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We’re almost a week into 2011 now and many gyms, health clubs, and diet centers are bustling with a swell of new members, thanks to the time-honored tradition of the New Year’s resolution.  Come back in February though, and the scene may look a bit sparser.  What is it about the New Year’s resolution that leads to this utterly predictable progression from discipline to eventual surrender?  Clearly it’s not such a bad idea to make productive goals for one’s self, especially at notable times of change like the beginning of a new year.  The period of transition from one year to the next allows us time to reflect on our achievements and failures, our moments of glory and our downhill slides.  It gives us a clearer perspective on what we currently are and where we want to go.  So what’s the problem?

The first major mistake that people make when beginning to execute their fresh, ambitious New Year’s resolutions is to jump into too many changes at once.  For example, say your resolution is to lose 20 pounds over the next year.  It’s a common goal and one that is dearly needed in the lives of many individuals (though I’d personally rather it be framed in terms of body fat percentage).  However, if you’re currently a desk jockey with a busy schedule, adding five or six outings to the gym per week may simply be too much to handle at first.  Besides the physical ramifications of such a large-scale change to your exercise output, abruptly altering your lifestyle in big ways can often lead to a quick jumping of ship.  It may be more reasonable to plan a trip or two to the gym per week and find time to fit them into the schedule.  Later, as you become used to the new weekly timeline, you will be able to open up more space and continue to add sessions as needed.  Jumping into any large commitment tends to induce at least a bit of anxiety.  By applying your new exercise and nutrition goals slowly but surely to your current lifestyle, you will find the results to be much more satisfying, productive, and sustainable over time.  Remember, a small improvement is better than no improvement at all.

The second mistake often seen with New Year’s resolutions is to expect too much too soon.  While this problem is an ever-present plague in the nutrition and fat loss industry, it is especially prevalent around the New Year.  Big goals and big ambitions can seem insurmountable when viewed as one large block.  Taking the example of losing 20 pounds again, viewed as a lump sum, it’s a pretty significant number.  When people don’t see the first 10 pounds come off by the end of January, they often start to panic and may even abandon the plan entirely.  One way to avoid the stress of making small progress towards a large goal is to break the big number down into smaller, intermediate goals spread out rationally over time.  That way, you always have an achievable, short-term goal on which you can focus.  As the small landmarks are reached, the overall progress will grow and grow without you even having to consider it.  Three to five pounds of fat loss per month is a good goal for most people.  If you have a lot of fat to lose and are starting with some notably bad eating and exercise habits, you can set more aggressive goals, but always be sure to keep your expectations within reason.  Setting proper goals is the first step to success and it doing it right often requires a level of objective self-assessment that many people aren’t used to.  In the end, though, you will find that small, approachable goals set out over time will provide you with a much easier path towards big achievement.

Finally, and this may be the biggest issue of all regarding New Year’s resolutions, there tends to be a sense that, because we have failed with so many resolutions in the past, it’s ok to give up on your new ones, as well.  The fact is that a resolution should be just that, a decision to become resolved, resolute to achieve your goal.  Determination is a big part of being successful in many areas of life.  You simply have to have a reason to make it happen.  For some it may be about overall health, blood pressure, cholesterol, or well-placed concern over future complications from carrying excess fat and a lack of exercise.  For others the driving force may be more present.  Diabetes, mobility problems, or an inability to do what you want to do in your daily life can all be great motivation to stick to your resolutions.  There are still others who want more out of their bodies, whether it’s greater sports performance, better endurance, or more strength and power.  Whatever your reason for making a resolution this year, keep it fresh in your mind.  When training gets hard (and it does), you will need to be able to focus on the reason why you are there.

This year, don’t just make a resolution.  Design a plan for success with reasonable, small goals spread out over time.  Make changes to your lifestyle slowly but surely to allow yourself time to adjust.  Know your motivation and keep it in mind at all times.  Don’t get discouraged by setbacks and small failures.  They are a part of the process and are common to everyone’s experience, especially when making big life changes.  Finally, get your friends and family on board, either by actively joining in with you as you make improvements or by simply being there to support you and help to keep you on track.  Be resolute in your decisions and be accountable to yourself and your goals.  2011 can be the year that you permanently change your life for the better, so stick with it!

 


Comments

01/11/2011 23:04

Your idea that change in body fat percentage is a more reliable indicator of "progress" than change in weight fits nicely with the first couple of chapters of the 4hourbody by Tim Ferriss. (I've only read the first couple of chapters). Have you read the four hour body, and if so, what do you think of it?

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01/12/2011 05:48

Hi, Tom! I haven't read the book, but I read some reviews over on Amazon.com and it seems like some of his ideas are pretty solid. His concept of a "minimum effective dose" is an old one, back from the days of Arthur Jones, Mike Mentzer, and Heavy Duty. It's a good idea, but for many people doesn't produce optimal results in the real world. However, reducing exercise volume and optimization of training time/effort is worth it.

His claim of adding 34 pounds of muscle in less than a month is clearly the experience of someone relatively new to the business of strength and muscular development. As well, adding 150+ pounds to your lifts in six months is good, but what lifts? I'm not sure, but that's probably covered in the book. For most relatively untrained people though, while it sounds impressive, it's not a huge feat.

It looks like a book where a decent amount of information is at least somewhat interesting, but a lot of it is hyped up out of control. Not surprising in this industry, but a bit of a disservice to his readers. A lot of times, even reading the quackery is beneficial if only to give you perspective on the thought processes of other people. There might be something you can use to improve your own methods of thinking, analyzing, synthesizing, etc.

Thanks for reading and it's good to hear from you!

-Rob

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01/22/2011 05:01

He's the only other person that I have heard reference Dr. Ken other than you. He also cites the nautilus bulletins several times. Both good signs. I'm also using his diet and exercise plan almost exactly for the next month, I'll let you know how it goes.

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01/23/2011 11:32

That IS a pretty awesome reference, actually! Throwing out Dr. Ken's name at least means you've come in contact with some worthwhile information. Definitely let me know how it goes. I'd be interested to hear about the results!

-Rob

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    Rob Bent is the founder and lead nutrition counselor at Nutrition Perfected.  He is a multi-sport athlete and works constantly to maximize sports performance through scientifically-guided nutritional optimization.

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