Happy New Year!
I thought I’d take some time to offer some tips to help move towards a winning mindset if you are wanting to improve your health this new year.
I love the possibilities that a new start hints at. If you’re anything like me, as we say goodbye to 2020, and roll into 2021, you might be setting a few resolutions for the new year.
Look, we all know that there’s some obscure statistic out there that says the majority of people don’t stick to their resolutions (and I know from personal experience that I contribute wholeheartedly to that statistic!), but I’m a firm believer that even starting something and stopping it is infinitely better than not starting at all!
Here are 21 tips for 2021 that I hope will help set you up for success in becoming a fitter, more healthy person:
1. Get clear on what you want
It’s difficult to go somewhere if you don’t know where it is. One of the main reasons why people fail to achieve things is that they simply aren’t clear enough on what it is they want – it’s a basic concept, but absolutely fundamental.
For your fitness goal, what is it specifically that you want? “To be more fit” isn’t that specific, so it’s harder to track and measure progress against. A better example of a more specific goal might be: “To have ample energy reserves every day and lose excess body fat. To feel and look strong in my physical body and be able to run a half marathon by the end of the year”.
2. Figure out why you want it
This again is simple but it’s common to skip over this. The problem is that if you don’t have a big enough ‘why’ or reason for why you want to achieve your goal, it’s common to give up when the going gets tough.
Remember this: if in your mind the pain/hassle of doing the actions you need to are more real to you than the excitement or desire to achieve your goal, you’re more likely to choose the couch over the gym every time.
3. Break it down
Writing down your overall goal on paper instantly makes your chances of success more likely.
Assuming you’ve set a goal for the year 2021, an invaluable next step is to break this overall goal down into smaller chunks, usually quarterly, and then monthly, and even weekly if you’re feeling extra motivated.
For example, if your goal is to run a half marathon (13.1 miles) by the end of the year, then you could break this down to being able to run a quarter marathon (6.55 miles) by the middle of the year, and then half that distance again by the end of the first quarter. Your goals might look like: End of March – be able to run 3.275 miles; End of June – be able to run 6.55 miles; End of September – be able to run 9.83 miles; End of December – be able to run 13.1 miles.
You can then further break this down to monthly goals, and then weekly goals, so you know exactly what targets you need to hit by the end of each week.
4. Work out how to do it
Now that you have your weekly targets, how are you going to achieve them? Figure out how much time you have to dedicate and what actions you need to take to meet these targets.
5. Make sure it’s manageable/realistic
In the step above, make sure that you can actually commit to the time or actions required to achieve your targets! If it’s just too much, there’s no shame in going back and revising your goals a little lower.
6. Schedule it
You know what’s required, now you have to pick a time when you’re going to actually do it. Pick a specific time in your schedule, and block out that time specifically for the actions you need to do. Calendars, phone alerts etc. all work great here – use them to your advantage!
7. Work out a back up plan
Let’s be honest – you might not always be able to meet your scheduled task, so now is the time to pick a ‘back up’ action/activity that you can do in the case that your previously scheduled action can’t be done for whatever reason. Make sure this back up plan is simple, easy and quick.
For example, maybe your scheduled plan from tip number 6 was to go for a run every day and increase the distance run by 50 yards each time.
If for some reason you can’t go on your run, what will you do instead? Maybe it’s to do 2 minutes of ‘mountain climbers’ in your room before you end the day, or perhaps a few sets of jumping jacks.
What will you do if you get sick or injured? Maybe it’s to take a break but substitute in stretching that you can do lying down.
Try not to skip days if you can – focus on building the habit of working towards your goal, no matter how small the action is.
8. Write it out
You should have hopefully already done this if you followed tip number 3, but if not, make sure you write down your overall goal on paper! For bonus points, write down your weekly target goal each week and refer to it daily – either when you wake up or when you go to sleep is best. This keeps it in front of mind and helps keep you focused.
9. Visualize it every day
Use your written out goals to prompt you to visualize what your life will look like once you’ve already achieved that goal, and do it everyday. It’s said that your mind cannot tell the difference between real and imagined, so if you do this often enough, your thoughts will literally create your reality.
Don’t forget to make these visualizations fun and enjoyable – they should excite you into action if you’re doing it right!
10. Be grateful for what you already have
Another thing that can help get you in the right headspace to productive action is to practice genuine gratitude for your current situation. No matter what, there is always a positive and negative aspect of every thing, and you can choose which you’re going to focus on. Make a habit of focusing on the good, rather than what’s missing, when it comes to your goals. This will associate good feelings towards the things you’re trying to achieve, and you should find yourself naturally wanting to spend more time there, rather than avoiding those areas of your life.
11. Review your progress every week
Set a calendar/reminder notification once a week to review how you went. Pull out your written goal statement and weekly targets. Did you achieve them? If not, why not? What can you do better for the next week ahead?
