The New Year is just around the corner, and with obesity rates at an all time high in the United States, it’s no wonder many American’s will be making resolutions for a healthier lifestyle.
In 2015 37% of American resolved to be healthier and fitter in the New Year, while 32% resolved to lose weight. That’s a lot of people. Unfortunately, a study by the University of Scranton suggests only about 8% of Americans make it to their goals for the New Year.
If you’re already into a fit lifestyle you know what I’m talking about. At the beginning of January the gym is suddenly packed with new faces and bodies. Then by February they start to trickle out and only one or two of those new faces hang around and become regulars.
Still, even if you have been a gym regular and are already working toward your healthier lifestyle, you may or may not have seen a lot of change in your body throughout the year. Keep in mind, that’s the greatest way to judge your decisions and improvement: how your body is changing. The workout tips below will help you make sure you’re on the straight and narrow road of working toward your goals efficiently.
It doesn’t matter if you’re just looking for a few results to better your workouts, or starting an entirely new regime in 2016, use these ten tricks to get yourself moving in the right direction and help set yourself up for success!
1. You should leave your cellphone in the car or locker
Very few, okay, probably no one can text, talk, or check their phone while in a full sprint on a treadmill, or while lifting weights over their head. Every time you slow down to answer a text or check an email it affects your concentration, heart rate, mind-muscle connection, and the intensity of your workout. When it comes to creating changes in your body and your life, you have to change the intensity in which you’re willing to work.
If you lose intensity so you can check a text or answer a phone call which can wait until later, you short change yourself on your goals. Want to see healthy changes this year, then get off the phone while you’re on the treadmill and push it up to an intensity where you have to focus to maintain. One good way to tell if you’re working hard enough is to check your sentences. If you can talk in a full sentence, you’re not working hard enough to ask the body to change.
2. You should skip watching TV or reading during exercises
Want to see changes sooner rather than later in your body? Then stay focused on what you’re doing and why. If you can pay enough attention to what’s on the TV or on a magazine to really understand what’s happening, then you’re probably not working hard enough to really pay off. Sure, you’re moving, which is exactly what the American Heart Association recommends to be healthy, but, if you’re looking for a specific change to your body, then you need to be present.
Doing leg extensions mindlessly while you’re reading your magazine or watching your favorite show doesn’t have your body working hard enough to force change. Try to work at an intensity which demands your focus. This is also a great way to begin building mental discipline, which you’ll need as you get closer and closer to your goals. Sure your mind might wander to begin with, or you’ll get bored within five minutes, but have a mantra or affirmation ready to focus on.
3. You should have an action plan for motivation
The day is going to come when things get hard…this is when you know you’re moving in the right direction. On that day you’ll be tired and want to skip the gym, too busy to go, or you’ll forget your food prep and just want to eat pizza, or maybe your friends are headed out for a night on the town and you’re invited. Don’t let all your hard work slip away without a fight. Remember, you’re building a new habit and it needs to take a little bit of precedence in your life, until said habit is firmly in place.
Old habits will pop right up if we let them, and getting back on the goal wagon is always harder than making the decision to stay with it. Know these days are going to happen, and have a plan for them. What are you going to do if you’re tired? Super busy? Forgot your food? Or want to go out?
Remember why you started and then think of small ways to keep yourself moving forward. Maybe a shorter workout, maybe just a stretch session at the gym, order a salad, or plan to go out but eat before so you won’t be tempted by fried food. Whatever your challenge might be, have a plan in place to set yourself up for success.
4. You should have a workout plan which aligns with your goals
How do you know if your body is changing, if you don’t know where you started and where you are? Better yet, how do you know if your plan is the best plan for you, if you’re not tracking it?If you’re wanting to lean out and get stronger, then a power lifter workout plan probably isn’t the best bet for you. If you’re wanting to build some muscle, and tone some trouble areas, then you’re going to need more than a treadmill or one loop around the weight machine circuit.
New Year’s resolutions are best achieved when linked to specific goals. Think: lose 15lbs this year versus just get in shape. To help you best reach whatever lifestyle resolution you have in mind it’s best to have a workout plan which lines up with your goals. There are a lot of different websites which can provide ideas, but make sure you find one with specific program and an administrator you can contact for help, if you need it.
Another great place to start is with a book such as Lou Schuler’s series called The New Rules of Weight Lifting.
5. You should have a workout which fits into your lifestyle
Life is busy. That’s just the way it is. Setting yourself up for success in the new year means making sure your new resolutions are achievable. If you work three jobs and start your day at 3am and end it at 7pm fitting in five one-hour workouts a week at the end of the day will probably seem a bit overwhelming. However, a couple nights a week you could pick a workout class, maybe a CrossFit program, a workout at home app, or even just chose to workout only two or three nights a week.
