Your New Year’s Resolution Plan to a Better Body
How many times have you started a new year with new fitness goals? You start with tremendous excitement and optimism and then after a few weeks you lose motivation and you get off track. This probably happens to you year after year. How is 2016 going to be different for you? What are you going to implement this year that you haven’t before?
Sometimes people fail because it’s too difficult to follow through, but sometimes people fail because they didn’t design a plan, they weren’t clear on their goals or on what motivated them in the first place.
This article is not about achieving just better wellness or health. This article is about achieving true body composition change and what it takes to get there. I’m going to help you design a plan to give you clarity and to keep you organized, focused and accountable. If you can stick to it through January, you will have a good chance of reaching your goals.
Bad Examples of New Year’s Resolutions
It’s great to raise your champagne glass in the air and toast: “This year I’m going to lose weight. This year i’m going to read more. This year i’m going to eat healthier. “
These goals are too broad, they aren’t specific enough and vague goals like these aren’t inspiring. You need to have strong and compelling reasons. You need to create a vision. The clearer and more vividly you visualize a goal, the easier it becomes to achieve it. I believe it is easier to focus on one important goal a time. I can help you achieve the body you want so let’s start.
There’s tons of ways to approach goal setting. We are going to use the SMARTER goal setting framework to help us nail down our strategy. I like this model because it’s not overly complicated and it will provide us with all the insights we need. The SMARTER acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Adjustable, Realistic (I have an issue with this one, I’ll address it shortly), Time-Based, Exciting and Recorded.
What do you want to achieve? Is it muscularity, strength, fat loss or all of these? Why do you want to achieve this? How will your life change if you succeed? How will you sustain these goals?
Don’t simply say, “I want to be fit in 2016.” What is fit? What’s fit to me is probably not what is fit to you? Define it.
If you want to lose weight how much do you want to lose? And to be really specific, do you know your current body fat percentage?
Do you want to add new muscle? How much? Do you want to focus on a specific muscle group?
[Remember: You can’t pick an area on your body and reduce it, but you can pick an area and enhance it.]
How will you measure your progress? Will you weigh yourself weekly? I firmly believe getting on the scale every single day is pointless. I mean, how much weight can you lose day to day anyways? I would recommend weighing yourself weekly with the same scale, at the same time, wearing the same clothes, if any.
You should also be taking pictures of yourself. Some changes in your body won’t reflect on the scale but will probably be very visible in the mirror. Before and after pictures can be very motivating to keep you pushing forward.
Make sure to take pictures from the front, back and sides. Take full length body shots, keep your hands slightly away from your body and try to use the same space and lighting.
You’re not going to have perfect days where you truly eat clean, sleep the 8-10 hours required, spend 30-60 minutes of training, four to six times a week. Life will get in the way. You might have business lunches or work dinners with little to no options to healthy foods. You might go to a sport event or another social gathering where there isn’t a single healthy snack in sight.
A chocolate cake might fall from the heavens on your lap.
So what do you do?
You adjust. You get creative. If you know you’re going to a business lunch where the main menu is filled with carbs, sugar and alcohol then you MUST plan accordingly. Here are some ideas for this example:
- You eat just protein and veggies with your meals leading up to that meeting. No starchy carbs.
- If you do eat the “bad” food then don’t have the alcohol that goes with it. Drink water instead.
- Replace the rice, pasta or mash potatoes with veggies and don’t use any toppings.
- If you usually workout in the evenings then for this occasion workout in the morning.
This one is a little tricky. You want to be realistic about what you can achieve but you also don’t want to limit yourself. You want to aim for a goal that excites you. Saying you need to lose 5lbs when really you want to lose 20 is a disservice to you.
So how do you know when you’re being realistic?
Behind a vague goal there is a vague plan of action. When you are done completing this framework then you can decide if your goal is realistic or not. You will understand what you are getting yourself into and you’ll know what you can commit to.
