With the New Year right around the corner, now is the time to start getting serious about goals.
What do you hope to achieve in the next 12 months? Do you want to pack on more lean muscle mass? Hit the squat PR you've always dreamed of? Maybe shed those 10 pounds that have stuck around since college?
Whatever your goal this year, to see any kind of definitive change, you must change your approach. This may sound straightforward, but it's easier to fall into a rut than it is to try something new.
If this is truly going to be a year of change, your plan of attack needs to take you above and beyond where you've always been. Let's look at some of the best tips and strategies from top Dymatize-sponsored physique athletes to help inspire you to make the most of the next 12 months and come out ahead in 2018.
Set Doable Daily Goals
One of the biggest mistakes people make is setting a large-scale goal on the first day of January, only to lose sight of it by February. Big goals are overwhelming, unmanageable, and more likely to lead to failure than success.
This is the year to change all that. Instead of choosing one big, insurmountable goal, identify smaller, mini-goals you can strive toward daily.
"It's the small steps that add up over time, not the giant leaps, that get you to and keep you where you want to be with fitness," says IFBB pro and motivational fitness speaker Brandan Fokken. "Make small changes and implement them daily to achieve your long-term fitness goals."
These smaller, daily goals eventually add up to the large-scale goal you wanted to set in the first place. By focusing on what's achievable each day, you'll consistently hit the mark and keep your motivation high until you finally reach your destination.
Set A Spring Goal
Along with daily goals, set shorter-term, measureable goals that stretch out over a few weeks or months. For example, instead of setting a goal to lose 20 pounds by the end of June, why not focus on losing the first 10 before the end of March?
"When you choose shorter time frames, it's easier to stay focused on the task at hand," explains fitness author, personal trainer, and IFBB pro Brooke Erickson. "Set a goal you would like to accomplish by the first day of spring on your calendar. That way you'll know where you stand halfway to your summer goal."
Ideally, every program should have long-term goals of 6-12 months, short-term goals every few months, and smaller, daily goals you strive to reach each week. Setting a goal for spring instead of summer gives you the opportunity to check your progress, setting you up for greater success.
Focus On Health
If you're like many people, your focus in years past may have been on aesthetics or performance, like melting body fat or increasing your squat. While these are worthy goals, change things up this January and make 2018 the year of health.
Aesthetics and performance aside, the end goal of every fitness program is optimizing your health to lead a long and fulfilling life. To set a health-related goal, ask yourself if you can identify one habit that gets in the way of better health and fitness. Are you not sleeping enough? Consuming too much added sugar? Forgetting to drink enough water? Eating too much or too little?
Asking these questions can help you identify easy ways to improve your health daily. A goal to "eat healthier," is a little too vague, but when you identify "eating cookies every night after dinner" as one habit you can do away with, then your goal can be "read instead of snacking after dinner," or "replace cookies with fresh berries." These goals are more specific and easier to execute.
Focusing on health can also help you avoid extreme approaches that do more harm than good. For instance, will that 700-calorie crash diet help promote good health? Certainly not! Asking whether an extreme change is healthy can help you weed out the dangerous fad diets and iffy get-fit-quick schemes.
When you put health in front of all else, you are more inclined to choose strategies that will produce great results over time. Chances are you'll find those strategies easier and more enjoyable, too.
Log Your Food Every Day
Make no mistake, great results don't come without hard work. Sometimes, though, the hardest work is not the heavy lifting, it's consistently tracking your progress. An oft-overlooked rule of better health and fitness is the habit of consistently keeping track of what you eat.
"I suggest logging your food each day," says NPC Men's Physique competitor Mike Hildebrandt. "This will increase your awareness and accountability."
The idea behind logging your food every day is follow-through. Even if it's not perfect, you are still holding yourself accountable by tracking everything, making you more aware of your habits and better able to change them.
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People tend to underestimate how many calories they're consuming every day. If you aren't keeping track, how can you possibly know what you need to adjust to hit your goals?
If you are serious about your goals, you must put in the work, both in the gym and in the kitchen. Weigh and measure what you eat until you learn the right portions, and log your food every day. It takes time, but it's well worth it.
Get A Support Group
"Surround yourself with positive people and influencers," says Fokken. "They say the five people you surround yourself with will essentially help dictate where you end up. I've found this to be true."
Ask yourself if the people you surround yourself with every day are positive and supportive of you and your fitness goals. Do they exhibit the same healthy habits and behaviors you value? I'm not saying every one of your friends has to eat kale and go to the gym seven days a week, but if you feel your closest friends don't support you, or they actively try to sabotage your fitness goals, it might be time to find new company.
