It’s New Year. If you’re anything like us you’ve probably spent the latter part of December eating to excess, drinking a little too much, and haven’t visited the gym in almost a month. Sad times.
As we enter January a common aim for many is to get fit. This is a worthy ambition – and you’re not alone – new gym registrations are at their highest at this time of year.
But whilst many of us look to kick off the next 12 months with the best of intentions; maintaining it over the longer term is the tricky part.
Looking to increase your level of fitness is an aspiration; but if you don’t set clear goals, it may well stay just that – aspirational. To borrow a well-known, if slightly cheesy, eye rolling, corporate phrase – if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. And of course, that’s what so many people do; abandoning those fitness resolutions before they’ve even seen out January.
So, how do you make your fitness goals a reality? Here’s what you need to do.
SET CLEAR OBJECTIVES
Start by pinning your goals down. “Getting fit” is a broad, catch-all term that can mean different things to different people. Do you want to build muscle? Lose fat? Train for a specific event? Increase your flexibility?
Define where you really want to be, and then you’ll be in a better position to plan to get you there.
Your fitness objectives, just like many objectives you set in life, should be SMART:
Once you’ve identified your SMART goal, write it down and put it somewhere prominent, such as on the fridge, your partner’s forehead, or your desk at work. It sounds clichéd, but the frequent reminder really will help you stay on track.
BREAK IT DOWN
Now that you’ve set yourself a long-term goal, it’s time to break it down into manageable steps. This is hugely important, as achieving short-term goals will keep your motivation levels high. If you can see that you’re making progress, you’re much more likely to stick with your plan over the long-term. Plus, if you find you’re not hitting your short-term milestones, it could flag up the need to tweak your training plan.
Your milestones should be realistic and measured over a sensible period. For example, losing 14lbs / 6kg in a week wouldn’t be realistic, not to mention healthy; but attempting this over a 3-month period probably would be. It should also be challenging. Make your short-term aims too easy and you’ll soon lose interest. Each of your fitness milestones should challenge you.
WHAT’S YOUR GAME PLAN?
“We have the vision, now let’s have some fun” MGMT once sang; albeit about partying hard and dying young, which this blog is certainly not advocating.
The point is, you’ve set yourself a goal and you’ve identified clear, achievable markers along the way. You now need to work out your plan of action. In other words, now you know what you want to do, it’s time to decide how you’re going to do it.
Knowing exactly what your goals are will help you to determine what type of training you should be doing (and how often). It will also help inform your decisions around areas such as nutrition.
Depending on your fitness goals, it may be possible to plan by yourself. If you’re looking to lose weight and you don’t currently do any exercise, then a schedule involving 30 minutes of daily cardio activity would probably be a good place to start. Just ensure you add in some variety to avoid boredom setting in.
If your fitness levels are already good, and your goal is to focus in on a specific area such as improved stamina, or a PB then you might benefit from consulting with a personal trainer and/or a nutritionist to develop your plan. That way, you’ll avoid counter-productive or unnecessary training sessions that will only send your motivation plummeting.
And don’t forget, there are lots of useful apps out there that can support or supplement your fitness plan. We even wrote a couple of blogs on the best ones recently, which you can read here and here.
We all have bad days when we can’t be bothered to train or stick to the plan. It’s called being human, and you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it. Bad days don’t equal failure unless you let them. Accept that you’ll have the occasional blip and resolve to get back on track the next day.
Lastly, remember to reward yourself when you hit your milestones. Whether it’s a night out or something new on payday, it’ll really boost your motivation levels and help you stay on track to hit your goals.