You don’t have to go all or nothing. Start with something which is achievable and enjoyable to you. If you’re not a bodybuilder or specific athlete you probably don’t need an exercise for each body part, but rather a more toned down program allowing you to be mentally present and push hard and make the most out of the time you do have.
6. You should get assistance with exercise form from a professional
There are a lot of people in the gym who look like they know what they are doing, but that doesn’t mean they are qualified to help or guide you. Yes, this includes your best friend who goes every day and will “help you”. Even if you’re a regular it never hurts to do a form check once a year with a professional. Spend some time writing down your favorite exercises and some struggles you’ve had and then check with your gym, a lot of times you can do a session with a trainer to help you spot any bad habits or weak areas in your form which could cause problems later.
If you’re new to the gym, ask about an orientation. Many gyms provide a free orientation with a trainer for one hour and this will give you a chance to ask about machines, weight rooms, and form. Make sure you go over basic body weight exercises if you do an orientation. Including modifications and how to tell if you’re doing the exercise correctly on your own.
7. You should have a plan for distractions
The more you go to the gym the more people you’ll get to recognize and the more you’ll have gym buddies. It’s great that you want to share and make friends, but have a quick action plan so you don’t waste precious time in the middle of your workout (or lose your heart rate and intensity) with small talk. Make a plan to catch up, or have an exit strategy after a quick hello. Otherwise before you know it, the 60 second rest between sets might turn into three or four minutes and you’ll start to cool down.
If you’re using your phone to listen to music, then put it on “Do Not Disturb” or “Airplane” mode to prevent any temptation. A good way to avoid getting distracted or talking too much is to know where you’re going and what you’re doing. Head in the direction of your warm up or first exercise with determination, this doesn’t mean you can’t smile and greet your gym friends, but don’t let it stop you from where you’re headed. They’ll understand and appreciate your drive.
8. You should use a workout log
How do you know if you’re getting better, if you don’t know where you started? A workout log will also help you to track your goals and progress. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a small notebook will do. Keep track of how long you ran, if you run, or how long you did cardio. Keeping track of your food here is a good idea too because it will let you see how what you eat impacts how well you feel and how well you workout.
Keep track of your reps and which weight you used. Doing so will let you know when it’s a good idea to increase weight, intensity, distance, or another variable in your program. It will also show you if your program is working or not. If you’ve been doing a program for 6 weeks and aren’t getting stronger, or your body is changing, maybe it’s not the right program for you. Keep in mind progress can be slow, but it’s still progress!! You’ll see progress if you’re tracking changes.
9. You should know your starting point and recognize what intensity means to you.
If you show up to the gym on your first day and go all out with a “no pain, no gain” mentality, you probably won’t be able to walk for a week and you’ll definitely not want to go back. Check with your gym and see if you can schedule a fitness test, or use one of the methods listed here. Five pounds may be more than enough weight for you, if the last three or four reps are really hard. If they are, then ignore the person next to you cranking out his own version of the same exercise.
Also, keep in mind you only want to be sore for about three days, and that third day you should be feeling better. If you’re really sore for much longer, you probably pushed too hard and stressed the body a bit much. If that happens, do some active recovery and light stretching, maybe some easy walking, and then adjust your workouts accordingly. Keep track of your workouts and you’ll know when you’re getting stronger.
10. You should make sure your self-talk is positive and affirming of your goals.
This is a great thing to learn for your entire day, not just your gym time. Keep in mind your body will respond better to an encouraging voice (yours) than someone screaming at it. Think about it, when someone yells at you all day how well do you perform at your job? How good do you feel? How exhausted? You may not even realize it, but the person screaming and chewing on you all day could be you. Want to see and feel better in your workouts? Then talk yourself through them with an “I can” attitude. As you’re lifting use a mantra connected to your goals and your ability to finish your workout.
As you step forward into the New Year do it with confidence in your ability to make lasting changes this year. Remember, new habits are created with a cue and a reward cycle. When you experience the cue (getting to the gym), you do the habit (shutting off your phone) and get a reward (a better workout which leaves you feeling accomplished). As a newbie or a gym veteran keep in mind starting is half the challenge.
Taking the time to change even one small thing, your schedule or routine will reflect in your workouts and your body. Make sure to share your goals and ask for help, if you flounder as you work toward them. If you slip, don’t berate yourself, decide to make a better decision immediately, count the things you’ve done right, and cheer yourself on with the passion of a full blown pep squad!
I have complete faith you’ll be stronger, healthier, and more confident in 2016.