How to Start the New Years Right
Author - Stephen Griffith C.S.C.S.
It’s a New Year, and a time for a new beginning. The changing of the calendar serves for as time to for evaluate their lives and setting goals for the new year.
We all want to feel better which is why the most common resolutions are health related. Whether it be to lose weight, go to the gym more often, get stronger, eat better, or look better, I’m here to help.
And the numbers suggest you need it.
Statistics report that only 9% of people succeed with there resolutions and that almost half fail by February.
I help people transform their bodies for a living, and I can say the the number one reason people fail is due to their approach.
So in this article I will go over how to set yourself up for success for this new year.
I will go over adopting the right mindset, how to set good goals, how to identify and overcome the obstacles preventing you from taking action, and then how to make a plan to achieve your goal.
The key to accomplishing any goal starts with a good attitude.
"You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you." - Brian Tracy
Here’s where to start
Acknowledge the difficulty
Your first step is to acknowledge the difficulty of the task ahead. Studies have shown that individuals who acknowledge the potential difficulties of a task are more likely to persevere through adversity and succeed. Those who underestimate the difficulty of a task are unable to cope with challenge when they meet the inevitable setback.
There are two types of mindset - Growth mindsets and Fixed mindsets. Here's how renown psychologist Carol Dweck defines each.
“In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.
In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.”
Maybe the single most important action you can make for your success in fitness (and life) is adopting a growth mindset. Understand that your body, habits, and skills are malleable - that is subject to change. You are not doomed to fail. You are the master of your fate, and with a little effort and a focus on improvement you will achieve your goals.
Obstacle is the way
Obstacles will arise, setbacks will happen. Your success is determined by how you respond to these challenges. Don’t take obstacles as a sign from the heavens to quit, but rather as an opportunity to learn and grow. Aim to figure out a solution to your problem, and keep trying till you figure it out. If you need advice you can always send a message over to me!
It will take time
How many times have you heard the story - or experienced it - of the person who goes on a diet , loses several pounds, only to gain it back just as quickly as they lost it.
Quick and easy sounds great but never works. The reason is because these fad diets or shortcuts never address the habits and behaviors that are key to sustainable results.
For results that last recognize that it may take time. Master the skills, enjoy the journey, and you’ll never have to look back. Remember this - The longer it takes to achieve a result, the longer it will last.
A common mistake is to make to be overzealous and make a goal that is unrealistic. Sch as losing 50 pounds or going to the gym 5 days a week. The goal becomes so daunting and demanding that eventually when the person can't keep up they quit.
It's good to have a long term vision, but start with smaller more manageable goals. Long term success is built upon good habits and behaviors. Build them incrementally and celebrate each accomplishment.
As Lewis Carroll said “ If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” hey say, a to your training and actions.
Unfortunately most resolutionist fail because they don’t specifically define where they want to go. A goal like “I want to be healthier” is an example of a goal that will fail.
A good goal should adhere to the SMART Principles. A SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Oriented.
Below I’ll walk you through each principle and you can use the worksheet attached to help make your own SMART goals.
Use the worksheet below to help make your own SMART goals for the new year.
What do you want to accomplish?
Why Do you want to Accomplish it?
How will you feel once you accomplish the goal?
Be specific with your goals - Don’t say “I want to lose weight”. Try “ I want to lose 20lbs”
A specific goal gives you something tangible to work towards.
Next figure out why you want to achieve this goal. It may take a little soul searching but know that a good why is what will keep you going on those cold mornings when you don’t want to get out of bed.
Lastly take a moment to visualize yourself once you accomplish your goal. Describe how you will feel once you do. Live and breathe that feeling of success.
How will I measure my Progress?
How will I know when the goals Accomplished?
“You can't manage what you don’t measure”. Measurements provide feedback to let you know that you are seeing progress and also allow you to make adjustments when you aren't.
How can the goal be accomplished?
What are the logical steps I should take?
Do I have the resources to accomplish this goal?
Don’t set yourself up for failure by picking a goal that is too big and cannot be achieved. Be sensible. If your goal is to big, try breaking it down into a something smaller and more manageable. Focus on losing 10 lbs before you focus on losing 100.
Is it a worthwhile goal?
Is this inline with my long term objectives?
I had a client who wanted to build muscle and get stronger. However, she went ahead and signed up to run a marathon because she thought it would be a good accomplishment. Unfortunately her progress was slowed and she was unhappy because the marathon goal did not align with what she actually wanted to accomplish.
