It's that time of year again where new gym memberships soar, ambitions are high, and lofty fitness goals are set. As we all know, the New Year's fitness see-saw usually ends up with an unhappy ending, unfortunately. Here are my five suggestions to help you create the most sustainable start for your New Year's fitness program.
1. Start small - less is more
Trim your ambition and start with much less than you think you can accomplish.
For a start don’t plan an hours session at the gym every day of the week, and don't plan 5:30am classes if you normally don’t even get up until 6:30am. It's better to add more later than to start and then try to subtract. Most people don't end up subtracting successfully - they stop altogether. You only need start with 3 gym sessions a week, make one focused on cardio e.g. a spin class, one on strength e.g. a Bodypump class, and one on functional exercise e.g. Pilates or Body Balance.
Classes are the easiest way to get a pattern established and you don’t have to think about what to do next.
2. Trim your diet - eat 20% less not 20% more
Most of the population will lose weight by eating less, especially in combination with exercise.
However people who are starting out exercising often find themselves eating more to satisfy their hunger after exercising. After a while it becomes a habit to eat after exercise and eventually become disillusioned with their whole exercise program - for the wrong reasons. If you start to generally eat less - 20% less - then your stomach will shrink and your desire for food will reduce.
You don’t need to calorie count. You already know the good quality food and the bad quality food you are eating. Make the 20% less that you eat as much of the bad quality food as you can. When you start out you will not be exercising hard or long enough to need any fancy post-workout supplements or food. However if one of those things motivates you then by all means have them, just count them in to your overall food intake.
Prepare meals ahead to have after you exercise, and reduce temptations by clearing your bench-tops of low value food and replace them with fruit and healthy snacks. I've found that establishing the proper food plan greatly adds to people's motivation and energy for working out.
3. Plan for consistency not results
The most important thing in creating habitual change for yourself is consistent action. People get hooked on results, often pulled out of thin air, and then become disillusioned e.g. weighing themselves every day. If you are consistent results will come.
Think about the big picture goal that made your make your New Year's resolution, and keep in in mind. It may well be weight loss but this do not translate this into specific targets. Develop you plan based on the advice above, and make sure it fits your personal needs and schedule.
You will have ups and downs, but you gain satisfaction and confidence from just being consistent - you will be proud of yourself. From that you results will come.
4. Manage your expectations to reality
Physical transformations take time. Don't set yourself up to fail by expecting results far too early. My experience, after 20 years at the gym, is that there is a formula (and you won’t find this on Google). Here it is:
I put "results" in quotes because results may mean many different things, for example people might notice:
In the ups and downs that you will go through, don’t place pressure on yourself for unrealistic timeframes for results. AND, if the results are not what you aimed for don’t become despondent, be thrilled that you have results. By that I mean if your goal is to lose weight and the "results" are that people say that you are looking more confident but do not comment on your weight then be thrilled. If you remain on track, being consistent, then your goal will be achieved. Everything is interconnected, and the interconnections happen and reveal results in very unpredictable ways.
Remember this - if you have kept going and been consistent and had people comment - you've got results - then you've done more than most people!
5. Stick your plan on your fridge not in your head
You have enough to think about, especially if you are starting out to exercise and you have a job and a family to organise. Following my advice about starting small, with 3 workouts a week, write out a plan and stick it up on your fridge door:
Some hints to help you put the above into action
Here are some hints to help you implement the above ideas:
If you are over 50 and starting out then you'll benefit from more flexibility, mobility and balance work, but that's a whole other story - see my post Over 50? Strength Training Is An Essential Fitness Strategy (especially for women).
You might like to read my 7 Secrets for Fitness After 50 free ebook.
No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or another qualified clinician. Disclaimer.
Since I was diagnosed at 50 with Type 2 diabetes I've been learning how to do bone-building fitness training which lowers my age. You can too. It's your choice. Walter