The turn of the year really is a good time to start afresh and make your fitness resolutions. It’s a positive move for anyone, but most of us would do well to temper our New Year enthusiasm. It’s about adopting an approach that works for us, and making changes on a scale and at a rate that we’ll be able to stick to.
Some of us make resolutions because we should, rather than because we want to, and that’s usually when you fall into the ‘get fit, lose weight’ script, but many of us would do far better if we stood back and evaluated our goals and expectations a bit more objectively, which almost certainly brings more success. So here are my top ten tips to keep your resolutions on track.
Find your own motivation
Going to the gym for any reasons other than those that click with you simply doesn’t work. Motivation has to be intrinsic, which means that we need to be honest with ourselves about what is important, what we really want, and then go ahead and do whatever it takes to get there. We all need our own anchor, and if we set out with a misplaced sense of what we should be doing and why, we won’t last beyond a few weeks.
Be honest with yourself
Where there is frustration there is always a disparity between our goals and our behaviours. Most of us would like to be in the best possible shape physically, but achieving this comes at a cost, and there is only so much of a price that we are willing to pay. Think of it as a continuum, with the best and worst physical version of yourself at either end. The further you move towards the best version of yourself, the more it is going to cost in terms of dietary and exercise diligence.
If we have spent the last few years getting out of shape, it is unreasonable to expect that we are going to turn it around in a matter of weeks. It can be really useful to have an initial period of focus, but extremes just aren’t sustainable. Rather than set out with the all too common ‘all or nothing’ mantra, be realistic, both about how much change you can implement and also how long it will take you to reach your end goal.
Move for half an hour each day
Structured exercise is an important part of any fitness programme, especially for those of us who have specific training goals. But don’t fall into the trap of forgetting that it is often more important to move regularly outside of the gym. Most of us should walk more for example, which is why I tell clients to try and do half an hour a day where possible. It doesn’t really matter what activity we choose, we just need to pick something that we enjoy doing, and move.
Commit to three workouts per week
Lack of time and lack of results are the two main reasons cited for not continuing at the gym, and it is true that it can be hard to find the time. But I am going to pin my colours to the mast here and say that anything less than three workouts per week is highly unlikely to yield significant results, and we need to make the time. Four would probably be the sweet spot for most of us, but three would be the minimum if we want to see continual progress.
Commit to twelve weeks
Time away from training is important, both physically and mentally, but if we want to get good at anything, we need to do it regularly. It is often useful to approach the year as four 10 to 12 week focused blocks, with a week or two off in between, to account for holidays, illnesses and other general life stuff. We will need to be more structured than this when we have specific performance goals of course, but this is often a very good approach for many of us.
Set a performance goal
Going to the gym for the sake of going to the gym will test even the most enthusiastic amongst us eventually, especially when progress becomes more gradual, which it will. Most of us need a purpose if we are going to stick to it long term, and we need a reason to turn up two or three times each week. Deciding on a performance goal, such as a 10km run, or a bike ride, will give us a reason to workout and is perhaps one of the best things we can do to stay motivated.
Find a social support network
Most of us pick our gyms based on price, location and facilities, but the reality is that this seldom works. The key to long-term adherence, and in turn results, is to choose an environment that is suited to our personality and individual circumstances, a place where we have the support of a network of like-minded people. This might be a gym with a particular training ethos or a running or cycling club for example, or even a place with a community and supportive culture.
Follow a sensible nutrition plan
Knowing which approach to follow can be a minefield, especially at this time of year, with all the seemingly new and improved nutritional approaches, but in reality, it does not need to be complicated. In fact, most of us know what to do, we just do not do it consistently. We probably all know that adequate protein, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds and plenty of water will take us most of the way for example, we just need to do it.
Stick to the programme
Nutritional and exercise promiscuity is perhaps the biggest reason that most of us struggle to figure out what is the best approach for our individual needs. We will all fare differently on the varying approaches, and we cannot assume that because it worked for others, that it will work for us. It can be hard not to be tempted to try something else after a couple of weeks, but we shouldn’t, we should stick to the programme and give it the chance to work properly.
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