We’re into the final furlong of January and I bet most of you are already close to packing in your new year’s resolutions – especially the ones that involve eating healthily and going to the gym.
It’s become a cliche, but January resolutions set us up to fail – they encourage a short-termist mindset and are usually poorly planned and executed. They can actually be bad for your fitness: a setback this early in the year is enough to put some people off altogether.
So I want you to tear up your new year’s resolutions and instead think about how you can take the positive mindset you had on 6 January and turn it into a year-long reality. The first, and perhaps most important, thing to do is understand what you actually want. People tend to go into the new year with a general desire to lose weight, triggered by a big, boozy December. But is weight really the right metric for you?
Other popular new year resolutions include toning up, building muscle, getting fit or getting stronger. I find all of these terms unhelpful. Ask 100 people what “tone up” means, and you’ll get 100 different answers. What you need to do is dig a little deeper and work out why you want these things. Why do you want to lose weight, how much do you want to lose, what would it do for your life if you achieved it? Write down some goals and ask yourself “why” for each one of them.
One of my clients came told me he wanted to “tone up and lose weight”, and when I asked him for more information, he admitted he was embarrassed to go swimming with his son because of his weight. He had a holiday coming up in a few months, which gave him something concrete to aim towards. When things get challenging, or you get cravings for chocolate, having a strong goal is what keeps you going. Picture the ideal you in six month’s time and ask yourself what’s changed – and why.
This is the main reason people fail, especially at this time of year. People hit January running – often literally – but by the third week, they notice the scales aren’t any lighter, or the belly isn’t any smaller. So they give up. The problem is they are often looking in the wrong places. If your only goal is to lose 20kg, until you’ve lost it, you’re effectively failing each day, which will quickly become demotivating. Instead, try looking for the wins.
Look at the scales, sure, but also ask how you feel after a workout. Look at how much you can lift, or how far you can run. Look at how well you’re sleeping. Take photographs and compare them every week. Look for the small wins, which, over the weeks and months, start to become one big win.
I recommend tracking at least four different metrics to help keep your motivation up. Weight doesn’t even have to be one of them – who cares what you weigh if you look great, right? Be consistent, taking measurements at the same time on the same day each week – you’ll soon see changes.
Everybody wants to hit their targets, but not everyone is prepared to make the necessary changes. Set yourself daily targets: get out of bed when the alarm goes off, keep your appointment with a trainer, walk up the office stairs. Then set yourself a 12 week target: lifting an extra 20kg, running for a mile without stopping. You’ll find that if you can keep the daily targets, the monthly, quarterly and yearly targets will be a breeze.
Don’t change everything
If you tend to overeat, it’s not realistic to think you will suddenly be able to achieve superhuman levels of self-control. Habits are formed over years, and they will take time to unpick. This is where things like short-term fasting can help. If you want to eat big portions most nights, try starting the week with a 24 hour fast. That way the end is in sight and you will have saved 2,000 or so calories from your weekly allowance.
Fasting will also help you to break those habits in the long term, allowing you to be more mindful in your decisions when it comes to food. It makes your body come to terms with short-term hunger, and eventually it gets easier.
A common mistake is to simply try to give up “bad food” – be that carbs or sugar or whatever the latest fad dictates. But that’s a terrible idea. Tackle problem areas of your diet in small pieces. Try not drinking for three nights a week, or giving up chocolate when you’re at work. Build up a solid foundation that you can build upon week after week.
Finally, come to see a trainer like me. We can help, not only by shouting at you to run faster or lift more (in fact, be wary of any trainer who shouts at you), but by being there to witness your journey. Having someone to report to is an amazing thing for your motivation. Even online personal training sessions can be useful, giving you accountability and structure to keep you focused on your goals.
Forget the fact it’s a new year, and a new decade. The important thing is it’s another week in your life, and one in which you can start to make little changes that may one day lead to great achievements.
• To book a session with one of the trainers at No1 Fitness, visit no1fitness.co.uk or call 0207 403 6660