That time of year is coming again, that time of year when folks start making resolutions, New Year's resolutions to be exact. The stigma about New Year's resolutions is that folks make all these promises to themselves and sometimes to others about what they will accomplish and they start out like gangbusters, joining a gym or buying home exercise equipment and swearing to the Almighty that this time, this time it will be different!
I have plenty of experience training people in the art of transformation, whether it's gaining strength and muscle or losing fat and getting defined or whatever someone wants to accomplish with free weights, cardio and diet. So, I have a pretty good idea on how to go about all of this changing yourself for the better.
What I have learned is that New Year's resolutions can work, you just have to go about it the right way.
Let me give you a scenario: Let's assume that you are over 30 (sometimes younger), and you are sick and tired of being a little too heavy, you haven't exercised for a while and you are ready to get back on the right track. You are done with all of the excuses of being too busy and are determined to do what it takes to get back in shape.
It's December 31, and you are there at a New Year's Eve party and the ball is fixing to drop and you walk by a mirror and you see yourself in the mirror, belly sticking out, pipe cleaner arms, chest shallow and shoulders narrow. You are disgusted with yourself. Your diet stinks, you're inconsistent with your training, and walking up steps is becoming a chore, everyday activities take a lot of motivation, and your energy is not even close to what it used to be.
So, you say to yourself, "THAT'S IT!"
You have hit rock bottom and you need to rise up and regain what you used to have or get to where you have never been before and look like you have never looked before.
So, where do you start?
DON'T START TOO FAST.
Any new year's resolutions you start will be a step in the right direction and will ideally lead to a positive change. Listen, you can go hardcore as hell and push it like crazy when you begin, but in my experience, unless you are super experienced with all of this, just start easy and build up your WILL and Fortitude. Just like muscles, the WILL has to be exercised and made stronger over time.
But unless you have the experience and an iron will (obviously you may have lost that, or you wouldn't be so frustrated) just ease into it.
The best way to do this is to just make little changes. Believe me, if you are way overweight, small changes will make a difference. For instance, just start off not eating after 7pm. That's it. That alone will cut your calories. And as the weeks go by, you can make more small changes. For instance, start cutting off carbohydrates after 5pm. Then the next week, for example, you can make sure that you have protein at every meal. The next step after a few weeks may be to exchange simple sugars with a more complex source such as sweet potatoes and also add vegetables. You get the picture. The main point here is to look at this as a lifelong regimen, not 6 weeks to push really hard and then gain it all back.
And as far as training goes, if you haven't done anything in a while, once again, doing anything will make a difference. Don't give me that bullshit about you don't have time to exercise. This is important. It's your life. If you have been sedentary, just starting the day with a few push-ups and free hand squats and walking for 10 minutes will suffice. You don't have to do much to make a difference. And it's the action of it all that counts.
JUST GET MOVING FORWARD.
I think that doing your cardio stuff is okay at home walking or riding an exercise bike or whatever, but I believe that going to a gym is a good idea once you have graduated from body weight training to weights (barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, etc.). You have to actually go somewhere, actually get in the car and go. And it's harder to put off the training once you join and you most likely will be stimulated by the environment.
Make your training short. Hell, it may take you only 15 minutes to get your weight training done. It's the intensity that matters, anyway, not the duration. You can go in and squat, deadlift, bench press and leave twice a week, 3-5 sets of 5-8 reps and you will be good. Just like dieting, start light, start easy. And the longer that you are in the gym, the more likely you will begin to dread the gym and not go back. So never feel guilty leaving the gym after just a little while as long as you work your butt off.
You can start off just lifting 2-3 days a week and you will make strength and muscle gains. And you may never need to add more days. But if you do, remember to make them short and sweet and leave yourself always wanting just a little more.
If you screw upon the diet, so what? Get back on with the next meal. Don't be like, oh I blew it now, let me get out the ice cream and cake. I have been there. Don't do it. Just chalk it up to a learning experience and get right back on it.
Don't be too hard on yourself. Let yourself off the hook. You are not allowed to beat yourself up. You can't do anything about it now, so move on.
I would endeavor to not miss a weight training session, however. It's that important. Gaining muscle goes a long way to keeping you healthy. But, if you do miss a session, just get right back on the program. No problem. Moving forward.
The only way to do this thing is to have a plan, follow the plan, and then stay with it through obstacles and whatever life throws at you.
To sum it up: Start with small changes in diet and exercise. Make the training short. Don't be hard on yourself, there will be time for all of that later. Right now, it’s the action, the one step forward that will give you the impetus to make your New Year's Resolutions a lasting, fulfilled, promise to yourself.
About The Author
Jim Steel has been immersed in athletics and the Iron Game for most of his life. He has been a college football player and coach, powerlifter, Muay Thai fighter and is currently a competitive bodybuilder. In 1999, Steel was named Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coordinator at the University of Pennsylvania, and moved up to Head Strength and Conditioning Coordinator in 2004. He is the owner of the blog basbarbell.com, and is a motivational speaker, frequent podcast guest and the author of two books, Basbarbell Book of Programs and Steel Reflections. Steel is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with the National Strength and Conditioning Association.