Fitness Goals for The New Year
Tips for getting started on your fitness journey
The new year is here! And with it comes a chance to re-evaluate our current habits. To see where we really stand versus where we want to be. We get a chance to change things, to rid ourselves of things that hold us back, and to figure out how to contribute to our own happiness and well-being.
Getting fit is a popular New Year’s Resolution. And for good reason.
Why is it so important to be fit? Why do so many people fail to be fit? What does it even mean to be fit?
Keep reading to explore these topics and learn fitness tips and goals when you are just starting out.
What does it mean to be fit?
My grandma always used to say “you are nothing without your health.” I’m certain she wasn’t the only person from her generation that saw health as a fundamental base for life. In many ways life was simpler back then. From a purely physical point of view, many people had to work much harder than what we are used to nowadays. People worked on farms without big machinery, tended to livestock, and covered long distances by carriage, pedal bike or on foot. Being physically healthy and fit enough to keep up with the demands of daily life was simply a necessity. And while the demands of our modern life may have changed, being physically fit enough to keep up with them should still be a primary goal.
Interestingly enough, the term fitness in common usage is defined as “the condition of being physically strong and healthy” by the Cambridge Dictionary. The use of fitness in evolutionary biology, however, refers to “reproductive success and reflects how well an organism is adapted to its environment.”
How well are you adapted to your environment? What is your environment? Are you a 20 year old university student going for an athletic scholarship? Are you a 40 year old office worker who is sitting at a desk all day? Are you a 60 year old grandparent who wants to keep up with the grandchildren?
The point is, we are all at different stages in our lives and these stages come with different challenges, needs and wants. So maybe the term fitness shouldn’t be approached as a one-size-fits-all definition. Maybe our fitness goals depend on our own individual lives, interests and health. After all, good goals are goals that work for YOU!
Why is it important to be fit?
Now that we have established that fitness is a highly individual term, the answer to its importance is not difficult to find. If fitness enables you to live and pursue a life that makes you happy and fulfilled – both physically and mentally – then staying or becoming fit should be of high priority. If chasing that athletic scholarship has you overtraining and dealing with associated pain, if sitting at that desk all day is killing your lower back, or if running with your grandchildren in the yard makes you feel off balance and scared of falls, then clearly your lack of fitness is getting in the way of enjoying life.
Every January thousands of people decide to make the new year count. Research shows that 95% of New Year’s Resolutions are fitness related, but 43% of people expect to give up on their goals by February already. After just 3 months, only a staggering 10% believe their goals will be achieved. Why?
Why do so many people fail to be fit?
When we first decide to take charge and begin our fitness journey, most of us have a specific goal in mind. For some that goal might be motivated by health, feeling better or performance, for others aesthetics are the driving force behind their desire to change. Increasing our fitness level can elevate our mental health, confidence and self-esteem. Whatever is behind our individual reasons to become fit, the visualisation of the final goal is usually what gets us started. It is also what can cause us to fail.
You see, changing your fitness level takes time. While you are able to achieve and notice smaller successes along the way (and you should celebrate those), your final goal is way in the future. It requires time. It requires patience. It requires work. And more than anything, it requires consistency (and that is hard).
We humans are creatures of habit by nature and anything deviating from our regular routine is not going to be easy. We need habit hacks to make new habits stick, support and willpower. We need a plan for those times when our willpower doesn’t stand a chance (like a morning sleep-in that makes us skip our planned workout). That’s life and that’s ok! The key is this: consistency over perfection! Tweak your schedule in such a way that it still fits even smaller accomplishments in your fitness. For example if you miss your morning workout, commit to a back-up plan by finding time for it later in the day. Small repeated actions lead to compound results.
So how exactly do we do this? Read on for more simple tips.
Fitness tips for beginners
Be SMART. More than likely you’ve heard of SMART goals, but have you actually put them into action? SMART goals are goals that work for your individual life. They will help keep you motivated and help you with accountability.
SMART goals are:
Whether your goal is to complete 10 push-ups, run a 5k, gain 5 lbs of muscle mass or do a handstand, the approach is always the same.
Know exactly what you want to achieve (don’t be vague). Determine and write down where you stand now, (for example how many push ups you can do or how far you can run in what time etc.). Be realistic with your planning. Do some research or get a professional to help you understand what’s healthy and sustainable. Get a clear picture of WHY you want to achieve your goal (this is what you will draw from when times get tough). Give yourself a realistic time-frame (you need a finish line to work towards).
Break up the time-line to your end goal into smaller chunks. Say your time-line is 12 months, check in with yourself every 6-8 weeks. Reassess how many push ups you can do now or how far you can run now in the same amount of time. This can be helpful so you can appreciate and celebrate the hard work you have been putting in. Pay attention to how you are feeling. Is your stamina improving? Do you feel stronger? Do you sleep better? Has your mood changed? The progress will be slow but if you stick to your plan it will be there!
