Delving into the world of fitness and nutrition can feel overwhelming. So we asked Paul, a personal trainer and the Senior Director of Programs at the Oshawa Mary Street YMCA, to answer some of your most frequently asked fitness questions. Here are his step-by-step instructions for making 2018 the year you actually stick with those New Year’s Resolutions:
January is every personal trainer’s dream. The gym is buzzing with energy, full of people with ambitious goals they’re excited to tackle. For once, it kind of feels like the whole world is just as pumped about hitting the gym as we are.
Then comes February: the disappointing slump after the “new year, new me” mantras inevitably lose their luster. It’s grey and gloomy and freezing outside, and everyone suddenly seems to decide that mornings are much more pleasantly spent nestled under a cozy duvet than sweating it out on the treadmill.
I’ve spent years watching people’s New Year’s Resolutions wither away after a few short weeks — but I’ve also seen a handful of gems who end up tackling even bigger goals than they originally planned. So what does it take to be the special snowflake who actually turns a resolution into a reality? Well my friends, the key is the resolution itself.
A huge part of a personal trainer’s job is to help people define their goals. 99% of the time, people come to us with goals that look great on paper, but won’t pan out in practice — goals like “I’m going to lose 20 pounds in 20 days!” or “I’ve never gone to the gym before, but now I’m going to work out for an hour every morning at 6:00 AM!” Don’t get me wrong: I love some solid ambition. But goals like these inevitably leave people feeling bored, frustrated with their lack of progress, and/or desperately daydreaming of that duvet.
The first thing I do with a new client is help them set a SMART goal. Here’s how I break down the acronym for them:
S is for Specific
Make your goal clear and focused. Statements like “I want to get healthy” are good starting points, but they’re not clearly defined goals. Make them better by asking yourself how, exactly, you plan to improve your quality of life: are you going to start exercising regularly, work on developing healthier eating habits, quit smoking, or do something else entirely? There are countless ways to “get healthy,” so figure out what it looks like for you personally and build your goal from there.
M is for Measurable
Plan your “lag” and “lead” measures: the results you want to see, and the specific steps you’ll take to get there, respectively. Your lag measure is your end goal, usually expressed as a number — for example, maybe you want to be able to do 10 pull-ups, or run a 5K in 25 minutes. It’s called a lag measure because it comes at the end of all your hard work, “lagging” behind the sweat sessions you’ll put in to make it happen. Your lead measure is the action plan you follow to get those exciting results. It’s also best expressed using numbers. For example, if you’re aiming for that nimble 5K, you might plan to run for 30 minutes, three times a week for one month.
A is for Attainable
This is the most important part of a solid New Year’s Resolution: set the bar high, but don’t set yourself up for disappointment. It’s boring to chase an overly easy goal, so take on a challenge that will put your determination to the test. At the same time, though, the majority of January eager beavers wind up frustrated and disappointed because they tried chasing a goal that was completely unrealistic. Set a goal you know you can accomplish with a healthy dose of willpower and motivation, and then be patient enough with yourself to let it happen! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: tackling your goals will take consistent effort and lots of commitment, so pick a program that’s a few months long and don’t give up until you’ve seen it through to the end.
R is for Relevant
Plenty of people who abandon their New Year’s Resolutions never really cared about them in the first place. You’ll never commit to healthy living if you’re only doing it because everyone else is. Ensure you’re setting a relevant goal by asking yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Maybe you actually want to get healthy so you can have energy to play with your kids, perform better on your dodgeball team, stop feeling stressed all the time, or be a better role model for your little sister. Dig down deep to reveal your real motivators, and you’ll quickly know whether you’re setting a goal worth pursuing.
T is for Time-bound
Give yourself a deadline — it won’t just keep you accountable, it will also motivate you to get started! Without deadlines, people just keep telling themselves they’ll get around to it eventually; there’s no healthy pressure on you to get moving. Map out the steps you need to take to reach your goal by a specific date. Giving yourself a schedule will ensure you make steady progress, rather than lounging around and feeling guilty for not even trying.
If you’ve had a few false starts, or pour time and effort into your workouts with no results, it’s time to re-think your game plan! Try smartening up your resolutions by meeting with a personal trainer for some one-on-one goal setting guidance.
Paul has a degree in Human Kinetics and Education, with a specialty in Phys. Ed, and is a YMCA Canada-certified Fitness and Personal Trainer. For over six years, he’s been working as a personal and small group trainer at the Oshawa Mary Street YMCA, where he also teaches Bootcamp, MuscleFit, CycleFit, and Kettlebell classes. Paul runs a variety of fitness workshops and conferences, including the YMCA Personal Training Certification course.