Many of us jump into a new year with a fresh, positive mindset. This year will be the new me. This year, I will accomplish my goals and become an improved version of myself. But how do you stick to those resolutions once the novelty of “new year, new you” has worn off? Let’s face it, it’s well known that most of us struggle to carry resolutions out fully. It’s OK at the start of January. Everywhere you look, everyone’s seemingly on the same page as you. Instagram is full of special offers of “miracle” diet plans, online tabloids are awash with adverts and articles, driving you on. We’re all in it together! But what happens when the dust settles? 

As a personal trainer, I encounter a vast variety of clients, all with different hopes and goals. These are some of the very best pieces of advice I give them…

1. Set goals, not resolutions

A resolution is when you resolve to do or not do something. It’s a firm, concrete decision. For example, “I will not drink alcohol.” A goal, on the other hand, is an aim, a desired result, such as “I want to be able to perform an unassisted sit-up” or “I want to fit into my favourite jeans.” I always encourage clients to set goals over resolutions. With fitness goals, you are setting yourself a specific achievement. Not only can they change and evolve as you progress, but they’re easier to manage.

2. Be truly realistic

This is so important. We simply MUST be realistic with what we want to achieve. If not, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Maybe you’ve made resolutions and goals in the past… have they stuck? If not, were they maintainable and achievable? I’ve had clients say to me things like “I want to lose 2 stone before my friend’s wedding next month” or tell me they’re going to follow a strict, low-calorie diet plan and go from zero exercise to training 6 days a week overnight. Ambition and drive is great but these radical plans are likely to be short-lived. Rather than the above, I would suggest far healthier goals for those clients. I would suggest a focus on fat loss, measurements and achievable fitness goals with the first client, and suggest the other client really thinks about whether he could really commit to that amount of training and would work out a sensible workout and diet plan. So, be true to yourself. Small wins, rather than giant leaps are the key to continued success.

3. Don’t be vague

Goals need to be measurable in order to track effectively. “I want to tone up” or “I want to be strong” are pretty vague, not to mention ambiguous. So, rather than “I want to tone up”, a better goal would perhaps be sensible reduction in overall body fat, which can be measured every few weeks to track progress. Rather than “I want to be strong”, you could perhaps test how many press ups you can do and set a goal to improve that score. I set 12-week goals with my clients, which will be sensible yet challenging and monitored every few weeks. This means a client is taking continual steps to success. And to me, it’s so important that overall fitness and wellbeing is always part of someone’s “journey”. Just wanting to lose weight isn’t enough. It’s important to want to feel better, be healthier, live well.

4. Create accountability

It’s a great idea to not go it alone! Tell family and friends in order to give yourself accountability, and for support. You could join like-minded folk on online groups, join classes at the gym, or an outdoor running club, and so on. It really helps to share your challenges and progress. And it’s lovely to celebrate those wins with others. It’s also a great idea to create structure. Have workouts scheduled in on your calendar, for example, and stick to it.

5. Monitor progress

If you don’t monitor improvement – and monitor it well - you may not realise just how far you’ve come! Just the other day, at one of my clients’ retests, we took measurements and performed a series of fitness retests. She had only lost 2lbs in 5 weeks and was feeling despondent. However, not only had she decreased her waist and hip measurements by a couple of inches each, but she also doubled her scores on her fitness tests. As she said to me, if she had just been going it alone at the gym, she wouldn’t have been monitoring specifically like this, and would have given up when she saw she’d only lost 2lbs. She hadn’t factored in muscle gain, which weighs more than fat, and was so focused on weight that she hadn’t even thought about her actual fitness gains.

6. Give it time

Change takes time. Perhaps you want to eat a far more nourishing diet, for example. Please try not to be too hard on yourself. If you’re used to eating processed foods, lots of sugary snacks etc, remember that it takes time to change. Change doesn’t happen overnight. Well, it can, but it isn’t likely to stick. Creating new habits is a time-consuming thing. Give it the time it needs, celebrate the small wins and be proud of smaller steps to prolonged progress.

So that’s my advice. With focus and remembering to aim for evolving change, rather than overnight success, you’re on your way to victory.

Guest post by Level 3 Personal Trainer & Nutritional Advisor, Laura Betts. Follow Laura on Instagram here!