If you’re 50 lbs overweight, it might seem insurmountable to lose all of that. But if you get specific and say, “I’m going to lose 50 lbs in 8 months”, that sounds more reasonable. That would equate to 6.25 lbs per month or 1.6 lbs per week. This sounds more doable doesn’t it?
Here are more examples of adding the time-based attribute to goals:
- I want to be able to do 15 perfect push ups by March, and 25 push ups by April.
- I want to add 10 lbs of muscle in 4 months. I want to add 5lbs by March 14th.
I mentioned earlier that your goal needs to excite you. It needs to light a fire inside of you. Maybe you just had a baby and you want to lose the all of that extra weight, or you simply want to look smokin’ hot for your wedding day. You want to feel comfortable under your own skin.
Or perhaps you are a guy that has grown a beer belly. Your shirts are fitting tighter, you feel sloppy and now you want to take control of your body and health.
I would argue that behind every accomplished goal lies more happiness. Ultimately we want to be happier. Keep that in mind as you answer these questions. What would make you happier?
There use to be a period where I would record everything I did in the gym. I would record the weights I used, the time I spent training and even how I felt emotionally and physically prior to working out. You can do this too.
There’s also a ton of apps and fitness wearables that allow you to record different data.
You can record your data on your phone. I also like using Evernote; it keeps everything organized for me and it syncs the information to all my other devices.
A regular old notebook will work just fine too. I encourage you to really make an effort and record most of what you do that may affect your goals, positively or negatively. You will learn so much more about yourself.
Set Yourself Up for Success
Accomplishing big goals won’t come easy. You need to put things in place to help you succeed and to keep you pushing forward.
Support & Accountability
Who has your back? Who can you rely on when it gets tough? It is very important to surround yourself with people that care about your success. This can be your spouse, your best friend or a trusted co-worker. Let them know how important this is to you and you might even inspire them in the process. Tell them to check on you daily or weekly. A simple daily text will work just fine. Give them permission to be tough on you if you get lazy or if you lose focus. And by tough, I mean someone that gives you words of encouragement not someone that’s going to put you down.
Nutrition & Preparing Your Meals
Out of all the habits you can implement, eating well is one of the most important ones. You can definitely see results without preparing your meals but being organized about how you fuel yourself will give you a HUGE advantage. Preparing will not only save you time throughout the week, it will also save you a lot of money. Check out this wonderful infographic by Precision Nutrition on How to Prepare Your Meals.
We have all been in a situation where someone offers us a slice of pizza or cake. We doubtfully accept and in a moment of weakness we eat four more slices. We think, “I might as well keep eating more of this since I already messed up”. We are either 100% into our diets or not. And when we aren’t, all hell breaks loose. If you start a diet with this attitude then you’re pretty much doomed from the start. Know that you will have setbacks. Being fully self-aware of yourself in moments such as these will be crucial to your long term success. If this is something that doesn’t happen very often then don’t be hard on yourself (unless you are competing in a bodybuilding competition). It’s not a big deal unless you make it one. Get back on your diet and keep pushing forward.
Let’s say your goal was to lose weight. You dieted very well. You lost some weight and your clothes now fit you better. You met your goal. Will you back to your old eating habits? If you go back to the diet that made you unhealthy and overweight in the first place, then you’ll just get unhealthy and overweight again. You have to adopt healthy eating habits that are easy for you to keep. Small habits will be easier to maintain in the long-term, even if they don’t deliver the quick results you want.
Here are some quick tips to go by:
- Eat more food from the land.
- Include vegetables in almost every dish (even in at breakfast).
- Drink plenty of water.
- Eat healthy fats such as avocados, salmon, olive oil, coconut oil and mixed nuts.
- Limit your alcohol consumption.
- Just because a food is healthy doesn’t mean you should have an endless amount of it.
- Stay away from sugary drinks. Even the so called “healthy” ones.
- Try not to have foods that have a huge list of ingredients.
- Stay away from foods that have high amounts of carbs and sugar. That’s a dangerous mix.
