Have you been saying for the last 5, 10 or 15 Januarys, that this coming year was going to be your year? It was going to be this year that you were finally not going to have anything get in the way of achieving your fitness goals. You were going to get back to the body you had in college, and not a single excuse- big or small- was going to stop you. Equipped with the new workout gear and accessories you got over the Holidays, you start to break in your new gym membership by following a $300 workout you bought from an Instagram trainer.
Week one is incredible for you. You feel alive again! Your muscles are sore, you love the variety in your new 6 day per week workout. After-work conflicts were completely cleared, and even the candy bowl in the office doesn’t seem that appealing. Meal prepping was tough the first week, but it was totally worth it because you didn’t cheat even one time!
The trouble is, week 2 got a little harder. When your alarm went off on that second Monday morning you didn’t have that same pep in your step. You may not have meal prepped as extensively as the week before, thinking you could just wing it- leading to you becoming frustrated by the difficulty of making healthy meals on the go that matched up with your prescribed meal plan. Fortunately, you still hit all your workouts this week, but you weren’t quite as sore and the ‘shiny new toy’ effect wore off. You start seeing some holes in your trainer’s programming and begin to question “why is he/she having me do x, y or z?” By your sixth workout on Saturday, all you could think about was your cherished off-day on Sunday.
To start week 3, you made the fatal mistake of stepping on the scale; maybe even after a cheat meal or two on Sunday. You either lost less than one pound or maybe you even gained a little weight- according to the number on the scale. This is just earth shattering for you, because you’ve been ‘on the grind’ the last 2 weeks and to not see double digits drop off that scale is a hard kick to the gut. Nutritionally you start to consistently slip around this point. You’ll continue to hit most of the workouts though through week 4.
But by February, you’re bored with the workout, and tired of not seeing the results you expected by this point. Social commitments will start getting in the way again, and getting to the gym gradually falls by the wayside. Other priorities will begin to materialize, and by the end of February you’re down to going to the gym once every few weeks, and nutritionally you’re a mess. At this point, you’ll experience a measure of disappointment along with a feeling of here we go again. Followed immediately by a rationalization of: this year, just wasn’t my year.
Then for the remainder of the year, you’ll cycle through various periods where you try to achieve a fitness goal for a certain event (beach season, a 5k, wedding, birthday, vacation etc.). During these periods you will go through a variation of the same basic process I just laid out and yo-yo back to your normal lifestyle when it’s all said and done- ultimately resulting in next December 31st you will be right back where you currently are, if not even further from your fitness goals.
…How Can You Make 2020 Different and avoid the ‘here we go again’ thought???
My first piece of advice in making a substantial life style change is simple:
Regardless of whether your goal is to lose weight, gain muscle or just lead a generally healthier life, you must be realistic with every aspect of your journey. Your realism must start with your time frame. Due to the instant gratification society in which we live, everyone wants their fitness transformations yesterday…Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. You have to pay the piper if you want the results, and those payments don’t conclude after 3 or 4 weeks.
To help put it more clearly, start by asking yourself this extremely simple question:
“How long did it take for you to become untrained?” (By untrained, I simply mean, got away from the body that you’d like to attain)
If the honest answer to the above question is something long-term like several months or even several years, then why do we operate under the assumption that in 4 weeks, we’re going to magically revert our bodies back to our ideal selves? It is a very unrealistic expectation that needs to be debunked and understood if you hope to have success in attaining a consistently healthy lifestyle in 2020- sustainable lifestyle transformations absolutely take time.
Learn to walk the fine line of having goals to keep yourself driven, while simultaneously being extremely realistic with what those goals should be. For example, a realistic goal for 2020 would be something like: “I’d like to lose 2-4 pounds per month.” This is an extremely attainable goal to achieve every month, because when you break it all the way down, you’re looking at losing about a half pound per week. Saying ‘2-4 pounds per month’ is remarkably more manageable sounding than “I’d like to lose 40 pounds in 2020.” If that’s your mindset going into the process, then you’re going to be particularly disappointed when you only lose 2 pounds the first month- when in actuality that should be viewed as a win, because that in fact is sustainable weight loss!
Having an overarching goal of 40 lbs for weight loss is totally awesome! The issue is you must reframe how you approach that goal to make it more manageable. If you can break your long-term goal into bite-size short term goals, you will experience a tremendous difference in your motivation to maintain a healthy lifestyle in 2020.
