It's that time of year. We've all made those pesky resolutions and have "started on the path" to whatever that goal may be. But I'm going to give you a secret about the fitness resolutions that some fail to tell you about. Perhaps it's a spilling the beans on what most gyms will try to sell you on and what you could better do to make sure you achieve your resolutions (especially in fitness).
To be quite honest, I started working in a big box gym at the beginning of 2017 right as all the New Year's Resolutioners passed the month mark. I was quickly trained in how to use fear/scare/guilt tactics to get people to buy Personal Training packages that I personally believe were over priced. I was told to remind people that "most people give up on resolutions by week 6," and that "making progress was going to require training 'x' times per week for 'x' amount of weeks." Sadly, those things do work.
Now, I am not saying that these are all bad, because Personal Trainers have to make a living and they honestly don't often make as much as people think when working for some of these big chain gyms. But I want you to know that there are other, and potentially better, ways to to approach reaching your resolutions when it comes to health, fitness, or strength.
Now, the biggest thing we have to consider when trying to reach some fitness objective is that long term consistency will always beat out short term intensity. While that pro-rated personal training package that expires next month is good for motivation, it doesn't do you much good in the long term. Most people don't like to admit this though, because we often treat our goals for change like the consumers we've grown up to be: once we get the goal we enjoy it briefly then throw it away. Your health doesn't work like that.
What I want you to understand, before I give you a plan to reach your resolution, is that health, fitness, and strength are not "purchases". They're investments. And to reap the long term rewards and dividends takes patience and a smarter approach to how you manage them.
We don't put down payments on our health, we put consistent small payments into it over time and it accumulates to a wealth that allows us to retire (except retiring from health and fitness pursuits shouldn't really happen). We invest our time and efforts in small doses over time, and in the long term change our lifestyle to get the better outcome we want.
So here's something actionable, because I find it necessary to give you a little bit of boost as to how to start investing in your health and not purchasing it. If you've ever sent me a message or an email asking for advice on how to get your health back or improve your fitness, then I've probably already given you some version of this 4 week plan.
Week 1: Take a Daily 10 Minute Walk
People often joke about the daily little snapshot I post on social media of my 10 minute walking habit, but it's the first thing I suggest for people trying to set health and fitness goals. Why? Because walking 10 minutes a day accumulates to 70 minutes over the course of the week, and is a minimal effort thing that you can do to daily in the process of setting goals. There's also some benefit in that your body shifts into a parasympathetic state, making your body/mind relax more. This has benefits for both losing weight or gaining muscle, and in general it's good for the heart.
Week 2: Continue to Walk + Make Your Bed Every Morning
Most of us have seen Admiral William McCraven's commencement speech regarding making your bed every morning and why it is beneficial. I find it also pertinent to share that is also starts shifting your mindset slightly, and begins the compounding of daily habits that aren't just about health. The biggest factor in making any progress in your health (whether it's losing/gaining weight, or improving blood markers at the doctors office) is reframing your lifestyle to be more conducive to making changes, and setting up habits that facilitate that change.
Week 3: Make Your Bed + Take A Daily Walk + Eat Breakfast Every Morning
Essentially, we're layering a life habit on top of a health habit, on top of a combination habit. When you eat breakfast every morning, you're likely to start your day off a bit happier because you are fed. You're less likely to binge on unhealthy food later because you're not starving. And you get your metabolism going. It may require getting up 10 minutes earlier, but the "tiredness" you feel will likely wear off quickly once you get food in your belly.
Week 4: Make Your Bed + Eat Breakfast + Take a Daily Walk + Workout Twice
Doesn't matter when you workout, but at some point you should complete two actual workouts during the week. It doesn't need to be crazy, but it does need to be more intense than your 10 minute walk and fit within the parameters for meeting your goals. Two workouts, and they don't even have to be long or done in a gym. They just need to be more than what you were doing activity wise the week before.
Now, this whole plan could go on for weeks. But the first 4-6 weeks are the crucial aspect of resolutions because we need to form habits and define our commitment to the goal. That's all that plan listed above is: a progressive layering of daily habits that will yield long term results.
This is the thing I can't stress enough, because most people fail to realize that true success in health and fitness resolutions are often tackled head on and with high intensity. But we're running a marathon. Most of the fit people you see online were born that way or they have been working at it for years. We don't want to push so far that you burnout and quit after 4 weeks, but we want to make gradual changes over time. In the end, this 4 week plan is something that can help you start to make those gradual changes, and end up creating a long term sustainable impact on your health.