When I thought about releasing a blog intended to get people motivated to make changes to help their fitness, I deliberately avoided doing so in the first couple of weeks of January, 2021. It would have been a little too contrived. The whole “new year’s fitness resolution” thing usually begins to fade come February, and that’s most often the case because of the way “fitness” is approached in the name of resolve.
Because of that truth, this is going to end up being the most vanilla fitness article you didn’t know you needed to read. Cause the name of the game is sustainability.
It could be your goal to finally drop 20 pounds or get stronger and more muscular. To stop eating bad quality meals and get your nutrition in check. To look and feel better. And I truly believe that you truly believe you’ve been trying to accomplish that. The turn of a new year is often a hot button to trigger newfound vim to attack such goals – only to see an eventual fade in intensity not long after.
The reason this happens is because your resolve – though in good intention – is probably too aggressive and not as thoroughly thought through as it should be. That’s why I’m starting from the ground up to give you a set of guidelines and tips that will lead to success based on habit forming. Not based on abrupt major changes.
Get more Sleep
I put this first, because it’s easily the most underrated determinant of success and results in the world of fitness. It’s also something you don’t really notice you’re lacking (or being affected by) until you prioritize it. Sleep and recovery are quintessential components to a healthy body, and basically any fitness goal that involves body composition and performance. You can be doing all of the right things in the gym – and even in the kitchen – but if you’re only getting 4 or 5 hours a night, results will be much harder to come by.
You may not be overtraining, but that doesn’t mean you’re not under-recovering. Focusing on doing what it takes to get a solid 7 hours nightly (I’d say 8, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves) – whether that means going to bed earlier, waking up later (if possible), or a combination of both will make a monumental difference to your rate of change from a muscle development and fat loss perspective, and also from a performance perspective, strength and energy wise. With all the work-from-home protocols in place nowadays, if there’s any time it’s more possible to work hard to apply this change to your routine, it’s now.
Use the Every-Other-Day Approach
I’m a big advocate of this. Right out of the gates, many people embark on (or reignite) their fitness journeys by trying to hit the gym hard every day of the week. This is a recipe for disappointment, since failing yourself is on the horizon.
Aside from the fact that life happens and can cause training frequency to abate for periods of time, it’s also easy to just lose steam overall. Taking the approach of going as hard as possible only leaves you one direction to travel when circumstances change: Downward. The imminent product of this is a trainee getting upset with themselves and thinking there’s no point to continue. Instead of failing your own expectations, set ones that you can actually meet comfortably. If you’re coming from a place where workouts were few and far between, start with the every-other-day approach. Do a workout, and then take a rest day. Alternate for as long as possible. If you didn’t train yesterday, train today. If you trained today, rest tomorrow. Simple and plain. It’s an easy, comprehensive, and definitely attainable way to get 3-4 workouts in per week, and it allows your recovery to be prioritized at the same time. This is a route to consistency. Use it.
Choose One Nutrition Tweak, and own it for 2 weeks
I’m no dietary guru by any means. But I’d be remiss to exclude the very mention of nutrition from this discussion. In my experience, I see many people try to approach an imbalanced resolve toward nutrition the same way they approach an imbalanced resolve toward training. In other words, it becomes all-or-nothing; Eating as clean as possible and disallowing any snacks, “cheat” meals, or even certain macronutrients to enter the picture.
You probably guessed where I’m going with this. Before long, something will reach a tipping point, and a massive binge (or a series of them) will ensue – which will crush your confidence. That’s not the way to approach this. It’s about ingraining habits. If your diet is in the pits, then choose one or two simple things to focus on for the first couple of weeks. And I mean simple – like drinking more water daily, and not adding extra table salt on top of your meals when you eat them. Once you get that down, try to throw in a serving of vegetables with each meal and see how that goes. It’s not about overhauling your diet from the get-go. It’s about building up to it, so that in 6 months’ time, you amaze yourself by how different the landscape looks compared to how you used to eat when you stared. You get the idea.
Get off Social Media – Enough with the Comparisons
The sensationalized side of training for fitness and health is spearheaded by Instagram accounts and other social media feeds that are festooned with scantily clad, airbrushed and photoshopped images of people who have unrealistic, or at the very least, unsustainable body compositions. It’s cool to get a little inspiration and motivation to keep your own personal goals in focus, but it’s smart to acknowledge that that very notion can be presumptuous. It assumes a lot about someone’s personal mental fortitude. It’s very easy to say we won’t be negatively affected by the things we see on the internet. That doesn’t mean it’s accurate. Spiraling into an underworld of unfair comparisons, or trying to upend what was a good approach, in favor of going ‘harder’ for ‘faster results’ is a common default amongst people who get caught up in the social media matrix.
