you don't have to fail. Like I said, the goals don't tend to be as big of an issue, so we're going to focus on the plan. Below, you'll find three big tips that you can use to help you follow through with your new year's resolutions.
Write down the actions you're going to take
This is the most important step you can take other than creating the goals themselves. Many of you probably took the time to write down your goals, and that's a good start, but you need to do more.
Take a sheet of paper — or even better, a journal — and write down your goals. Next, draw a short line extending from each goal. That's where you're going to write down what you need to do to make your resolutions stick.
If your resolution is to lose 25kg, here's what this might look like:
- Sign up at the gym. Go to the gym two days per week for the first month, then increase to three days per week.
- Find a workout program online to follow. More specifically, find a workout program that I actually enjoy.
- Figure out the average amount of calories I take in per day, then figure out what I'm supposed to take in. Make a healthier grocery list that I can use every week.
Ideally, you'll want these actions to be as in-depth as possible. Start small, like signing up at a gym, then progress to actually going to the gym, and so on. However, make sure you aren't creating more work than you can handle. You need a strategy, but one that's too complex can do more harm than good.
Stick to a set fitness schedule
This might seem like a small point compared to the previous tip, but it's still an important one. It ties in with the first action from above: go to the gym two days per week for the first month. It's great that you're committed to going twice a week, but when are you actually going to go?
In my experience working with clients — especially beginners or people coming back to fitness after a break — having a set schedule is a major component of longevity. It helps cement fitness into your routine. In no time at all, you'll be like, "oh, it's thursday, that's leg day!"
Of course, I understand that life gets in the way of even the best laid plans. You won't always be able to stick to a schedule and that's okay. Still, as long as you're not traveling around the world for work every week, you should take the time to lay out a fitness schedule.
Re-evaluate everything on a regular basis
Seriously, everything. Fitness is a dynamic endeavour, and you need to be dynamic with it. I've seen so many people continue to throw themselves at goals or actions that aren't working for them. For some reason, it's tough to convince them that it's perfectly fine to shift gears as you go.
Sometimes, you'll need to change your goals. If your new year's resolution is to run a marathon and you get injured halfway through your training, you're probably screwed. Instead of pushing through and trying to tackle the marathon in a half-assed manner — or worse, ditching your resolution entirely — just make an adjustment. Maybe you can find a half marathon or a 25K to complete instead.
Other times, you'll have to change your actions. It might be that an action that you thought was perfect just isn't working or that you've outgrown your original plan. It's not a big deal and it happens all the time. If your marathon training plan called for six days of running per week and you just can't swing it, find a new plan with less running. Is it ideal? Maybe not, but it's better than stalling out indefinitely.
It's time to get started
Part of me hates new year's resolutions because of the ridiculous failure rate. It's not the failure that bothers me, though. It's the fact that so many people who were genuinely interested in fitness never come back because of a bad experience.
Don't be that person. Don't let yourself have a bad new year's resolution experience. Whatever you want to think, you are fully (well, pretty close to it) in control of the outcome. Set achievable goals, create actions for each one, build a schedule that works for you, and always be open to change.