For many people, exercise and nutrition are a hot topic for new years resolutions. We start off strong with good intentions, but can quickly lose sight and fall back into old habits and unhealthy behaviors. How can you avoid this, and get started on a new and healthier lifestyle?

New habits are not born overnight. Start with small attainable goals, do what you enjoy, share your goals with others who can encourage you, and recognize the small victories along the way! Follow these 5 tips from a personal trainer to start strong and finish stronger in 2021: 

  • Tip #1: Move Daily – As a fitness professional, we often receive common questions which deal in absolutes. “How much cardio do I need to do to lose weight?” or “How much strength training do I need to do to tone up?”

As unpopular as it might seem, the truth is, it depends. Every individual is a unique person requiring different frequencies, volume, and intensities to meet them where they are. Fitness should very rarely (if ever) be discussed in absolutes.

Even so, everyone has something to gain from moving and moving often! We often underestimate how much our daily activity (outside of exercise) influences our mood, motor function and of course energy expenditure.

Consider an individual with a daily step goal to lose weight. Say they dedicate 45 minutes to exercise out of the 16 hours (deducting 8 hours of sleep) spent in a waking state. This individual would be better off using the 16 hours to move and meet their daily step goal vs. relying on 3% (45 minutes of 24 Hours) of the day to accomplish this. Simply do as much activity as you need to and remember to move daily.

  • Tip #2: Stay Balanced – It is important to mark out your priorities, including your goals, as well as time for yourself. When goal setting, it can become easy to be so focused on one task, that you forget to tend to your mental, physical, or spiritual well being. Cultivating balance in your life focuses on all three of these aspects of wellbeing.

When the areas of our lives aren’t balanced and we’re spending too much time on any one area, we will be left feeling overwhelmed, guilty, frustrated and stuck.

Instead of randomly picking goals to fix current problems, start with a goal-setting strategy that cultivates balance – intentionally setting goals that design a better experience in every important area of your life.

  • Tip #3: Apply Positive Reinforcements – What form of accountability works best for you? Is it a friend to remind you of your goals or maybe a notification on your calendar. Find the type of reinforcement that will be most encouraging for you and stick to it

It is important to share your goals with people in your life. Having the support of others can be both inspiring and encouraging. It is much easier to give up when “self” is the only person you are committed to. You will not want to report to your loved ones that you have given up, and who knows, you may even inspire others to join you on your journey.

Verbal encouragement can be helpful, but it can also be important to set reminders or block off time on your calendar to complete the activities you have in mind. Whether it is 10 minutes a day or 30 minutes a day, something is always better than nothing. Consider adding a motivating quote or image to these reminders for that extra push.

  • Tip #4: Keep it Simple, but Specific – Instead of formulating your ultimate goal as what you are working toward, break your goal down into smaller achievable goals. Rather than completing a marathon, plan for the training steps and miles to help you reach that goal.

Keep in mind that your goals may shift as your work toward them. Discussing your targets with a fitness professional can be extremely useful as they should be able to advise on progressions and offer relevant advice on how to reach your desired goals safely and effectively.

It can be easy to do or plan for too much when enthusiasm is high in the first few days of setting your goals. Dangers like fatigue, overload, injury, or burn out can put a halt or completely stop your progression toward your goals. Start sensibly and slowly so that you can make desired gains over a consistent course.

  • Tip #5: Focus on Consistency, Rather than Perfection

To put it simply, adhering 80% of the time (if most of the time) is better than 100% (if only some of the time).

What exactly does this mean? It means, being consistent 80% of the time is better than attempting to be perfect. It means dispelling the common ‘all or nothing’ approach, giving yourself flexibility while remaining objective enough to see the big picture (long-term goal). Attempting perfection often leads to ‘yo-yo’ dieting/exercising because we’ve found ourselves overcommitting too quickly or too soon.

80% gives us the flexibility to: enjoy a night out with friends or spouse, celebrate a birthday or graduation, or just enjoy a slice of pizza from time to time.

100% brings us: fear of missing out (FOMO), skipping celebrations all together, and constant stress over temptations surrounding our everyday lives.

When we focus on consistency, we’re able to remain objective enough to see the big picture and get back to our healthy habits the next day. A simple way to apply this is following the ‘4:1’ rule. This simply means that you commit to adhering at a 4:1 ratio.

What would this look like?

  • 4 days of clean eating and keeping active, 1 day of rest & occasionally indulging
  • 25 days of the month committed to clean eating and keeping active, 5-6 days of resting & occasionally indulging
  • 9-10 months throughout the year committed to clean eating and keeping active, 2-3 months throughout the year of resting & occasionally indulging