The gym can be a very social place and is a great option for meeting people who share your enthusiasm for health. If you're looking to meet fit-minded people, drop in on a group exercise class, check out a local CrossFit gym, or sign up for a local fun run or charity race.
Let your friends and family know of fitness events you're interested in attending and see if they want to join in with you. You may even find those who weren't supportive at first will become a lot more positive once they can see and share in your enthusiasm.
In the digital age, it's not hard to find people who inspire you.
"Follow people on social media who align with your goals," suggests Erickson. "Surrounding yourself with like-minded people online will motivate you and help keep you focused."
Don't underestimate the influence this can have on your motivation. Instead of searching for funny memes or cat videos, look up your favorite fitness personalities, or find someone you know who's into fitness and see who they follow. There are plenty of individuals, groups, and organizations out there who are willing to post and share inspiring and motivating stories and videos for their followers.
Once you have athletic and motivational personalities on, say, your Instagram feed, tune in before a workout, watch a few new videos they've put out, and be inspired to crush your own workout.
Adopt A Routine
The best results happen when you find your groove by establishing a routine you'll keep over time.
"Making your days more routine and scheduled will help you stay on track with your training and nutrition," says Hildebrandt. "Some of the most successful people in fitness are extremely dedicated to their routines and habits."
If you don't have a routine, you must constantly stress about planning when you'll fit your workout in, what to eat, and when you'll have time to cook your meals. Having a routine takes all the stress and worry out of the process. You simply execute your day-to-day activities and watch as the results happen right before your eyes.
Create a routine to take the thought out of it, and you'll find reaching your fitness goals becomes so much easier.
Keep A Daily Agenda
If you want to get a workout in but don't set aside a specific time in your day to make it happen, how successful do you think you will be? Not very. You oversee your own schedule. Unfortunately, if you don't make time for fitness, it simply won't happen.
Again, this is something coaches and fitness professionals already know, which is why they take their schedules seriously.
"Prioritize your day," says Fokken. "Meal prep, plan workouts, and then use your time to achieve the goals you've set." His mantra is simple: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
If you aren't seeing results, step back and see how you can better organize your day to support your goals. If you consistently work late and can't make it to the gym, switch to morning or lunchtime workouts. If you don't want to prep meals every night, choose one or two days a week when you know you can devote an hour or two to cooking and prepping.
Remember, you are the only one who has your best interests in mind. If you don't carve out time for the things that matter to you, work, events, tasks, and people will constantly get in the way and take up your time. It may be hard at first, but the more diligently you follow your schedule, the easier it will become. Set a daily agenda, and stick to it!
Get Creative With Your Food
If you feel like you've gotten into a food rut in the last few months, make the new year a time to try new things. The array of healthy recipe options out there means there's no reason to ever become bored with your diet plan.
Look at what you have in the fridge and search the internet for a recipe that incorporates all of those ingredients, or dust off your old recipe books and cook up some favorites from the past. If you're trying to go gluten-free, no dairy, or paleo, type those phrases into the recipe search engine and see what comes up!
New tastes and a change in pace can really make a difference in your adherence to any diet plan. Before you know it, you'll be looking forward to trying more and more new and creative variations. Enjoying that process is everything when it comes to success.
Make Your Goals Active
Rather than just setting a goal to lose a certain number of pounds or hit a certain weight on your bench press, set an active goal—something you can actively participate in to help you achieve your ultimate goal.
"Choose one thing that you really want to accomplish before the year's over and make it big," says Erickson. "Sign up for a challenge, purchase an adventurous vacation package, or make a plan to run a full marathon."
These all have an external element to them, which many people will find highly motivating. If it helps you stick to your workout program, it's definitely going to help you see better results.
Begin Every Day With Something Active
Start each day out right and get some activity in before the stress or pressures of the day have a chance to creep in.
As Hildebrandt notes, "A little activity first thing in the morning is a great way to get you started off on the right foot and establish a regular routine."
He goes on to point out that 15 minutes on the spin bike or a quick walk around the block will help prepare your mind and set your metabolism up for success for the day—another must-have for results.
Even if you don't manage to get in a full workout later that day, simply adding in a small dose of activity first thing in the morning can kick-start your results. By starting each day with something active, you'll tackle each day knowing you've done something—and that's always better than nothing.
Get A New Workout Plan
If you've been doing the same old thing day after day for the last few months, it's time for a fresh start.
Remember, your body adapts to the stimulus being applied to it and if you are constantly providing the same stimulus over and over again, eventually results will slow to a crawl.
Revamp your program. The new exercises, set ranges, and workout split will also keep you mentally stimulated and prevent workout boredom. There's nothing like a completely new workout routine to get your body responding again and help you see optimal results.
For more workout plans, recipes, ideas, and motivation, check out our All Access page for a list of programs to fit your goals!