This step is not about beating yourself up if you missed doing what you said you would. Instead of reverting to negative self-talk, try digging deeper and finding any underlying reasons why you didn’t follow through, and figure out a way to get around them for the week ahead.
12. Find an accountability partner
Some people (myself included) need someone else to keep them accountable. We’ll do for others wayyyy more than we’ll do for ourselves. If this is you, make sure to find a like-minded person or friend who can either work out along side you, or otherwise just check up on you each week to see how you’re moving towards your goals.
13. Do the most important things first in the morning, or when you have the most energy
It’s very common to get to the end of your day and then run out of time or energy to do the important things you said you were going to do. The solution to this? Do. The. Important. Things. First.
Sometimes these things are unpleasant, so we put them off. I hate running, but if my goal was to run a half marathon by the end of the year, I’d have to do my training first thing in the morning, when my energy was at it’s highest.
Not everyone has high energy levels in the morning. If this is you, just choose a time when your energy levels are highest, and execute your plans then.
14. Don’t focus on too much at once
One of my main weaknesses is getting too fired up and trying to focus on a million things all at once. Of course, what ends up happening is that I lose my focus and don’t make much progress on any one particular thing.
I’d suggest picking one main area of focus for your fitness goals and putting all others to the side for now. You can always come back to them later. To continue with our example, if we made the focus on meeting the half marathon distance by the end of the year, it’s more productive to focus on that rather than just ‘trying to lose weight’. Often, the main goal (running the half marathon) will take care of the other things (losing excess weight) automatically as a side benefit anyway.
15. You are what you eat
Remember that you are literally what you eat, and try to consume food for how it fuels your body and makes you feel, rather than for taste alone.
Diet is huge, and if you’re eating junk all the time, it won’t really matter how much you work out, you may not be able to hit your fitness goals because of it.
I’m not a huge fan of ‘dieting’ or calorie counting. I prefer to just eat cleanly, avoiding processed and refined foods as much as possible, and sticking to a whole-foods approach, and I find the rest takes care of itself automatically with this approach.
16. Set up a quality sleep routine
Sleep is another hugely overlooked facet of health and fitness. Without enough sleep, you’ll have less energy, you won’t be able to work out as effectively, and you’re more likely to make poor choices when it comes to food and even time management.
Research on how to create the best sleep routine for you, and practice it, and you should see a massive difference in the quality of your life. Best of all, it’s completely free!
17. Allow yourself to take breaks/cheat days
It’s important to think long-term when it comes to hitting your fitness targets, and remember it’s all about balance.
Overall, this is about building consistency! If you push yourself too hard and that means you’ll just give up altogether, be mindful of this and pre-empt it by taking small breaks or having diet cheat-days where you need to.
These can often be the difference between giving up all together, by allowing yourself a little reprieve from what might be challenging habits to start to adopt.
18. Practice doing, even when you don’t feel like it
Good news everyone – you are in complete control of what you choose to do and your actions.
You can use this to your complete advantage by exercising the power of your mind (willpower) to take action even when you don’t feel like it. This is an absolutely indispensable skill to have when it comes to building a healthy body and sticking to a fitness routine.
And you know what often ends up happening? You start a workout dreading it, but come out of it feeling great and glad that you did it!
19. Remember that everything is progress
Any action you take towards your goal is progress, even sometimes when it doesn’t feel like it. Ever started something only to stick at it for a few days and then stop?
Well guess what? You still made progress forwards – even if it was only a tiny bit. The key is to keep that forward momentum and don’t stop moving forward. When you feel discouraged, ask yourself: What’s one action I can take right now, no matter how small, that will bring me closer to my goal?
And then go do that thing. And feel great about it – ’cause you just made progress my friend.
20. Celebrate the wins, no matter how small
This ties into the above. It’s important to review your progress regularly, and be proud of yourself for coming this far!
Sometimes it doesn’t feel like you’ve done all that much, but I’d like to offer a different perspective: Even by just reflecting on your progress, you are making progress, and this is a win! Mental energy spent in the area of your goals is often discounted, but I’d argue that this too is valuable because you’re conditioning yourself to focus on your goals, and therefore move closer to achieving them!
21. Enjoy the journey
Finally, don’t forget to enjoy the process of achieving your goals. Often everyone just wants the end result, the final goal, without having to put in the hard work.
Try to focus on enjoying the process too though, there’s a lot of valuable things to be learnt from this. When it comes to fitness, that can be things like: learning willpower, how to take action even when you don’t feel like it, honoring your body, being grateful for your body and physical ability, being grateful for nourishing food and water, being grateful for all the amazing resources available to us like the internet, home workouts and fitness influencers.
To me, these are sometimes just as enjoyable, or sometimes more than, the single end goal.
I hope you have a great start to the new year, and I’d love to hear any of your fitness goals or other resolutions for 2021!