Follow these simple steps to help you stay on track
Resolutions are made and goals are set. The good intentions are there, so how come we often fall short and end up not reaching the desired results?
Set specific, detailed goals
Resolutions like, “lose weight” or “get fit” are too vague. When goals lack specificity, it’s harder to measure progress.
Add detail, think of the time and place you might implement changes of behaviour and be realistic about what you want to achieve.
Swap “lose weight” for “reduce body fat by 5%”
Swap “get fit” for “go to an exercise class 2-3 times a week”
Think about what “being fit” actually means to you. For some it might be running a 10k, for others it might mean getting rid of chronic back pain caused by sitting at a desk job.
Set goals that have structure
Every year I used to say to myself, “I’m going to stretch more and go to bed earlier.” I’d stretch mindlessly for a few days in a row, go to bed once before midnight and that’d be it.
This type of goal lacks structure, the change in routine is too drastic and doesn’t allow time to properly change lifelong habits.
By setting smaller, specific and manageable goals you can complete regularly, you’re more likely to stay motivated and they can be tracked more easily.
Here’s how I’ve changed my own goal:
“I’m going to stretch more”
Solid, detailed plan:
“I will alternate middle and front splits active flexibility training 4-6 times a week, for 30 minutes each session. I will do the stretches as soon as I finish my gym class.”
In the above example, finishing the class is my cue to go and stretch. I need to do this repeatedly to form this habit.
I’ve set how many times per week and for how long I’m going to stretch, making it more like an appointment, rather than a loose plan.
I’ve stated how much work I’m going to put in, making it measurable.
I’ve given myself leeway by specifying it could be between 4-6 times per week. This is because I know there are going to be unforeseen circumstances that come up throughout the year and sometimes I won’t be able to stretch 6 times per week. If I can only do 4 sessions during a busy week, I’ve still hit the numbers within my goal.
If you’re not sure how to get started with your goals, for example, how to sensibly reduce body fat, train for a long distance run or minimise back pain, invest in yourself with a personal trainer who will help you.
Be specific and realistic in your goal setting
Use cues to help change behavioural patterns
Track progress in writing or with photos
Lack of written or visual tracking is one of the big reasons why people often think they haven’t made progress. In reality, they probably have improved, they just don’t see it because they have no reference to their starting point.
With my clients, I encourage them to write down the weights they use each session. If they’re consistent with their training, they’ll be able to look back through their diary and see that they’re regularly hitting weights that are X kilos heavier than they were doing 3 months ago. Since the progression has happened over a period of time, they hadn’t noticed how much progress they’d made.
A training dairy is also a fantastic way to write down how you’re feeling in each session. In my diary, I also note down whether something had stressed me out that week that could have affected my training.
If you’ve barely had 4 hours sleep a night, been dumped and lost your job in the last month, chances are this will have affected your training. By noting these external stressors down you can put everything into perspective and notice patterns that may be stunting your progress.
Keep a written or visual record of your sessions so you have a reference point.
Set realistic time frames
It takes a lot of repetition to change lifelong habits. We live in a culture of quick fixes and instant gratification but lasting results take time and consistency. I cringe every time I see an ad for dropping a dress size or getting shredded abs in 5 days. Aside from being completely unrealistic, this is the kind of BS that is guaranteed to make you feel terrible about yourself after you’ve been in starvation mode for a week and seen little to no results.
Lets use weight loss as an example. There are approximately 3500 calories in 1lb/0.5kg of fat. In order to lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way, generally you would be aiming to lose 1lb/0.5kg of fat per week. To do this you need to reduce your calorie intake by 3500 calories per week, which is 500 calories per day (a calorie deficit).
Prepare for change
If one of your goals for the New Year is to go to the gym more regularly, make small behavioural changes that will help prepare you for this. Small actions such as getting your gym bag ready the night before and leaving it by the door to grab on the way to work can really help get you into a new routine. If you’re rushing around in the morning because you can’t find your trainers, you’re more likely to think “oh sod, it I’ll just gym tomorrow instead”.
As the saying goes, “fail to prepare and prepare to fail”. Set yourself up for success by preparing and being organised.
Try not to negatively compare your progress to others
Social media is abundant with “fitspo” and “body goals”. Keep in mind that social media usually always only shows the best parts of peoples lives.
Lets say you want to do a handstand because you’ve been inspired by someone on Instagram. Lets also say that you’ve been doing gymnastics for 6 weeks, going to class once per week.
Whoever has inspired you may have being doing gymnastics since they were 5 years old and has likely honed their craft over many years with consistent training. You don’t have the same lifestyle as this person, you may not have access to same level of coaching and you don’t have the same body mechanics or anatomy. Social media is a highlight reel, stop putting yourself down or berating your progress because you feel inadequate compared to someone else.
Forget what Joey Bicep or Maria Booty Bum are doing. Be consistent, do the work and you’re own progress and results will come.
Hannah Elizabeth is a L3 Personal trainer and L2 fitness instructor, currently studying L3 Exercise Referral and L4 Lower Back Pain Management. She is also a sports photographer, Pole Dancer and 53kg Olympic Weightlifter.