Think about your goal and why your setting it, then ask if that’s really what you want to achieve.
How long will it take to accomplish this goal?
When is the completion of this goal due?
When am I going to work on this goal?
Short Term Benchmarks?
Deadlines make things happen. When it comes to exercise the same applies. Set goals and realistic times spans in which to achieve them.
Having a timeline on your goal will help keep you motivated and on track. Remember to use the deadlines as a goal to strive towards. Setbacks will arise. When they do, adjust your plan and move forward - do not take it as a failure.
If you have large goal I suggest breaking it up into smaller benchmarks.
For example, your long term goal may be to lose 20 pounds. A reasonable short term goal would be to lose 1lb per week.
Closing The Gap
So you’ve taken the time to get your mind right and your goals set. Now it’s time to identify the gaps that lie between you and your goals. To achieve your goals we must start by identifying and then filling in the gap.
There are 5 gaps we need to look at - Knowledge, Skill, Motivation/Attitude, Habit and Environment.
For each I provide a few questions for identifying what gaps you need address.
For more detail and actionable tips on how to fix it see my article -
A knowledge Gap comes from a lack of information. Look at your goal, and ask yourself if you know what you need to do specifically to achieve it.
For example if your goal is weight loss, then ask yourself if you know what's needed to lose the 20 lbs you set as your goal? Sure you’ll need to exercise and eat right but do you know the specifics?
Do you know what exercises you should be doing? How often you should be doing them? And how to Progress them once it becomes easy?
Do you know what you should be eating? And how much?
If the answer is no, then this is a gap that needs to be filled if you want to
There is knowing and then there is doing. A gap in your skills means that you may know what to do, but may still be unable to do so.
For example - Let’s say you know that you must weight train to help build lean muscle, burn fat, and tone your body for the physique you desire and you have a workout program designed to do so.
Now ask yourself - Can I perform each of these exercises correctly and confidently?
Can I perform a squat, a push up, or a deadlift?
Likewise on the nutrition side - let's say you know what to eat. Are you equipped to cook it? Do you know how to meal prep?
If the answer is no, then you need to work on developing your skills.
Motivation/ Attitude Gap
Maybe you know what to do and how to do it but you choose not to.
Maybe you don’t know what to do, but the thought of expending effort to learn seems too daunting.
In either situation, your issue is motivation and that's where you need to start.
Is there a behavior that needs to be done automatically and without conscious effort?
Or is there a behavior that is automatic but you need to stop doing?
Habits take the thinking out of action. Going to the gym and meal prepping are two examples of behaviors that you would want to make into habit.
Likewise you may want to rid yourself of a detrimental habit such as smoking.
In both cases your goal should be to address your behaviors and habits.
I strongly Recommend you check out the above program. It is a simple program designed around building your consistency for coming to the gym.
Is your environment conducive to your goals?
Do you have access to recreational activities? Access to a gym?
Do you have friends or family who support your new healthier lifestyle?
Do you have access to healthy foods? Do you cook? Do you have a healthy option to eat out?
Do you have time or finances to invest in yourself?
All of thee above are elements of your environment that will affect your goals. If your environment is not supportive of your goals then you must start their.
Again - to find actionable tips go to my article
Making a Plan
“Failure to plan is planning to fail”
Having a plan will help to direct your efforts and put you in a position where you are executing and taking action instead of wasting time or energy trying to decide what you should be doing.
A Training Program acts to bridge the gap between present you and future you.
We’ve already taken time to identify what your goals are. The next step before we can find a plan to get you there is to figure out where you are starting from.
Establishing a Starting point
While I can’t give you a full description here, I will give you a brief description of each area you should assess before you get started. Since exercise and nutrition play the biggest roles in the outcome of your goals I will focus on those.
Let’s start with nutrition and your food habits.
What you eat is the most important factor affecting how you look. Additionally a well balanced, nutrient dense diet helps support your workouts, recovery , and supplies you with energy throughout the day. I cannot overstate the importance.
Because of how important diet is to your success, it’s imperative that we check in and see how your meals are currently.
I start each of my clients off with a food log. My preferred method is for my clients to take a picture of each of their meals. Pictures allow you to see all your meals and portions at a quick glance while taking very little time.
Since I’m not there to calculate your macronutrients (carbs, fats, protein) or how many calories your consuming I suggest you download the Myfitnesspal App or another calorie.
