After working in the fitness industry for several years, becoming a personal trainer, and just being a fitness enthusiast myself, I have seen the whole range of gym-goers from the intense and dedicated body building athlete who plans their life around the gym, their diet, and their physique goals year round to the motivated yet fearful “New Year’s resolutionists” who are just starting on their fitness journey, don’t really have a sense of what their goals are other than to get “toned,” and are intimidated every time they walk through the door at the gym. I have seen it all and everything in between.
Personally, I have mixed feelings about New Year’s resolutions, not because I don’t believe in people’s intentions, not because the gym gets crowded, not because I don’t think people belong in the gym… (The gym is for EVERYONE, whether you are working to improve your physical appearance, using it as a stress reliever, training for an event like a race, competition, etc., EVERYONE belongs in a gym who wants to be there and don’t let ANYONE tell you otherwise.) Anyway, my real issue with New Year’s resolutions is that I feel like many times people give it an “all or nothing” type attitude and set themselves up for failure. Picture this from your own point of view, or maybe you don’t have to picture it because you have been there as well:
You are motivated at first by your big New Year’s health and fitness goals and give it your all but then, as it always does, motivation wears off, the feeling of excitement about a new change turns into fatigue, frustration of not reaching expected goals as fast as intended, and then old, more comfortable habits re-emerge. You were not seeing results quickly enough when you were “all-in” so you think, ‘now there is no way I will reach my goal,’ and so you give up.
Know the feeling? I know I have been stuck in that mindset before and from what I have seen, this is the number one killer of resolutions worldwide. (Ok I have no research to back up this statistic but seems legit, right?) So now that we have identified the problem, how can we work to fix it? Here are 5 steps to take to turn your resolutions into actions, actions into habits, and habits into lifestyle change.
- Instead of one big “resolution,” set multiple smaller goals for yourself to achieve over a shorter period of time. Motivation, as I said earlier, doesn’t last so you need to create new sources for motivation. With each smaller success will come new motivation for your next goal.
- Find an accountability buddy. This is a person who will keep you honest about your habits and remind you of your goals. Choose this person carefully because you need to be able to trust them and allow them to be honest and transparent with you, and you with them. My recommendation is to choose someone who is more experienced than you, more knowledgeable in health, fitness and nutrition, already has the healthy habits you are wanting to have, etc. I realize this can be hard and you may not know someone that can be this support system for you but there are lots of online fitness communities that can offer this kind of support and accountability, or if you are willing to pay a little more, a trainer could be a great option as well. The reason I recommend someone who is not new to fitness is not because that won’t work, because it might, but like anything if you are both trying to learn something new at the same time with little guidance, there is more room for mistakes. Even the most highly trained fitness professionals did not get there without a little help from people more experienced than them.
- Track your progress. Again, I bring up the point about motivation. Motivation is a fleeting feeling but progress photos and even journaling about your workouts and diet are tangible. Track your nutrition as well so you can be sure your diet is aligned with your workouts. When you can have a visual reminder of your progress rather than just a feeling, you will be much better off. Plus, photos can tell you so much more than the scale ever can! Your body composition can undergo huge changes without your scale weight showing much difference. Additionally, you see yourself every single day so from day-to-day you may not see much change but when you look back at a photo from a month or two before the difference will be surprising, not to mention motivating.
- Don’t expect to do everything right. You are essentially learning new skills and creating new habits. This is unfortunately a gradual process and results are not instant. (Stay away from ANYTHING that promises instant results.) When you do make a mistake, miss a workout, let a “cheat meal” get a little out of hand, etc. recognize it, forgive yourself for it, and do better moving forward. Nothing will derail you quicker than letting yourself dwell on a simple mistake. Pick yourself up from your boot straps (or sneaker laces) and just get back on track. (Again, it is NOT “all or nothing.”)
- If you don’t know, ASK SOMEONE! Don’t be afraid to ask for help, recommendations, tips, etc. Intimidation is a huge issue in gyms and a big reason many people stay away. Yes, there are some jerks, but guess what? Those jerks are also in the grocery store, at the bank, at the park… Basically anywhere. Don’t let your perception of what someone might think of you prevent you from reaching your goals. Plus, chances are the big meathead at the gym or the super fit marathon runner that you thought was intimidating is too focused on their workout to pay attention to what you may or may not be doing wrong and many times, they will be flattered that you want their advice on fitness. (This being said, not everyone who is fit/muscular/lean/etc. will have correct information so do your due diligence to make sure your sources are credible.)
If I can leave you with one last message, it is that learning any new skill takes time and consistency. Research suggests it takes about 21 days to form a new habit but changing your lifestyle is much more than just a habit. Don’t expect change to happen over-night and don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake. You can either be your biggest cheerleader or your biggest obstacle in your own fitness journey, and lets just face it, being a road-block isn’t fun for anyone.
If you need help or support getting started feel free to comment or message me.
I would say good luck but luck isn’t what it is about. Instead, I will say good work because I know with the right tools that is all it takes.