Steady and slow can definitely win the race. You don’t want to go to the gym five times on the first week of January if you are a sedentary person. Sometimes people do too much too soon. They work out hard, they get really sore and then they get discouraged. Let your body and mind acclimate itself to this new stress.
If you’ve never worked out or haven’t in awhile, then perhaps you should go 2-3 times on the first two weeks you start training. And then, you can gradually increase the volume until you can train 4-5 times a week.
In my experience, I do not believe people will see outstanding results training just three times a week. This can be a great starting point and it can do a lot for your health and vitality but it won’t do much for body composition transformation. You will have to eventually get to a point where you are training frequently.
If you’re the type of person that goes to the gym and just sits on random machines to workout, then it’s time to get a bit more organized. Switching things up at the gym can be fun and it can be motivating. However, if you are constantly doing random exercises and workouts, you are going to get suboptimal results.
Take the time to follow a workout plan. Hire a trainer or attend structured classes. If neither of those work for you then search for a workout plan online. Fortunately for us, we live in an era where access to information is as easy as reaching for our pockets. Not every workout plan you’ll find online will be customized to your needs and to your body’s capabilities but it’s a start. It’s better than doing whatever comes up in your mind.
DEMAND MORE OF YOURSELF.
People tell themselves a story that following a workout and diet that they are comfortable with will give them the results they want. A woman who is interested in shaping her legs and glutes might only attend her spinning classes because she is intimidated by the weight room. A man with a goal to trim his waistline might only hit the weights, but doesn’t do any type of cardiovascular training because he finds it boring.
YOU MUST DO WHAT YOU NORMALLY WOULDN’T.
We tend to do the things we enjoy doing. That’s great. However the problem is, this is probably not the most effective way to reach your goals. It’s important to combine enjoyment with challenge.
Write a short summary of your healthy habits and activities as well the ones that are getting in the way of achieving your goals. Be honest with yourself, what daily or weekly habits can you remove or improve?
DON’T WASTE TIME WITH CORE EXERCISES.
You’ve heard it before, abs are made in the kitchen. Do all the planks and crunches you want, you won’t see any results simply by just adding more volume. Many people think that by simply doing more direct abdominal exercises this would lead to a smaller waistline. This is simply not true.
I recommend approaching core exercises two ways: Will you be doing core exercises to solely strengthen your midsection? Or, will you do exercises that sculpt your midsection? Those are two completely different training approaches.
Some people may dislike the following sentence: The only people that benefit from sculpting exercises for their abs are people that can actually see their abs.
“But Juan, that makes no sense, they already have abs.”
People don’t get abs or a six pack by simply doing more crunches. They do so by having better genetics, a cleaner diet, a more effective strength training strategy and by doing cardiovascular training. ALL of these things will determine if you lose the fat surrounding your midsection so that your abs can finally reveal themselves.
I’ve literally seen people at the gym lift their shirts in front of a mirror after doing a set of crunches to see if they suddenly have defined abs. Don’t waste your time doing core exercises all the time. Focus on the other areas you need to improve upon.
Getting into the best shape of your life will require hard work, patience, grit and resilience. If you have committed yourself to a plan and aren’t noticing the results you want, don’t get discouraged. Take this journey as a learning experience. Sometimes we are our worst enemies. We can be very hard on ourselves. Praise your progress.
If you have a lot to work on, try not to improve everything right away. A complete fresh start is a difficult task. Pace yourself. Start removing the bad habits one by one. The little things you do everyday will add up over time.
Know that there will probably be tough periods. Instead of quitting for the day or for the week, acknowledge this temporary setback and get back on track. Don’t entertain your mistakes. If you are losing motivation, ask yourself why?
Realize that you are doing something not just to look good, but to feel good and this will affect all other aspects of your life. Progress equals happiness and as long as you are moving forward, you will have the momentum necessary to achieve your goals.
What goal do you want to conquer in 2016? Let me know in the comments below.