How to get started
Now that you have your goal in mind, have created your airtight plan, know why you want what you want and have a clear understanding of what you need to do to get there, the next step is to prioritize.
We all know that the things that are not on the top of our lists are way more likely to get dropped. You wouldn’t postpone your kids’ school pick-up to go get coffee with a friend. You wouldn’t tell your boss you can’t complete the project because you need to watch TV.
Give your fitness goals the same priority. Schedule your workouts the same way you schedule your work meetings or family appointments. Make your training times part of your week the same way you treat your other obligations. Soon this perceived obligation will turn into a routine that you might even look forward to. Ideally schedule yourself at least 3 training opportunities per week. Work with a fitness professional to help you with time saving strategies and mapping out a sustainable plan. Plan! Prioritize! Progress!
What kind of training do I need?
Generally speaking, there are two kinds of training we differentiate between: strength or resistance training and aerobic training.
Aerobic training is any kind of activity that increases your heart rate. When your heart beats faster your breathing becomes harder in order to keep up with your body’s increased demand for oxygen. The oxygen you inhale gets passed on from your heart and lungs into your bloodstream to be used by your muscles to sustain the activity.
As the name suggests, strength or resistance training on the other hand uses resistance (dumbells/bodyweight etc.) to your muscular contractions. By consistently challenging your contracting muscles with resistance, your muscle size, strength and endurance will increase.
These two forms of exercise are not mutually exclusive and often go hand in hand. There are benefits to be gained from both.
As a Personal Trainer, I generally suggest that anyone who is just getting started focus more on their resistance training (as an actual scheduled training session) and compliments that with creating a “cardio routine.”
Cardio routine can mean anything from taking a walk with your partner, going on a bike ride with your kids, taking an aerobics class with your friend or swimming a few lanes after work. Walk whenever possible. Try and get your heart rate up at least a couple times per week and do it consistently! The benefits of aerobic training are numerous but the most beneficial one would be increased heart health (which in turn comes with a plethora of other benefits). Increasing your heart rate on a regular basis makes your heart stronger and more efficient. The blood flow throughout your body will improve and with consistent aerobic exercise you will likely notice a lower resting heart rate (because your heart doesn’t have to work as hard anymore to accomplish the same work as before).
Resistance training on the other hand focuses less on an elevated heart rate but more on an increase in muscle mass. Muscle mass shapes our appearance and given the fact that muscle is much more dense than fat, it is not uncommon to see a change in physique without seeing any changes on the scale. Furthermore, an increased muscle mass will not only change the shape of your body, but will – over time – lead to a decrease in fat mass. How? By ramping up your metabolism.
What is metabolism?
Metabolism refers to the chemical reactions in our bodies’ cells that change food into energy. Our body needs energy for everything. Even when we are sleeping and lying completely still, energy is still required for all basic bodily functions. Breathing, blood circulation, food digestion, body temperature regulation or cell renewal are all examples for energy expenditure.
An individual’s metabolism depends on various factors (age, sex, genetics, lifestyle and others). However, physical activity in general and an increased muscle mass in particular have a positive effect and can help speed up our metabolism. Our body needs to utilise more energy to build (and maintain) muscle mass than it does for fat mass. Given our metabolism slows with age, building muscle is one of the best ways to maintain and elevate your metabolism.
An increased muscle mass is beneficial in many other ways. A consistent strength training regime can help with chronic conditions (e.g. back pain, arthritis, depression), strengthen bones and joints, help with balance issues and will often dramatically improve every day activities.
The gift of health truly is the greatest gift! Without it, life can be a whole lot more challenging. While we don’t have control over every factor that controls how our health evolves over time, we do have control over some. While scientists acknowledge that genetics are a determining factor, they do not have a clear understanding of why diseases manifest in some but not in others. It appears that the outbreak of a disease in an individual is rarely determined by a single gene but rather by several aspects of your surroundings such as environmental factors and – you guessed it – lifestyle.
So while it’s impossible to predict our health in the future, why not take charge now? Refer to the ideas above and get started. Do whatever is in your control to contribute to your own health and happiness!
If you feel ready to get started on your journey, I would be honoured to help you on your way. Please contact me for a free, no-obligation consultation & personal training session.
Kate Lorke-McMeans is an AFLCA-certified Personal Fitness and Pre/Post Natal Trainer. She has worked with clients of all ages and fitness levels, focusing on helping them achieve their individual goals.
She offers in-home one-on-one or small group training. Kate takes pride in promoting a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle that is about finding a balance between what’s good for your body and good for your soul.
To learn more and to get in touch, contact Kate at:
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