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8 ways to set yourself up for fitness success in 2019

Belfast PT and nutritionist Alan Waterman shares his tips for starting the new year right

By Alan Waterman

You probably don’t need me to remind you that 2019 is just around the corner.

And as you already know, January is the perfect time for the 'new year, new me' mindset to kick in. However, with all the hustle and bustle of Christmas to get through before then, it can be all too easy to ignore the fact that we still have an entire month where we can already begin to get a head start on those New Year’s weight loss and fitness goals.

But why shouldn’t we make the most of it?

Or at least, why shouldn’t we use it to prepare as best as possible for the start of the New Year?

If you don't want to find yourself facing January 1 with no idea of how to get started on working towards those goals, check out my top 8 tips for giving yourself the very best chance of success.

1. Get a clear idea of your goals

Trying to work towards something you’re not 100% sure of is like trying to find the way to your destination without a map. It can be incredibly difficult to know what action to take, and often will lead to many of us simply spinning our wheels - the ultimate motivation killer. Taking the time to determine what precisely it is we want to achieve provides us with some real clarity, which not only helps generate and sustain our initial motivation, but can give us a better insight to what our action plan will be.

Rather than thinking "I want to lose weight" or "I want to get fit,” we should aim to be more specific in our goalsetting, i.e. “I want to drop a dress size”, “I want to be able to run a 5K,” etc.

2. Tailor your diet approach

One of the biggest problems with New Year’s fitness goals is that people tend to try and achieve them by the end of January. This typically means extreme, unsustainable approaches, which either will be too intense to stick to or fail to produce any long-lasting results.

Our aim should instead be to produce a diet approach which is sustainable enough to see it roll into 2020 and every year after that. A huge determining factor in the sustainability of a diet is whether it is tailored as much as possible to our own personal preferences; i.e. how convenient it is for us, if we like the foods it includes, if it fits around our lifestyle, etc. We shouldn’t just blindly jump into an extreme/restrictive diet approach- we should take the time instead to figure out exactly what will make our diet sustainable for us, and build it around that.

3. Be accountable

It can be all too easy to take our foot off the pedal when we know there’s nobody holding us accountable for achieving what we said we would. It's one thing to feel as if we have let ourselves down, but an entirely different thing to feel as if we have let others down. The truth is, however, that we will more often be willing to settle for letting ourselves down when the going gets tough to avoid disappointing others.

It might sound like emotional blackmail, but the fear of disappointing those around us delivers a huge incentive to maintain our efforts. Announcing our goals to others develops a system of accountability that can help spur us on to remain consistent.

It often also develops a positive support network, which can be invaluable for those times when we do find ourselves struggling.

4. Get scheduling

You plan all the other important things in your life, so why wouldn’t you do the same when it comes to helping achieve your fitness goals?

When things get left to chance, they often don’t happen (despite our best intentions), but by planning into our diary the essentials of what we need to be doing to help work closer towards those goals, we have a much greater chance of completing them, rather than just hoping we find the time.

From one week to the next, this might be when we aim to exercise, do our food shop, any required food preparation etc. planned in around work schedules, family commitments, and hobbies. If it’s scheduled, we know in advance that we’ve set aside the time to actually do it.

5. Prioritize yourself - but strike a balance

Aiming to make our fitness goals a priority may seem selfish to some, but in reality it is very much the opposite.

It is incredibly important that we balance the time and effort we put into working towards our fitness goals amongst the other areas of importance such as work and family, but at the same time we do need to prepare to make it a priority.

This goes far beyond just 'looking' better. Improving our health and fitness will carry over into the energy we can put towards being more focused and productive at work, being more attentiv eat home and less moody around loved ones, and even improving our own mental state. If we want to see improvements in these other areas, developing our fitness is a fantastic way to do so, but should never be at the expense of jeopardizing the balance with the other areas that matter.

6. Don’t overdo the training

Everyone knows that New Year’s fitness goals means going hard and heavy 6 days a week, right? After all, we want results quickly!

All well and good, until we completely burn out or manage to pick up an injury.

Ever wonder why gyms are packed at the start of January, but back to normal by March? It’s because too many of us adopt a 'go hard or go home' training approach, which lacks in proper rest, recovery, and management of intensity. Not to mention the fact that it is often too difficult to balance amongst our other priorities.

A training plan, like our diet, should very much be tailored towards us as individuals- there’s no sense aiming for a 6-day a week programme if we can realistically only commit the time to 3. Factoring in enough recovery time throughout our week is also essential for avoiding burnout, as well as keeping our risk of injury down. The enthusiasm to train every day is great, but it often doesn’t work so well in practice.

7. Prepare for the long haul

You’re not going to like this, but it’s something that many will need to hear: The reality of sustainable weight loss is that it typically takes longer than we initially assume it will.

Patience is key, and is part of what will not only help us achieve our results, but also maintain them. It might be great to think that we could achieve our goals in eight weeks, but if that means a more demanding, intense, unpleasant approach, we’ll be lucky to see through the eight weeks let alone sustain the approach beyond that.

However, if we could achieve them in a much more comfortable fashion across 12 weeks, it gives us a much greater chance of being able to see those results being maintained. Sometimes slower really is better!

8. Recognize the truth about motivation

The biggest thing we fail to recognize about motivation is that it is fleeting.

Many of us assume that when it comes to pursuing our fitness goals, we should feel motivated all the time, but this isn’t the case! Motivation can fluctuate from day to day, yet many of us are too willing to throw the towel in at the first sign of struggle rather than accepting the fact that it’s normal to see our motivation levels vary.

We should be prepared to make a lot of effort right at the start of the New Year when we do feel highly motivated, but we might find that we need to take our foot off the pedal a little and adopt a lesser effort level approach when we find our motivation levels dipping.

This might not mean making leaps and bounds of progress but should certainly be enough to cruise for a while, or at least maintain the results that we have. We shouldn’t rely on motivation to carry us towards our goals, because it often won’t be there as much as we want it to be.

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