New Years Resolution. n [blah-blah-blah]: A vague course of action decided on a whim, carried out with as little commitment as possible, towards a hugely unrealistic target.
The above is pretty much what New Years resolutions mean to me. It is a cynical definition established over the years of working in the fitness industry and witnessing the above definition play out repeatedly. I couldn’t be less inspired when I hear of all the lofty goals with no plan of action to back them up.
Don’t worry this isn’t going to turn into another rant – I amn’t immune to the lure of a good old resolution either! I have made many resolutions which I haven’t seen through BUT over time I have looked into why I haven’t succeeded and made changes that would make the chance of failure less likely the next time around. The worst thing possible is to make the same mistakes over and over again and not ask yourself why this is happening. You should always learn from your mistakes.
I’m going to chime in with what I would recommend for anyone looking to undertake and succeed in any goals or challenges – I hate the term resolutions ’cause automatically I think half arsed attempts and failures.
First up, I always use this time of year to take stock, now more so that ever. It used to be about identifying personal targets for myself for the coming 12 months but now it also involves targets for the gym so I get to do twice as much planning / scheming. I like to write everything down that I would like to achieve in the coming year and keep this somewhere safe (obvious but important to repeat none the less) then at the end of the year, read back on it and see how things have panned out.
This is another way of keeping yourself accountable and it can also keep things realistic. For instance, I wasn’t overly happy with the past 12 months, particularly on a personal level but reading back on last years list, I had actually managed to achieve nearly all of what was on my list. So it helped put things in perspective for me and also underlines the fact that we grow and evolve, targets do change and for all the planning in the world, life has a habit of throwing a spanner in the works at any stage and when that happens we just have to roll with the punches and adapt as best we can. These obstacles make achieving our goals even more satisfying!
This would be my first step – clearly identify your goals AND WRITE THEM DOWN. It can be an online blog, diary or scrap of paper but make sure it is somewhere you won’t lose it.
Be specific with your targets. Not ‘I’d like to lose some weight‘, or ‘I’d like to get stronger’. Give yourself numbers and deadlines.
There is no point in setting a goal or target if you have no real understanding of where you are now. I am all for aiming high but in all honesty this can be counter productive and will most likely lead to frustration, an early failure and derailment if targets are unrealistic. It’s all well and good to proclaim you are going to lose 5 stone in a year, win a national title etc. after your tenth drink on New Years but when it’s a cold wet Monday evening in the middle of January and the football is on TV and the fire is blazing, what are you going to do?? Every journey starts with a single step. Have a long term target but from there, chart out milestones leading up to this – time-lines are a good idea also, it makes things more tangible. Tell people about your plans – try the old tested method of telling someone who you know will hold you to your targets or even revel in your failure to achieve these targets, put yourself into a position where you can’t fail! MAKE YOURSELF ACCOUNTABLE!
If you have a poor track record for making big changes – then make small ones! Start small. Make changes where you are sure you can comply and succeed. If it just means cutting back on junk food initially or alcohol one evening a week, then do that – remember those small landmarks and checkpoints. Over time they all add up.
With this in mind, make things as easy as possible. For example, bring your training gear to work – especially if it’s going to be a long day at the office. Don’t leave your gear at home when we both know going home will mean getting cosy and putting the gym off till next week. Unfortunately no one ever achieved anything worthwhile by being cosy. If you are trying to drop weight and cleaning up your diet, don’t fill your kitchen with Ben and Jerry’s, chocolate etc. Its not rocket science.
We only have a limited reserve of will power and it does wear out – don’t waste it on choices that you could have avoided having to make in the first place.
My own training in 2011 was terrible. I suffered a bad back injury at the end of 2010 and it has taken almost exactly 12 months to get over. There were numerous times when I was frustrated but by keeping my targets realistic and checking off those small milestones along the way, I eventually got back to where I was before the injury. I was training wherever I could but the added pressure of going out on my own and starting up a business and also all of the planning that goes into programming classes and personal training sessions for clients, I had lost a lot of focus in my own training and had started drifting – I had lost sight of my goals. In order to get myself back on track, I enlisted the help of a coach I looked up to. Not only was I now paying for coaching, I was now communicating with a coach that inspired me and I obviously didn’t want to look like a slacker or fail in front of him. I had just raised my own level of accountability. I also started a training blog to help me keep track of everything and also be more aware of other variables that will affect my training (food, sleep, stress), so if anything goes wrong I can see exactly what happened and make changes so that it doesn’t happen again.
So the result of making myself accountable? I have had the best 4 weeks of training that I have had all year and am going into this New Year stronger and healthier than last year. It may seem strange to you guys that I am getting someone else to program my own training but it is something that a lot of coaches do (have you heard the expression ‘only a fool coaches himself’) and in all honesty I wish I had done this sooner.
Whenever I have been successful it has when I have been focusing on those small steps not the end target – measure the actions, not the outcomes. Just focus on turning up at the gym, keep the next meal good, get to bed a half hour earlier…
So I guess the take away point of this post is to take stock of your training over the past 12 months – how has it gone? If it has gone well, then great – you are ahead of the pack, maybe aim a little higher this year. If it hasn’t gone well then take an honest look as to why it hasn’t. One of the best things you can do is take an objective and brutally honest look at things. The worst thing I see is people that are in denial or completely bullshitting themselves; the terrible part is that they genuinely think they are convincing everyone around them. Take a brutally honest look at things and change what needs to be changed. Track things, if you aren’t making progress than something is wrong.
Get a bit of paper and write down your targets for 2012, everything – training goals, personal goals, professional goals (they all blur into one thing for me at this stage!). Personally I write these down and don’t look at them until the end of the year but if you find you are faltering or losing focus, have a look and see what you need to do to get back on track or maybe like me, you will find that you haven’t strayed too far from your original targets, just your new found focus and progress is allowing you to aim higher.
If you are not sure where to start, ask me. That is what I am here for. Tell me your goals (training goals obviously) and I can make you accountable and also advise on the best way to achieve them. Whether it is diet changes, extra training to be doing outside of the gym or some simple lifestyle changes etc. Looking for outside support is encouraged! Even get a friend involved, the more support the better BUT ultimately it will only really work once there is enough at stake and you HAVE to make changes.
I hope some of this helps and gives you guys some ideas to attack the New Year with a direct and measurable plan and if things start to go a little off track, don’t panic either, refer to your original list of goals or look to get outside help and advice – I will help anyway I can! Good luck for 2012!