It’s important to remember that every one of those brushed nudes I mentioned earlier are likely taken from the “perfect” angle, in the “perfect” lighting, wearing the “perfect” and most flattering garments. Moreover, it’s impossible to know what goes on behind the scenes regarding the lifestyle needed to attain such a physique… or the “supplements” that could help make having it a tad easier.
Take a great physique at face value. Be motivated by it, but leave it at that. Full-on comparing yourself and your results to what you see on the internet is a way to wreak havoc on your mental health and sabotage your fitness journey by contaminating the process.
Use All the Resources you Have for diverse training (and to break the monotony)
At first, you may think I mean study, study, and study some more. But that’s not where I’m going with this.
Simply, I’m referring to the idea of simply diversifying your training. This is something I’ve personally had plenty of success with in the past few years, but most specifically in the last year – and I don’t hesitate to endorse the idea of adopting this mentality, as long as your goals aren’t strictly performance based.
Do cardio. Master bodyweight. Use barbells, dumbbells, bands, and kettlebells. Train in all planes of force. Your body probably needs it.
Of course, this comes with a disclaimer: If you’re a beginner or otherwise green to exercise and good training, some basic fundamentals will probably need to occupy more of your time to start. Once you develop that foundation, complete with a baseline of strength and proficiency, the world is yours. Find new movements to suck at, and let them work your body out. That’s how you get fitter, and that’s how workouts stay challenging. It’s not only about adding weight to the bar.
Set the right Goals
It’s always a bit of a laugh when a new client fills out one of my questionnaires and tells me their goals are to burn 5% body fat, while building 5 lbs of muscle, while improving aerobic capacity and muscular endurance, while improving their max squat, bench press and deadlift numbers by 10 pounds each, and becoming more athletic and explosive.
Trying to be great at everything usually leaves you a master of nothing. Especially if you’re early in your journey, it’s best to zero in on no more than 2 training goals that harmonize with one another (like burning fat while improving muscular endurance… or building 5 pounds of muscle while increasing max strength) and make them the focal point for the first 2 to 3 months of your training year. The key is to continue seeing improvements in your goals that will keep you motivated to keep on pushing for more. Trying to go for every goal at the same time will decrease your rate of change and probably make you quit chasing them over time.
Ask for Help
You saw this subheading coming from a mile away.
Especially now, it’s high time to get things started off on the right foot by hiring a coach to navigate your programming and/or dietary needs. You may have equipped your home with a full gym over the last 10 months due to commercial gym closures. You’d do well to learn the best way to approach workouts using that equipment that suits your goals. Moreover, ensuring you’re doing the right thing is only half the battle. Making sure you’re doing the right thing the right way is the other half. If it’s been a while, chances are you don’t have a stranglehold on your lifting technique, which is where a second set of trained eyes can come in very handy and be well worth the investment. Whether it’s a thorough, online coach that gets the job done for you in these regards, or a mobile in-person trainer who comes to your home, what matters most is having a professional there to give you direction.
No Resolution Necessary
Labelling your newfound desire to get in shape will place unnecessary pressure on yourself to not fail the movement. Try not labeling things and focusing on nailing down these 7 habits instead. Chances are, you’ll be in much better shape (figuratively, and literally) after doing so.
We can get caught up being prisoners to the idea that all the changes need to happen right this minute. If you think about it, we live in a world that only supports this thinking. The way we’re delivered information, the technology of smart devices, the speed of our connections to the virtual world – everything is geared toward us not having to lift a finger and receive exactly what we’re trying to get as instantly as humanly possible. We can’t adopt the same mentality toward fitness and health. It took us a long time to get out of shape. And it’s going to take us a long time to get back into shape. And if we’re doing things right and being careful, it should.
But the dividends all of that sustained effort will ultimately pay, will speak for itself. If you want to have impressive performance, few to no injuries, and an impressive physique when you’re 80, why not take the next couple of years to do things the right way – Slow and steady? In 2040, No one’s going to care what you weighed or how you looked in February of 2021.
Change up your perspective to play the long game, and you’ll be pleased with your results that won’t only benefit your body – but your mind too.