On behalf of all the fitness industry, I'd like to start by saying welcome to our world to all the January newcomers, and welcome back to those returning from a Christmas related hiatus.
A lot of people hate January, apparently it is supposed to be one of the most depressing months, but I don't buy that at all. I thinks it's great, the days are going to start getting longer, we are starting to point back towards the sun and it's a natural time to reassess the previous year and look forward to next one. An inevitable part of that looking forward is the process of setting a new years resolution, and sadly, many of these resolutions are doomed to failure. This is quite graphically illustrated in the fitness industry, where gym membership sales go through the roof and everyone is trying to get fit, lose weight and tone up. Of course, as we all know, by the end of March, as many as 70% of these memberships will have been cancelled already. That means that statistically speaking, if you are going to join the gym this month, it is more likely that you will no longer be exercising in March, than you will be realising your resolution to get fit.
So what can you do to ensure that you are going to be in the 30%? I've listed a three things that could upset your resolutions, and what you can do about each one to make sure this year, those resolutions stick.
1. The January gym is the worst
Joining a gym can be a difficult process at the best of times, there is that crippling fear of not knowing what you are doing, and even worse, it being abundantly clear to everyone else that you don't know what you are doing. This is made far worse in January, because the gym is ridiculously busy, and the hardcore gym rats are going out of their way to make you feel uncomfortable, because, well, frankly, they just don't want you there. There are only two machines you can remember how to use, and they are always busy, so after much standing around, or watching Narcos whilst absent mindedly turning over your legs on the bike, you wander off home, and after two or three weeks without making any real headway, you start your annual backsliding, and regressing to watching Narcos at home, and before long, you are sending the shameful email to cancel your membership, hoping desperately that you won't actually have to talk to a real human being to explain your abject failure.
This actually is a tough one to fix, after all, even the regulars struggle to enjoy the gym in January, it is a difficult and stressful place, but look on the brightside, if you do persevere, this won't last long, the crowd will thin out, and the situation will improve.
Obviously as a personal trainer, I am going to give this next piece of advice, but if you are serious about your fitness, get a personal trainer for a few sessions. Get them to show how to get the best out of the gym at busy times, and write you a programme that you can follow. It never ceases to amaze me that people are more than happy to spend several hundreds of pounds on a handbag, up to a hundred pounds on a night out, but won't drop a few hundred on some personal traning sessions when they start out. It's kinda like someone starting to drive, and saying, "no, I don't need lessons, I've seen my mate drive and read an article in Grazia about it, so I'm good to go" and then wondering why they keep failing their test. This will not only help get you a programme that will actually get you results, but it will also give you more confidence and purpose in the gym.
Going to classes is another option, but as Dom Mazzetti once said, "the problem with classes is that they're like riding a bus, everyone is going in the same direction, and you're not the one driving". Still, you are going to get your workout done in an hour, without hanging around waiting for kit while getting the evil eye from the lycra clad fit bitches.
2. Poor or non existent goal setting
Let me make this quite clear, a resolution is not a goal. It's an airey fairey idea of some kind of vague improvement, albeit well intentioned. For a resolution to become reality, first of all it needs to be framed as a goal.
Typically, when I have new clients, when I ask "what do they want to achieve?" they respond with things like "I want get fitter/tone up/lose weight", the problem is that these statements are not goals in themselves. I'm sure that you will have heard of the SMART goals acronym which I've spelt out below. This forms a checklist against which your goals should be assessed to ensure they are actually goals and not dreams.
Specific-What exactly do you want to achieve, lose weight, or be a size 10 before your wedding dress fitting? The more specific and meaningful to you, the better.
Measurable-How will we gauge progress, or lack thereof? Are we going to get the tape measure out, jump on the scales, take photos? These metrics need to be relevant to your goals, there's no good sending someone with purely aesthetic goals on a 5km time trial every month.
Achievable-Ok, we want the goals to be challenging, but if a 60 year old obese guy who has never run in his life says he wants to run a 3 hour marathon in 4 weeks, we might need to manage expectations.
Results focused-This is reiterating specific and measurable, we want know whether or not what we are doing is working, and if not, why not? It's actually ok if our initial plan isn't working, we can just tweak it, but we need to know that, and know as soon as possible to avoid unnecessary time wasting.
Time framed-Without time framing a goal, they tend to get pushed to the back of the pile of things to do. Stating that you will do something by a certain date, rather than just saying you'll do it, will drastically increase the likelihood of it being done.
Those are your SMART goals, but there are a couple of other things I think that need to be added to that list. A goal that is not written down, is just wishful thinking. Put pen to paper, type something and print it off and stick it to your fridge, put post it notes on your work station, write a contract with yourself and sign it, whatever you do, get it written down.
The second is this, and this is probably the most important thing of all, your goals MUST have emotional relevance. The achievement, or lack of, must have emotional consequence to you. Losing weight doesn't mean anything, dropping to a size 10 by the time you go on holiday, so that you have more confidence to wear what you want to wear, because it will make you feel awesome is emotional relevance. This is personal stuff, you might not even like to admit the reasons why you want to lose weight, but it is this emotional fuel that drives the fitness car. This is the feeling that you have to go to, and focus on, when the decision making gremlins appear, which they will at some point. If you don't have a real reason to do this, you'll be back on the sofa in no time.
Once you have got your goal in place, you will then need to set yourself actions, or process goals. These are the controllable behaviours that done consistently enough will get the main outcome goal to come to fruition. Again, I would get these written down, book training sessions in the diary, and make these actions your priority.
3. The all or nothing becomes nothing
"Go hard or go home", "half-ass training gets half-ass results", "commit or quit"-These are just a few of the quotes from fitness memes I've seen on social media over the last few days. The problem with these kinds of black and white statements, usually accompanied by a picture of a self obsessed narcissist working out in their underwear, is that they encourage an all or nothing approach, which often ends with nothing.
In the real world, shit happens, social events occur, work obligations get in the way, kids get sick. When this happens, do what you can. I guarantee that at some stage, you will eat a pizza, drink a bottle of wine or skip a workout in January. Is that going to help your progress? No. Does it mean you have failed? Absolutely not. The occasional bump in the road is part and parcel of being fit and healthy. Rather than aim for complete, monastic like perfection, just aim to be better.
Try setting some contingency, or what we sometimes call "if then" strategies. These are plans for when the usual roadblocks happen. For example: "if i can't get to the gym, then I'll do a bodyweight session in my living room", "if I'm travelling with work, then I'll try to book a hotel with a gym" "if I've got a late meeting and can't get to my usual Ricky Martin special Zumba class, then I'll set the alarm early and go to the gym before work". There may be times when you have to compromise, but something is always better than nothing. That does lead me to another point, depending on your goal, something is almost invariably better than nothing, so try to ignore the internet gurus that make out that not only is their training plan the best, but everything else will make you injured or result in making you fat.
Obviously, the more extreme your goals, the stricter you have to be to achieve them, but just don't give up the first time you miss a gym session, or eat a pizza.
So there we have it, three things that might derail you, and some advice to stay on track. If have any questions on this on anything else fitness related, drop me an email. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to give the stink eye to some newbies cruising instagram on my bench.