It’s the start of a new year and you are all pumped up. You are planning to make this the year you look your best.
Do it. You deserve it.
But don’t forget that it may not be an easy road. It may require some sacrifices and it may take some planning.
Don’t worry, it will all be worth it.
So to help you out here are 20 tips that will make it easier for you to achieve your fitness goals and a the body you want in 2013.
- Have a specific goal in mind. Don’t just tell yourself that you want to gain muscle or that you want to look lean or lose weight. That is too broad of a goal. I mean, what does gain muscle really mean? You can gain 2 pounds of muscle and call it a day. Instead get down to specifics. Do you want to gain 5, 10, 15 or 20 pounds of muscle by December 31st 2013? Or do you want to lose 5, 10, 15 pounds of fat by that date? Cool, write it down and focus on that goal.
- Develop a schedule and stick to that schedule as much as possible. Before you start a workout plan, whether it is at home, on the track or at the gym make sure you have the days planned and times planned ahead of time. This is the key factor in your success. Write down when you’re going to train. If you are going to do strength training on Monday, Wednesday and Friday then you must do it on those days. If you missed a day for whatever reason, too bad, don’t make up for it on Tuesday. It’s gone. Stick to the plan.
- Be consistent at all times. This goes along well with developing a schedule. The only way you are going to see a result is by sticking to a plan week after week. If you are the type that goes to the gym on week then takes a month off you won’t get the results you are hoping for. Go in week after week, chip away at your goals, remove the excuses, and build your dream body a bit at a time.
- Go to the doctor. Sorry to bum you out but the only way you can perform at your peak is by making sure everything is working properly. Get a physical and have them run all the necessary lab work. What good is it trying to look better on the outside if you are not doing well on the inside? Get it done. Chances are you are doing fine but it never hurts to be safe.
- Break a personal best. You can bench press 135 for 10 reps? Great, now aim for 140 pounds. You can do 10 pull ups? Good, now aim for 11, or better yet, add some weight to that. Whatever it is try to improve as much as possible. The only way you are going to get a better physique is by going the extra mile. If you don’t improve you will stay the same, plateau, or simply find that you are getting bored.
- Lift heavier and don’t be afraid to increase the weight. If you have been holding on to the same 20 pound dumbbells and they feel light as paper that is telling you something. That is your cue to add some weight. Increase the pounds and watch your body put on some muscle.
- Step away from machines and work with free weights. Whether your goal is to gain muscle or just trying to lean down go ahead and use barbells, dumbbells or even kettlebells. Unless you are a true beginner get away from machines fast. Get your body used to the dynamics of lifting and pulling objects.
- Warm up all the time. This may seem like a boring task but it doesn’t have to be. A warm up can be like a workout before the serious training begins. However, if your muscles aren’t getting prepared for what is to come then chances are you are only stepping into an injury minefield in a matter of time.
- Do more bodyweight exercises. Lord knows everyone is spending time pushing and pulling weight. That’s great that you aren’t afraid to push a barbell, grab a couple of dumbbells but why not master the pull ups or the chin ups. Add some dips for your triceps and chest. If your focus is on weights then add at least 1 bodyweight exercise to each strength training workout.
- Try some advanced bodyweight exercises once in a while. I know most of us have this false perception that a bodyweight workout can only consist of pushups, pull ups and bodyweight squats. Well, it can be a lot better than that. Try some handstands or handstand pushups, L-sits, front lever hold, use a TRX or gymnastics rings if you have access to them. You will also notice that your abs will better too.
- Have your training revolve around compound movements. Every session you dedicate to strength training you should be using compound movements and these include bodyweight exercises. Sure you can do isolation exercises like dumbbell curls or triceps extensions but that shouldn’t be your focus. Make sure you are doing exercises that work multiple muscles (examples: deadlifts, squats, pull ups, chin ups, pushups, bench press, military press).
- Use Olympic movements often as well. You should already be using bench presses, squats, shoulder presses and/ or deadlifts in your training. If you aren’t by now then what are you waiting for? If you are then switch it up and try something like a Power Clean, a Hang Clean, and a Push Press. These exercises will trigger more muscle growth in you and will help you work more fibers in your body.
- Make your training sessions as athletic as possible from start to finish. Don’t just end a session by doing some lame stretches. Do a finisher with a jump rope or with some kettlebell swings, run some sprints or throw in some mountain climbers.
- Focus on strength training as well as your conditioning. Most people choose one or the other. A hardgainer neglects conditioning afraid of losing muscle. The person trying to lose fat is afraid of gaining muscle. You can’t neglect one over the other if you want to look your best. For some excellent conditioning stick more with intervals like sprints, sleds, and finishers.
- Eliminate at least one unhealthy food item. I wish I would tell you to eliminate all items that are unhealthy but we all know that’s tough. Instead look at one item you can eliminate or consume less of. You drink soda every day? Stop drinking it. Potato chips find their way in your mouth often? Stay away from it. Twinkies are your favorite sna… oh never mind they went bust in 2012.
- Stick with a training plan beyond the month of January. So many take the first step in their resolutions and get to the gym that first week of January then start going less and less after a couple of weeks. You won’t see results after only 2 weeks. You will start seeing improvements after a couple of months and as the year progresses. Just stick to it for the long haul.
- Keep your workouts brief and intense. There is no need to spend a couple of hours in the gym. Once you go longer than 60 minutes you will start heading into overtraining zone. Aim to stay within the 45 minutes to 60 minutes range.
- Learn to cycle your training. If you’re the type that spends week in and week out that is awesome but if you aren’t taking some time off then it isn’t so awesome. Believe me; I’ve been in your shoes. I would go months nonstop with working out and wonder why I had the classic signs of overtraining and not looking better as time went on. Take at least a week off every 10 to 12 weeks.
- Rest and recover in a smart way. Along with taking some time off make sure you sleep well every night. Get your 8 hours of sleep and get some massages to work on the wear and micro tears in your muscles. Self massages work well as do foam rollers.
- Stay active even on off days. Find an activity that will help you burn some excess calories while at the same time being easy on your body. One thing I like to do a couple of days a week on those days I’m not going hard in the gym is doing some jump rope. A few jump rope drills for 15 minutes to 30 minutes keeps my heart rate up, gets my body working all without putting too much stress on my body. Just choose any activity, from walking to hiking, surfing, and any outdoors activity. The options are limitless.
(here is a video I have found inspiring on many occasions)
Apply these tips year round. Getting to your fitness goals require focus, determination and putting in the effort on a consistent basis.
One tip alone won’t get you to where you want to be but working at each of one of these tips will get you there.
And remember that being fit and staying fit is a long term process and should be your goal well beyond just the first few weeks of the year.