The new year is looming.
This can be a time of hope, when we look forward to all we plan to achieve in the year to come, and celebrate the successes of the year gone by, but it can also be a time of bitter frustration as things we would dearly love to change stubbornly persist...
I have learned a lot about New Year's Fitness goal setting, (mainly by setting impossible goals for myself and failing, for years!) and for whatever it's worth I am going to share it with you.
Set SMART Goals
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based.
Specific - Set out what you want to do in language that allows you to create an actionable plan to achieve it.
Measurable - Make your goal is something quantifiable that you can measure, so that you can track your progress towards achieving it.
Achievable - Goals need to be realistic. Something that can actually be completed. If you set a goal that is very difficult or impossible you will become demotivated, quickly.
Relevant - Your goals should feed into your overall ambitions. If you want to lose weight because you want to look great in a wedding dress in a year's time then set goals that align with this. Why are you doing this? What need is serviced by achieving it?
Time-based - Set time parameters for completion. You may hate deadlines but be honest, without them, nothing gets done!
Reduce my body fat to 20% of overall mass, to improve my martial arts performance, by the end of 2024.
You can make your life easier by breaking down your SMART goal into Short, Medium, and Long term goals to give you smaller goals to aim for.
Reduce body fat to 28% of overall mass, by the end of March 2024.
Reduce body fat to 24% of overall mass, by the end of June 2024.
Reduce body fat to 20% of overall mass, by the end of December 2024.
Make Lifestyle Changes Gradually
Small changes applied gradually achieve the longest lasting results. Taking on too much is the quickest way to make your best laid plans implode. For example, limit takeaways but don't cut them out completely.
If you're giving up smoking, GET HELP. The NHS has Smoke Free programmes that can help you to give up smoking. You don't get bonus points for going cold turkey and doing it on your own.
Don't plan to do heavy exercise EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. You will hate yourself for it halfway through the first week. A combination of Long Slow Duration Training (LSDT), e.g. walking, or using an exercise bike or elliptical trainer, Weight training, and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), yield excellent results in terms of body composition improvements.
I recommend my PT clients train once or twice a week with me, and try to do 90 minutes of LSDT spread over the course of a week (This could be as little as 15-20 minutes per day). If your nutrition is solid then for simple fat loss you don't really need to do any more than that, at least not when you're starting out.
Don't Weigh-in Too Often
Weighing in every day can quickly lead to frustration and disappointment as one day you'll seem to have lost weight and another you'll have gained it back plus extra! Unless you are incredibly consistent with your hydration, bathroom habits and diet (as in, everyday is exactly same!) then your weight will fluctuate. Weighing in every fortnight, weekly at the most, will give you a better idea of significant changes in you weight and body composition.
This is probably the hardest thing to learn. If you want to achieve your goals, you are the only person who can do it. If you suffer setbacks, think about what you can do better next time. Don't look for excuses. Identify obstacles to success and mitigate risks. If consuming alcohol leads to bad food choices later, don't go to the pub. If it's hard to resist the local sandwich shop at lunchtime when you're at work, leave your wallet or purse at home so you can't buy anything. If your partner, colleagues or friends are not supportive of your goals then a frank conversation can go a very long way: Communicate your needs. Stick to your guns. Accountability partners can help, someone who can hold you to your goals and who you can talk to when you're struggling, this could be your partner, a friend or your personal trainer.
Good luck in 2024. This is YOUR year. Now get out there and kill it!