Better Than Resolutions and Goals for Getting in Shape

By on December 30, 2020
Better goals

It’s not particularly original to point out that a lot of people will be joining the gym in January. (Or would be if they were open…)

Nor is it news to anyone that a lot of those New Year’s training plans will ultimately fail to make a lasting impact. It seems almost human nature to write optimistic goals and then abandon them just months later.

The problem is with this whole “resolutions” malarkey. And the same goes for goals. So, what’s better?

Energy is Finite

The problem is that we view fitness as modular. We think of training goals as being somehow separate from our broader lifestyle and habits. We think that we can simply “add on” an extensive workout regime or new diet plan, without considering how it may affect the rest of our lives.

Healthy Lifestyle Meditation

To illustrate, consider the person who is out of shape and currently spends their evenings lying in front of the television. Come New Years, they then decide to start a new workout program consisting of four workouts a week alongside a new, low calorie diet. Sounds good and normal right?

Eh…

Those four workouts mean taking at least six hours out of their current schedule (four hours of training and four x 30 minutes commuting/showering if we’re being generous). This is all with lower caloric intake.

Here’s the thing: if that person had no energy to do anything in the evenings up to this point, why should they suddenly be able to find the motivation to be extremely active for six hours? Nothing has changed!

You can’t keep tacking things onto your schedule without repercussion.

I’ve said this before: energy is finite. You can’t keep tacking things onto your schedule without repercussion. If you’re crashing out at the end of the day, that’s because you’re spent.

And here’s the thing: willpower itself requires energy. We are far more likely to give in to cravings when we are tired or stressed.

(Interestingly, we’re also more likely to act impulsively and even immorally!)

This is a losing battle and it’s unsustainable.

Willpower itself requires energy.

And it doesn’t help that the training you have planned is probably arduous, dull, and decidedly not fun.

This doesn’t just apply to working out either. The same goes for plans to learn a new language, start a side business, write a book, tidy the house… you name it.

The Better Approach: Holistic Lifetyle Changes

We need to look at our plans and goals in the broader context of our lives.

If you’re going to add six hours of training to your routine, you need to gain those six hours back somehow. You may cancel another commitment, or find a way to make your day less tiring and stressful.

For example, you could start working from home two days a week (if you can negotiate that with your boss). You could cancel your weekly games night. Or tell the kids to make their own way to school.

Likewise, you could address the underlying tiredness that is preventing you from being more active. Commit to going to bed an hour earlier (especially if you’re guilty of staying up till 1am every morning). You could try to eat a bit better. Supplement. Endeavour to move more throughout the day.

See also: Why You Should Spread Your Workouts Throughout the Day

If you’re feeling depressed or anxious, then this will rob a HUGE amount of your energy and willpower. Perhaps the first thing to do then, is to address that. This could be a simple matter of combating SAD with a daylight clock, or it might mean months of therapy. It may mean taking a long hard look at your current lifestyle and quitting a bad job. Or even ending a bad relationship.

Integration

You also need to be more gradual when integrating exercise into your regime.

Rather than starting with six hours, why not commit to just one hour to begin with? That might mean two 30 minute workouts a week from home. That’s a very small commitment and one that will be easier to fit around your busy routine.

(Training from home rather than a gym when you’re new has a lot of big advantages.)

Think about when, where, and how you are going to train for minimal friction. Is there a point in your current routine where you’re free for 30 minutes and still have enough energy to train?

Productivity One Minute Rule

You could even try spreading your workouts throughout the day. I’m a huge advocate of this approach, not only because it minimizes recovery times, but also because it results in a generally healthier lifestyle. There are major perks to training multiple times a day, from regularly spiking your metabolism, to preventing your muscles from seizing up.

Even if you don’t commit fully to this idea, finding ways to be healthier throughout the day will greatly increase your chances of success. That means walking when possible, doing some morning stretches, reducing bad habits. Walking is generally a fantastic way to improve your fitness and will likely have a bigger impact on your weekly calorie burn than adding a few workouts – if that’s your aim.

Finding ways to be healthier throughout the day will greatly increase your chances of success.

Again, all this applies to other goals too. If your goal is to learn German, find ways to integrate that practice into your daily routine. That might mean listening to lessons while brushing your teeth, or watching German TV while you’re doing the ironing.

Make it Enjoyable

Finally, make sure the training is something you enjoy doing. Don’t force yourself to do squats if you hate squatting and don’t have a squat rack. Don’t make yourself run for miles on end if you hate that.

Maybe you could try doing some calisthenics and learning to handstand? Maybe you could play a sport with your friends? Maybe you could take up dance, follow along with a yoga routine, or buy a bike. You could even buy an Oculus Quest and do some VR boxing! These are all legitimate options for training.

And again, this holds true for those other goals. If you can’t bring yourself to listen to German lessons instead of YouTube, then perhaps you don’t really want to learn? Or perhaps its just not being delivered in an exciting enough manner?

Closing Comments

The bottom line is this: don’t come up with elaborate plans to get in shape or change your life and expect to magically summon up the discipline.

If you’re going to be more successful, you need to address every aspect of your current lifestyle and routine. You need a plan that’s tailored to you. And you need to stack the deck in your favour!

Don’t set resolutions; build entirely new routines, schedules, and life-plans.

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About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

2 Comments

  1. Sam says:

    I think this is really good advice and something not talked enough about. Online there seems to be this bizarre idea that you should never enjoy yourself, and that you should always be forced to do things you hate just for the sake of it. There is obviously something to be gained from learning how to do things you don’t want to do, but when you’re crafting a routine I really feel that you should fill your time with things you are actually excited to do. The internet is filled with prescriptive ways of how to live your life, the reason why I like your work so much is that it is actually focused on being sensible. It’s about allowing people to get to as healthy and ENJOYABLE a lifestyle as possible. So this is really great stuff, and it is an especially good counter to all the dogmatic nonsense you get online.

  2. Ricky says:

    I think this is certainly true. Additionally though I think these big changes can be made. Providing they are achieved in small chunks. Don’t start a new diet, new training regime and a membership at a new gym all at once. Do exactly what you were doing before but swap your breakfast to a healthy one for a month. Yes this is initially painful but not so bad. Soon it becomes a habit and you can swap your lunch. The progress is slow but lasting. In 3 or so months you can change your entire diet without ever feeling like you have been on a diet. Obviously though there are only 24 hours in a day and you will always have to sacrifice something. But if it’s small it’s doable.

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