Be Realistic with Your Gym Frequency
The next area that you must be realistic with is the frequency in which you attend the gym. If you’re coming off a prolonged period of inactivity, then the fastest way to light your 2020 fitness goals on fire is to go to the gym 6 or 7 days per week beginning January 1st. That is a recipe for burning yourself out after 3 weeks-max. Your gym frequency circles back into being realistic with your time frame, because the driving force behind training 6 days per week is to subconsciously make up for the weeks, months or years of inactivity, as quickly as possible.
Establish a rock-solid training schedule that, come hell or high water you can repeat week in and week out for literally months- without missing. The perfect amount to start with is usually 2-3 days per week in the gym. Find a repeatable time for each day and carve it into your schedule with no flexibility around moving it.
Just because you only hit the gym 2 or 3 days per week though, that doesn’t mean you should do nothing on the other 4 or 5 days of the week. Seek to be active in creative ways- such as: going for walks after dinner, parking the car in the last parking spot away from the store or riding your bike instead of driving short distances. Resist the temptation to become a “gym rat” off the bat- I promise in time it will come. Start with small victories, and gain momentum before you start adding in extra days in the gym or cardio sessions.
**If you struggle with getting yourself to the gym on your own, I’d recommend 3 options:
- Convince one of your friends/family members to become a workout buddy
- Go to classes that the gym offers
- Hire a certified trainer
These 3 options will vary in price by the gym, with obviously the cheapest option being to find yourself a workout buddy. This can be admittedly difficult sometimes because you need to find someone who’s schedule matches up with yours. Regardless of which option you choose, the idea is to establish accountability to someone other than yourself- be it your friend, instructor or trainer.
Be Realistic with Your Nutrition
Cheat meals become the downfall of a lot of healthy eating habits. Because we live in an all or nothing society, once New Year’s comes, our nutritional mindset is: “we’re going to eat perfect for all of 2020!” This flies right in the face of being realistic with your 2020 goals, because being perfect all the time for average Janes and Joes, is just not feasible- especially if you want to live a full and healthy life.
The bottom line is, our nutritional lifestyle DOES NOT have to be perfect in order for it to be effective- it just needs to be consistent. Most New Year’s diets wind up failing because there is such a rigidity surrounding how strict they need to be- once a major cheat meal happens the wheels fall off and we think “F**k it- I might as well eat what I want. The diet’s blown.”
Consider making this adjustment in your nutritional philosophy in 2020: learn to look at your meals from a weekly perspective rather than daily. Regardless of the number of meals per day, consider that you roughly have 21 “main meals” per week (breakfast, lunch and dinner). If you make positive food choices for 19 out of those 21, that means 90.4% of your meals were healthy. Renowned Physical Therapist, Gray Cook, once said at a conference I attended: “If you do anything 90% of the time, you’re going to have damn good results.” And he is 100% right. As long as you’re able to throw the brakes on if/when you have those 2 flexible meals (I’d recommend them being non-consecutive for best results), you’re going to be well on track to maintaining a healthy nutritional lifestyle the entire year!
Deprivation for the month of January will only lead to the demise of healthy eating habits as well. Rather than thinking in the negative, change your mindset to think more in the positive regarding your food choices. For example, rather than saying to yourself, “I can’t have the box of TastyKakes after dinner.” Instead say, “I can have some fruit and yogurt for dessert tonight.” When you feel like you’re being deprived, it will lead to more often nutritional benders- aka why the most “Resolutioners” have failed at sticking with their 2020 fitness goals by Valentine’s Day. Therefore, be careful with your negative thought processes, and every once in a while, give in to your cravings, but nip it in the bud before it leads to several consecutive poor meals in a row. Most of all, strive to practice consistency in all of your diet choices and the results will be there at the end of the day.
There is something beautiful about the New Year. A clean slate offers you an abundance of ways you can change in the coming year. In order for any of your fitness goals for 2020 to be realized though, it is imperative to be realistic with how you frame your goals and the time frame in which you hope to achieve them. It will be infinitely more difficult to achieve your health and fitness goals if your mindset is off entering the process. Wrap your mind around the words of one of the best motivational speakers of all time, Les Brown: “[you must have] Patience. Persistence. And Positivity” in the pursuit of your dreams.
I urge you to have the patience to give yourself the full year of leading a healthy lifestyle both in the gym and nutritionally to observe change. Practice persistence when you most want to give up. If the scale is showing you a number that deflates you, let it fuel your fire to be better next month, rather than give up. And always stay positive- be proud of the fact that you’re consciously taking control of your life and making a change to hopefully live a longer more vivacious life.
This is only Step 1 to making 2020 a year that your fitness goals finally stick- stay tuned for Step 2 next week!
Yours in Fitness and Health,
Your Final Reward Will Be Heartache and Tears, If You’ve Cheated the Guy in the Glass.