Have you been bucked off the fitness horse?
What happened? You were so motivated, so determined to make this year the year you got into cover model shape.
You're not alone. Many determined people, in a drunken haze, set fitness resolutions on December 31st but fall flat on their face a week or two out of the New Year gate.
Is it a lack of will power? Poor character? Low intelligence?
You just stepped into one the many snares hidden along the path to health, fitness, and a rocking set of abdominals. Fortunately, snares aren't bear traps—you can easily free yourself and get back on track toward achieving your goals ... and be that much smarter for doing it.
These are the six most common snares and how to sidestep them, like a seasoned (but jacked) woodsman.
Snare #1 Too much, too soon
Do daily cardio. Track every gram of chicken and broccoli. Crush hardcore weight workouts 5 days per week.
You're trying to make all of these life-altering habits work after spending just last month with a drink in one hand and a cookie in the other. No wonder reaching your goals felt so distant—you tried to reprogram yourself overnight!
Sure, hardcore fitness pros follow intensive schedules like that all the time, but they didn't just wake up one day to suddenly love the treadmill, say goodbye to beer and wings with the guys for good, or hate the taste of pizza. Plus, even fewer maintain this rigidity year-round.
Solution Start small!
Make small, realistic changes. A good week one goal may be to simply exercise every other day if you've been previously inactive. Week two might be to cut your current calories by 10 percent and drink an additional liter of water per day. Yes, they're small adjustments, but these small changes over time can add up to big improvements and help ensure you stick to these changes over the long-term.
Snare #2 You underestimated the effort required
The work in the gym is easy. Seriously. Woody Allen was right—90 percent of success is just showing up.
The real heavy lifting is in the kitchen, and frankly, few "newbies" are fully prepared for it.
Shopping, prepping, cleaning, cooking, cleaning, eating, cleaning, prepping – see a pattern? If your everyday culinary skills consist of opening bags of Pop Tarts for breakfast and ordering take-out online, this new nutritional lifestyle can be a serious reality check.
The best fitness pros typically have tricks and "shortcuts" that make their healthy lifestyle far easier to adhere to. Things like cooking multiple days (or even weeks) worth of food in batches, freezing meals for the week, or having the traditional "meal prep Sundays" can all save you time, money, and aggravation.
Invest in good kitchen equipment like crockpots, rice cookers, good cutting knives, digital food scales, and towers of Tupperware to get started!
Snare #3 Once starry-eyed, you're now bored
In the social-media-driven world we live in, it's easy to think that fitness pros have glamorous lifestyles filled with photo shoots in sun-kissed locations.
However, what you don't always see are the many months of grinding—training, cooking, sleeping, and recovering—that at the time can be anything but glamorous.
Solution Set goals and visualize achieving them
Why does every guru tell you to write down your goals? Because when the lifestyle starts to feel like a grind—and at some point it will—you can find motivation by referring back to your goals. Seeing your goal written down, tangible, can help you visualize what you must do to overcome the various roadblocks ahead.
Why are you doing this again? That's right—to get better and to accomplish something few can ever achieve.
Snare #4 You know or read too much
After helping people lose weight for 20 years, I can honestly say that the number one reason folks fail to stick to a plan isn't a lack of will power or not knowing enough. Quite the contrary, it's from knowing too much information, leading to paralysis by analysis.
Here's the scenario: you start off following a plan. Then your friend at work tells you how much weight she lost by cutting out a majority of carbs. Hold on, but that guy on TV says to eat plenty of carbs from whole-grain sources. Except that the Internet talks of this Paleo thing and all "processed" carbs are off the table.
It's no wonder people are so confused.
The real travesty is that many get so stressed by all the conflicting info that they just bail out on the goal entirely.
Solution Pick one approach and run with it
Listen, every approach can work. Low carb, high carb, low fat, high protein, etc—all can be effective provided you stick to your decision.
Obviously, don't stick with it if it's making you miserable. Find something you can stick to for the long haul.
So get a professional to help guide you in the right direction—heck, maybe even get you set up on a plan. Even if the program isn't perfect, you'll still be more successful following it to the letter than by trying to follow a blend of "cutting-edge" approaches.
Snare #5 You got lonely
Success in building a better body definitely requires making some sacrifices. After-work drinks, unlimited access to office treats, and late nights at the club typically don't jive with your goals and your overall healthy lifestyle. That's not to say you should give these up forever, but you've gotta train hard and eat well in the first place to "earn your moderation."
After a while, you might feel downright lonely and wish you could go back to your previous escapades or late-night binge-drinking and all-you-can-eat wings with the boys, dream body, be damned!
Solution Get a wingman
Maverick had Goose. Crockett had Tubbs. Walter White had Jesse Pinkman. Well, until they had a falling out and Jesse wound up a prisoner in that underground lab in the desert. But, whatever.
A good training partner can make the whole process a lot more enjoyable. After all, it's easy to blow off an evening squat session when there's just you to answer to. It's a lot tougher to do if your faithful wingman is already at the gym warming up. Stay accountable to each other in both good times and bad.
Check in with each other on workouts and your diet, but when you both feel like rewarding yourself for your hard work with a good ol' pint and burger, keep each other in check, too, to make sure you find balance and moderation.
Snare #6 You didn't want it bad enough
Plain and simple: The truth hurts.
You had the best plan, the coolest gym, even the cutest workout outfits. But after a few weeks, you just weren't having "fun." Your muscles were sore. The food was bland. You missed out on too many bar nights. You flat-out weren't enjoying yourself. So you quit. Now what?
Solution Go pound salt
Achieving something great takes sacrifices, and it's not always a cushy fun-time.
I have endless empathy for New Years newbies at the gym, even the clueless folks "getting in my way" or doing curls in the squat rack. 'Cause at least they're trying. And in 3 or 6 months or a year, while they might be gone, they might also be committed gym rats and on the path to awesome.
If you value your health and well-being, you have to want it and be willing to work for it.
Listen, everybody stumbles at some point. What separates the winners from the rest is their ability to "fail fast" and then hop back on the saddle to start riding again. Will you be a winner, or will you find yourself at some dingy bar come New Year's Eve, complaining about getting into shape?
Choose one and commit to it. Or feel sorry for yourself. Whatever.