Welcome to 2016! If you made a New Years Resolution it's more than likely that it was fitness related. As a personal trainer and a gym owner you might think this is just wishful thinking on my part. However, a 2015 Nielsen Survey found that “staying fit and healthy” was the top 2015 resolution, coming in at 37%, followed closely by “lose weight” (32%). (1)
This means that if this year is anything like last most of you 2016 "Resolutionaries" will be starting anew or reinvigorating an existing (perhaps neglected) fitness routine. As a personal trainer, massage therapist and reluctant nutritionist it gives me profound satisfaction to see people making improvements to their health, fitness and overall well-being. So, if your resolution does involve a new workout routine, know that I'm in your corner routing for your success. To support you in that effort let me offer 3 pieces of advice:
1 Plan Ahead
The most important factor in making progress is consistency. You need to be able to show up for a workout or progress just won't happen. At a minimum I think you should participate in some form of physical activity for an hour at least 3 to 4 times per week. Take a look at your calendar and figure out the days and times when you are most likely to show up motivated for those workouts and then build your new schedule around those days. This will involve moving other responsibilities around and a little pre planning will help reduce conflicts that might knock your new fitness routine of track. Also if you have people that are used to reaching you at your new workout times let them know in advance that your availability will be changing.
2 Make Incremental Changes
You've heard the saying that Rome wasn't built in a day and you're not going reach your fitness goals in a single day either. Eagerness and motivation are essential to achieving your goals but they need to be managed. If you push yourself too fast-too far beyond your current level of fitness you'll be at high risk for disappointment and/or injury and either can slow or completely derail your progress. I like the 10% rule. The basic concept behind that rule is to not increase the challenge of your current workout by more than a 10% each time you progress. For example, if you are strength training with 100lbs of weight in a particular exercise then don't add more than 10 extra lbs to that exercise. Also be aware of other variables such at number of repetitions or sets that you are doing. By increasing those at the same time you are increasing the weight, cumulatively you may be accelerating the challenge of the exercise by a lot more than 10%. Each increase in difficulty of your workout adds new stress to your body. If these new stresses come in controlled measured amounts your body reacts in beneficial ways, like building new muscle tissue. If you intensify your workouts too much at one time you run the risk over stressing your body and it can react negatively by becoming fatigued or injured. The 10% rule can be applied no matter what your workout of choice is. If you are running you can increase distance, speed, uphill grade etc. Make sure if you increase one of those variables by a full 10% that you leave the others alone until your your level of condition has improved to meet the new demands.
If you are just getting started with a brand new routine get comfortable before you add any challenges. Go to the gym and start with exercises you know how to do at intensities you KNOW you can handle. Ask the gym staff for help. Walk before you jog before you run before you sprint. Etc, etc. Once you feel comfortable with a core routine of exercises you can start applying the 10% rule.
3 Build a Support Network
Take the team approach. Involving other supportive individuals can exponentially increase your chances of success:
-Tell the people who want to see you succeed about your goals. They'll help to keep you motivated. Just knowing that someone else is watching your progress will inspire you to stick with it.
-Find a workout buddy and plan your sessions together; knowing that someone else is counting on you will cut down on letting a workout slide - Don't forget how important consistency is.
-Hire a coach or personal trainer. Not only will you benefit from their expert guidance but making a financial investment in your goals can add a new level commitment for seeing them through.
-Make sure your doctor is on board with your plans. This is especially important if you've never worked out before, if you have past or current injuries or if you have any diagnosed or undiagnosed medical conditions.
Kevin McCullough is a certified Personal Trainer, Massage Therapist and Nutrition Educator.