No matter how ambitious your plans for the new year, we’ve got expert tips to stay the course.
The two most common New Year’s resolutions people made last year were to stay fit and healthy, and to lose weight, according to a Nielsen survey. As concepts, they’re excellent. As goals, they’re amorphous and immeasurable. A better approach would be to name a specific objective (or objectives) that you plan to complete in the coming weeks or months, such as lose 10 pounds, complete an Ironman, or boost your deadlift 1RM by 25%. Doing so would lead you to a conclusive outcome when your deadline arrives—either you succeeded or you didn’t. Still, while having a defined goal is a good start, the odds of success hinge on a willingness to embrace change and shun inertia. “Our brains are extremely effective in managing the status quo,” says John Sullivan, Psy. D., clinical sport psychologist/applied sport scientist and founder of Clinical & Sports Consulting Services. “However, we also have an outstanding ability to change—also known as self-directed neuroplasticity. Relying upon rituals and having plans when roadblocks develop will allow for more consistent progress.” And roadblocks will develop, which is why we came up with a list of ones you might encounter en route to the finish line. More important, we asked experts for advice to help you avoid them.
1. RESOLUTION: BECOME A MORNING PERSON
BENEFIT: Hitting the weights before work removes schedule conflicts and frees up your evenings to socialize and/or fight crime.
SETBACK: You habitually stay up too late and get touchy-feely with the snooze button.
THE FIX: Recruit a reliable and dedicated workout partner, or pony up for group classes or a personal trainer to provide a financial incentive to show up on time. “It’s easy to cancel on yourself, but it’s not as easy to back out on someone who’s waiting for you in the weight
room,” says trainer Rob Sulaver, C.S.C.S, owner of Bandana Training in New York City.
2. RESOLUTION: FOLLOW YOUR PROGRAM TO A “T”
BENEFIT: Never missing a set or rep will show you exactly how well your program works.
SETBACK: The January gym crowd does not respect your game plan.
THE FIX: Always be ready to call an audible—especially if you train during the pre- or post-work gym rush. Save a handful of 15- to 20-minute body-weight and high-intensity workouts on your smartphone to get you in and out during peak times. (You can find plenty at muscleand fitness.com.) Also, know which moves to sub in if foot traffic prevents you from using certain equipment. For example, do goblet squats or kettlebell jump squats when the squat rack is taken.
3. RESOLUTION: NEVER MISS A WORKOUT
BENEFIT: Obvious—you’ll get huge and shredded!
SETBACK: Things like work obligations, family emergencies, or the zombie apocalypse are bound to pop up unexpectedly.
FIX IT: Reword your goal. Tell yourself that you’ll never miss out on getting to the gym four or five times per week. Tweaking the exact schedule might be necessary. “People fail to understand that consistency will help them achieve their desired outcome,” says chef and former bodybuilder Carlo Filippone, CEO of Elite Lifestyle Cuisine. “Missing a workout or having a few bad meals is not the end of the resolution—it’s just a missed workout or a bad meal.”
4. RESOLUTION: EAT CLEAN 24/7
BENEFIT: You’ll be less inflamed, consume more nutrients, and enjoy bigger gains.
SETBACK: A monochromatic diet gets old fast and can create powerful cravings to cheat.
THE FIX: Expand food variety and enhance flavors using healthy seasonings like ginger, turmeric, hot chili powder, Sriracha, and other herbs and spices that are low in carbs or sugar. “Make meals memorable and something you crave, or else you’ll be quick to crave unhealthier things,” explains Leslie Bonci, R.D., C.S.S.D., L.D.N. “Eating should be an enjoyable occasion instead of a ‘hurry up and eat since I don’t like this anyway’ scenario. You won’t be successful if you don’t have flavor in what you do, both in life and your diet.”
5. RESOLUTION: GET YOUR SIXPACK BACK
BENEFIT: You’ll be forced to reevaluate your diet and eliminate the junk.
SETBACK: After two weeks of training hard and dieting you’re not nearly as shredded as you expected to be, so you start cheating more because, well, why not?
THE FIX: Be patient. “People often fail to understand that you cannot take off in one week what you have put on in 10 months,” says Filippone. Don’t think of success in such absolute terms, either. If you slip once or twice out of 20 meals, you’re still doing well. “That’s a 90% success rate,” Filippone says.
6. RESOLUTION: STOP BUYING JUNK
BENEFIT: No junk in the fridge translates to less junk in the trunk.
SETBACK: You forgot to toss out the holiday leftovers—and booze. Snacking on them creates a domino effffect that ends with your resurrecting old eating habits.
THE FIX: “Clear the clutter.” advises Bonci, owner of Active Eating Advice and sports dietitian for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Toronto Blue Jays, and the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s not enough to swear off new purchases of crappy food if you’ve still got a fridge and freezer full of crap. “Even though you packed your Christmas cookies away in the freezer so they’re not sitting out for easy munching, the plan is to stay away from empty calories— so why are they in there at all?”