New Year is the perfect time to set yourself fitness goals for 2014. But where do you start? And what’s going to inspire you to keep it up?
First of all, you need motivation. Spend some time thinking about what you would really like out of the coming year.
It's important to frame your goals in terms of the positive rather than the negative – that is, what you DO want rather than what you DON'T want. It's no good dwelling on the fact that you don't want to have that spare tyre sitting round your waist anymore, or that you want to get exercising in order to avoid getting heart disease. Think about the benefits.
Your resolution may be general such as become more active or improve your overall health. The easiest way to achieve this however is to aim towards a specific goal such as lose half a stone or do a 5k run. Challenge is the best way to keep motivated, whether it is small changes or big transformations we’re after.
That said, you need to make a goal both realistic and exciting. So while setting yourself the target of running a marathon might inspire you, if you’ve never actually run before you may find such a lofty goal beyond your physical capabilities. Worse, it will demotivate you if you don’t build up very slowly. Don’t expect Superman if you have to dust off your trainers.
Once you've got a good idea in your head of what you'd like to achieve, it's time to get SMART. You've probably heard of SMART goals. They're Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound. In order to work, your New Year's resolutions need to have the same characteristics:
- Specific: You need to know exactly what it is you're trying to achieve. Not “I want to get fit” but “I want to go to the gym three times a week.” Think about when, how, where and so on.
- Measurable: If you're going to stand a chance of achieving your goals, you need to be able to measure your progress. Not “I want to be stronger” but “I want to be able to bench press x pounds.”
- Attainable and Realistic: These ones are very subjective and need a certain degree of self-knowledge to be implemented. Running a marathon may be one man's realistic, attainable goal and another man's pipe dream. And what is realistic and attainable can shift over time – it's amazing what enormous and apparently impossible things can be achieved through the succession of small, attainable and realistic goals.
- Time-bound: Give yourself a specific time-frame in which to achieve a specific goal. This is a particularly weak spot for New Year's resolutions because, of course, they're often framed in terms of what you will achieve over the course of the New Year. That's fine for the really big, overarching goals. But the SMART goals that will get you there need to be more short-term. What will you have done by the end of January?
Whatever your overall goal is, break activities down into bite-sized chunks which you commit to doing several times each week.
Remember, challenge is the key. Here are a few ideas to start you off:
- 30 day squat challenge. A great place to begin is the popular squat challenge. There are various approaches, some starting at 10 daily squats, while others dive straight into 200 squats each day. The one thing they have in common is giving you a toned butt like you wouldn’t believe. Take some photos before and after to see the evidence for your own eyes.
- Visit a gym twice a week for a month. Rather than making a resolution just to go to the gym, commit to going regularly for a whole month. Then add more specific measurable goals such as performing a bodyweight deadlift or building up to 6 x 30 seconds of high intensity bursts on the stationary bike. Gyms offer many advantages to getting fit so it’s worth persevering to find the right one. Pay as you go gym passes are great way to discover which gym suits your needs and preferences so take advantage of our deals this year.
- Perform 50 push ups. Make this your target for 2014 and you will develop every single muscle group in the upper body. You can build up slowly until you can do 50, or even 100 without stopping. Not interesting enough? Set yourself up a Google spreadsheet to track your progress and encourage other people in your family to join in too.
- Do a triathlon or marathon. Alongside your gym visits a firm goal such as training for an event will keep your fitness motivation up. We have all the information you need on triathlons and marathons to get you started. Registration is open for many events already, with plenty aimed at first-timers. If you pay your entry fee during the New Year rush of eagerness you will commit yourself to sticking to your training even if your enthusiasm begins to wane in a few weeks.
- Train for an extreme event. Last year saw a huge rise in the number of people interested in extreme events such as the Tough Mudder obstacle race and ironman triathlons. Not aimed at fitness newbies, this may be the challenge for 2014 if you’re looking for a tough fitness challenge to re-motivate you.
- Take up a new sport or class. Taking up a new sport is motivating, exciting and challenging for your body. New activities also help keep your brain healthy so it’s a good idea to try out different ways of getting fit every year or so. Participating in traditional team sports such as football, netball or even joining a running club which will keep you in a regular routine and help you meet like-minded people to support and motivate you. Alternatively, try a new gym class such as Zumba, Boxercise, kettlebells or PumpFX.
- Reduce the amount of junk food you eat. Ok, this isn’t a fitness challenge but it’s well worth doing alongside any new fitness regime. You can make this easier by buying less junk food in the first place. If household food purchases aren’t your choice, it’s down to sheer willpower. Make it easier by setting specific mini-goals. For example, go for one week without any processed food. Or eat a piece of fruit or vegetable with every meal for a fortnight. Men, you are particularly guilty of skipping on your 5-a-day so this is a challenge for you! The difference you feel may be enough to motivate you for another week, and so on.
Perhaps you’re not particularly motivated by the ‘New Year, New You’ movement. But remember that any physical activity you do will be highly beneficial for your health. Trying to stick to an exercise regime is also a great lesson in habits and self-discipline.
So even if you don’t achieve your New Year goals this year, the real success is simply trying something else, and never giving up on getting fit.