They will give you an estimation of how many calories you’ve consumed , and from what sources they came from.
Once you know how your meals are right now, you can then begin making adjustments so that your eating habits are supportive of your goal.
Your food log will include - picture, myfitnesspal entry, and a brief description of how you felt after the meal. Did you feel full, bloated, uncomfortable, satisfied, ect.
Do this for at least 3 days - preferably 2 weeks days and a weekend to get a good assessment.
A great info-graphic on how to prepare a balanced meal.
Once you know what to eat the next step is to realize what actions you need to take to make your goal a reality.
Body Composition is the makeup of your body and includes measurements such as weight, height and, body fat. IF you are someone who wants to change the physique of your body, then it’s important that you assess and track your body composition.
Below is a brief intro to 4 easy ways to do so. Each has limitations, so I suggest using all 4 for a complete picture. If one measurement is off but the others are moving in the right direction then you know there's nothing to worry about.
Scale - The scale measures weight and is a good indicator of food quantity. Food quantity is how much your eating. If you eat more than you burn it goes up, if you eat less it goes down.
Circumference- This measurements measures the girth of a limb such as the waist, hips, arms, or thighs. It’s a measurement of food quantity and muscle mass.
Body Fat % - This is a measurement of the ratio of fat to muscle mass. It’s the best indicator of how lean you are.
The simplest and most common way to measure body fat% is using BIA(Bioimpedance)
This is often found in handheld devices or on scales and is a way of calculating body fat percentage. It’s useful with its ease to use but are prone to inaccuracy. For best results use the following tips
Perform in the morning
Be well hydrated - dehydration will overestimate hydration (fatter)
Before exercising - Exercise will underestimate body fat (leaner)
Empty Stomach - Eating will overestimate body fat (fatter)
Chances are what you care about most is how your body looks. A picture is the simplest way to measure how your bodies aesthetics are changing. Take pictures every 2-4 weeks at regular intervals and compare the differences. Keep the lighting and location the same for most accurate pictures.
Now let’s look into a few areas you should assess before starting an exercise program. These questions will help give you direction when you make/find a training program.
Your experience will determine where you should start within a training program.
Beginners see quick results and require very simple programs. As you become more advanced the workouts must become tougher. Finding the right level of challenge will provide the best results.
Beginner - less than 6 months of continuous training experience
Intermediate - 6 months - 2 years in a discipline
Advanced - 2+ years in a discipline
Any good program should focus on movement. So before you begin a program, make sure that your able to move well.
Start by answering these questions
How well do each of your joints move? Foot, Ankle, Knee, Hip, Back, Shoulders
If the joints can move well individually, then ask if they can move well together.
Are you able to perform basic movements such as a push up, squat, deadlift, or row with good form and without pain?
If not, then movement is where you want to start your training journey.
Capacity and Fitness
Once you can perform movements with good form, look into improving capacity.
Test your strength, speed, power, and endurance.
Find a test, perform it, then retest at a later date to check your improvement.
The other useful way to measure progress is with a training log.
Log your workout, and each time you come to the gym, aim to improve upon the last.
Availability to train
How much time do you have to train?
How many days?
You will want to make a workout plan that fits to your availability. Your availability will help determine how your workout is structured. For example if you only had two days to workout you would be best served with two full body workouts. If you had 5 days per week then you may be better served with a bodybuilding split or a combination of full body workouts and cardiovascular workouts.
Identify potential challenges that may arise such as lack of time. With each obstacle or challenge come up with a solution.
Obstacle - I may not be able to train in the evenings because I work late.
Solution - I will set my alarm earlier and exercise before work.
In its simplest terms your success comes down to being consistent and progressively challenging your body.
Its simple, but it ain’t easy - setbacks and challenges are inevitable.
That’s why everything I’ve gone over in this article is designed to either minimize or overcome the potential challenges that could compromise your consistency.
In summary it starts with the right mindset. Your attitude will determine how you respond to the inevitable obstacle.
Follow the mindset of creating a good plan. A plan puts you into execution mode, not decision mode. That is important because every time you have to make a choice or decide, what to do is another opportunity for you to choose wrongly.
Contrast that to having a plan - You know what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat it. All you have to do is execute. When you go to the gym, you know what exercises to do as opposed to wandering around trying to figure out what to do.
It’s a New Year, and if you follow the tips I outline above you will be successful in your resolutions.