Resolution time is creeping up faster than you think. What goals will you be making this time around? Build muscle to fill out some medium-large shirts? Get a grip on your love affair with the office donuts and lose weight? Or maybe transform into an overall healthier, better version of yourself?
Whatever your goal happens to be, get a head start now on making a firm resolution today rather than waiting for the clock to strike 12 on December 31st. After all, there's no such thing as the "perfect" time to start. What's important is simply that you start!
Sure, it's a little cold out, and you'll have some holiday temptations to thwart, but here are 10 expert tips from shredded BodySpace members to warm you up for the coming fitness endeavors ahead.
Set Performance-Related Goals
If you're always striving for a certain look, it might do your self-esteem and perspective wonders to instead think about performance and strength. "Oftentimes, focusing solely on physical results can lead to discouragement and frustration when those results don't come fast enough," says personal trainer Lindsay Cappotelli.
"I recommend setting performance goals in the gym, such as getting your first pull-up done or reaching a certain number of push-ups," she says. "Having something besides just the mirror or scale to focus on will help keep you more motivated and consistent with your workouts."
A major upshot of knocking out performance and lifting goals is that your physique will typically start to improve, as well. Set goals for your major lifts, mile time, and more—just don't wait until January 1st to do it. Start today!
Build Your Foundation
Rome wasn't built in a day, and your dream body won't be, either. "Take baby steps to lay a foundation for the goal at hand," recommends trainer and MuscleTech athlete Ed Honn. "If you go from 0-60, the change could be too abrupt to ensure long-term stability."
Instead of concentrating on a massive, far-off goal, focus on smaller changes you can transform into habits that contribute to long-term success. Examples include eating enough protein to support muscle function and your goals, replacing soda with green tea, or, as Honn likes to suggest, "Adding more quality food to your diet, taking steps to be more active throughout the day, and making sure your program is tailored to the goal at hand."
You can't progress without progression, and baby steps ensure steady progression.
Change in Stages
Just as you need to lay down your foundation to hustle toward your goals, you also need to prepare yourself for every stage of the journey. "For any change, most people will go through a cycle of precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and then possibly relapse," explains trainer Nick Twum. "As a personal trainer, I focus on each stage individually. You must first recognize why you want to change in order to combat the denial that you likely feel, as well."
For some individuals, taking that first step is the hardest. "Once my clients have made the decision to prepare a plan of action and have been working to keep things motivated," Twum says, "I help them be aware of the chance of obstacles or a sudden stop, which could lead to lack of results."
When you can recognize what your goals are on a micro level, you will have an easier time making a plan and putting it into action at each stage. As a result, you will feel more in control over any changes, increasing the likelihood that you stay consistent and eventually reach your desired destination.
Motivate Yourself With Progress Pictures
While we're on the subject of motivation, one great way to keep motivation high is to take progress pictures, even if you dislike taking pictures of yourself. You don't have to show anyone; just keep them for yourself. Or, if you want even more accountability, post them to a supportive fitness community like BodySpace.
"There's nothing more motivating than seeing how far you've come in the last year," explains bodybuilder Jesse Hobbs. "By taking pictures now, when this time rolls around every year, you can reflect back on how far you've come and how much hard work you've put into changing yourself for the better."
Plus, long-term change doesn't show up in the mirror as clearly as it does in photos. For accurate comparison, aim to take your progress pictures at the same time in roughly the same clothes so that you get a true representation of the changes you've made.
When it comes to getting fit, knowledge really is power. Arm yourself with the appropriate knowledge and continually strive to stay atop the latest happenings in fitness. It's a fast-moving industry that regularly comes out with new information.
"There's so much free information out there pertaining to your diet and ways to improve your workouts," says physique athlete Jimmy Everett. "Take the time to research and find a logical program that fits your needs."
You can find the best program in the world, but if it's not something you will enjoy and stick with, it's probably not the program for you. There's no one perfect way to approach fitness and nutrition; you just have to educate yourself and find the things that work for you. Bodybuilding.com's All Access section is the perfect place to start.
If you're really struggling to stay committed to your workouts throughout the holiday season because you'd rather be sipping hot cocoa by the fireplace, find a gym partner and buddy up! If you can find someone who's stronger or more fit than you, that's a major bonus because he or she will push you harder.
"Having a friend to train with will boost your confidence," says fitness model Danielle Beausoleil, "but will also increase your odds of sticking with your regimen because you won't want to let the other person down. Plus, exercise is way more fun when you have someone to train with. If you are married, try training together as a couple and watch your relationship grow."
So grab a co-worker, a friend, the cute supermarket cashier, or whomever, and make a promise to keep each other accountable!
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Perhaps one of the most overlooked strategies for staying on target is to simply make sure you are well-hydrated. "Most of us don't drink enough as it is, but drinking a lot of water, especially before a big meal, helps with the feeling of being full so that you are less likely to take in so many calories," explains MuscleTech athlete James Pulido.
Not in the mood for plain water? Try simply adding a slice of lemon or lime, or some cubed watermelon, to a large pitcher of water. You'll find it more refreshing and a lot more palatable. Soon, you'll be chugging down the whole pitcher!
"Make drinking ample water a habit right now and practice it every day, all day," says James. "Consistency is key."
Hire A Trainer
If you've never worked with a trainer before, it's important to find the right trainer for you—someone who sees eye-to-eye with your goals and meets your budget. Some trainers can be more expensive than others, but the right one can be well worth the investment.
"There is something to be said about having someone in your corner, making sure you follow through with your goals," says cover model Dave Dreas. "A good trainer can set you up for success by keeping you motivated, on task, and accountable."
A strong support network and a great coach are some of the most underrated drivers of fitness success, but if you're not sure you want to part with your cash, heed this pro tip: "The months of October, November, and December are slow months for everyone in the fitness business, as most clients are out shopping, partying, and going about their holiday activities," says James Pulido. "This means you can take your time and shop around, ask plenty of questions, and get an amazing deal on personal training sessions."
Gyms usually boom in January as people commit to their resolutions, so use the holiday season to your advantage to find the best trainers in the business at an affordable price.
Throw Out Your Scale
You read that right. If you're really frustrated by your weight and have a tendency to weigh yourself frequently, just toss the scale.
"I think the most important tip is to trust the process and stop measuring yourself strictly by body weight," says personal trainer and competitor Katie Miller. "It's not about how much you weigh, but about how much stronger you feel and where your confidence stands."
Instead of constantly reading the numbers on the scale and sending yourself into a panic attack, use other measurements like body fat, strength, mood, waist circumference, and progress pictures to gauge your progress.
It's tempting to jump ship when you're 4 weeks into a program and feel like the results are less than ideal. However, strong results often take more time than 4 weeks to start showing. Stay the course rather than hopping around from one fitness program to another.
"Realize that there are multiple ways to approach your fitness goals, but it's important to use just one method at a time," says Miller.
"Think of fitness as a chocolate chip cookie recipe," she suggests. "There are several recipes to make a pretty delicious chocolate chip cookie, and if you follow each recipe until the end, they will most likely turn out perfect. But if you mix recipes together, you will end up confusing yourself and end up with something that doesn't even resemble a cookie."
Trust in the process and try to stick to your chosen plan for at least 6-12 weeks. If you don't get what you wanted, it might then be time to re-evaluate the program along with your overall approach.