Might you be making one or more of these 20 New Year’s resolution mistakes?
You’re all enthusiastic. You’ve joined a gym, you’ve got yourself some fancy new gym kit and a new pair of trainers. You’ve sorted out a workout playlist. You’re champing at the bit.
You get off to a flyer in the first couple of weeks. You miss a couple of sessions. Things are getting in the way. You miss a whole week. You try to keep going. But it’s not having much effect anyway. You miss another week. Feels like a chore to go to the gym now. Can’t be bothered. You’ve given up before the end of February.
Why is it that so many New Year’s resolutions are not realised? Why do so many health and fitness aspirations fall by the wayside? So many gym memberships go unused!
We give you 20 reasons why you might not be reaching your health and fitness goals… and suggest solutions.
1. You have no driving motivation
You know you want to lose weight, but why? You don’t like the way you look. Why? Because you think people judge you and think you’re not attractive. So, what would it mean to you if you lost weight? Well, you think, people wouldn’t judge you; you’d have a lot more confidence and that might open some doors. Career doors. It might mean the difference between success and failure; you’d be able to find a partner. OK, so those things really matter! That could be your driving motivation.
Or perhaps you’re worried about your health. You’ve got young kids and you want to be there for them as they’re growing up.
Find your driving motivation. Find a reason that really matters to you. Something that will make you go to the gym without fail. Something that will make you try hard when you’re there. Something that will stop you from giving up.
Never lose sight of that reason.
2. You have no vision
This goes hand in hand with your driving motivation. How will you look when you’ve reached your goals? How will it feel? What cool things will happen in the future if you achieve your goals? That’s your vision. It’s a picture of how great things will be in the future when you achieve your goals.
If you don’t have a vision then think about it now. What will it be like when you reach your goals?
Use your vision to create your driving motivation. Keep it in your mind and keep driving towards it.
3. You have no measurable goal
Lose weight. Get fit. Sure, they are goals. But how will you know whether you’ve reached your goals? How much weight will you lose? What will you be able to do when you’re fit that you can’t do now? Run 10km? Do 10 push ups? Go up and down the stairs without having to stop to catch your breath?
If you can’t quantify or qualify what goals you’re aiming for, then you won’t know whether you’re getting there, are near to them or have achieved them.
Set some goals. They should be SMART. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound.
4. You’re not tracking your progress
If you have a measurable goal then you can track your progress. How much better do you need to be every week in order to meet your goals within the time you have set?
For example, perhaps you want to be able to run 10km without stopping. You want to do this in 6 months. You want to be able to run 1km within 6 weeks. 2km within 10 weeks. 3km in 3 months. 5km in 4 months. 7km in 5 months. 10km in 6 months. That’s a plan. You can measure that.
What do you need to achieve every time you go for a run? Are you achieving it? Are you on track?
Achieving these mini-goals not only keeps you on track, it also stokes your motivation and keeps you going.
5. You have false expectations
You want to lose weight. You know how much you want to lose but you have unrealistic expectations about how long it will take. Your progress is MUCH slower than you expected. After a month you’ve only lost 3 or 4lbs and your weight seems to go up and down by that amount on a daily basis. You’re not even sure if you’ve lost anything!
You conclude that it’s not working and stop trying. You give up.
First of all, be realistic. 1lb per week is a sensible expectation. You may be able to lose weight quicker, and many people do. But you may not. Set your expectations at 1lb per week and if you lose it quicker, then happy days. That’ll motivate you even further.
Second, be aware that your levels of hydration and water retention will affect your weight on a day-by-day, hour-by-hour basis. There is going to be noise on your weigh-ins. Plot your weights so you can see the trend clearly. We have written previously about weighing yourself.
6. You don’t dig deep
If you’re unfit then exercise might not be a pleasant experience at first.
- Not like feeling out of breath.
- Suffer from poor blood sugar control and feel faint and nauseous.
- Start feeling mysterious pains and niggles as your muscles groan under the unaccustomed strain and your nervous system wakes up.
Or maybe you just go through the motions. You turn up and put in minimal effort. The same effort every time. That’s not enough if you want to make progress.
You have to dig deep. You have to work through the discomfort, you have to try hard and you have to persevere.
Dig deep and magic things will happen. You’ll find that exercise will actually give you a high. You’ll learn to love it and your whole life will benefit.
7. You go home first
Don’t go home before you go to the gym. Go on the way to work or on the way back from work. If you go home, expecting to quickly gather your kit and spring back out of the door into the driving rain then you’re going to end up disappointed with your progress.
Your home is too cosy. It has lovely welcoming people in it. Home has food smells and cupboards with snacks in. And a fridge with beer in. And all those things are beckoning you.
Instead of going home first, get the work done on the way home. If you have to change the family mealtime then do it. You’ll need the buy-in of your family for this, so support – see later – is also important.
8. You find the gym daunting.
You turn up raring to go on your first gym visit. You step out into the arena and….. oh gosh, look at all those slim fit people. I don’t want to be near them, they’ll judge me. What’s she doing? That looks like hard work, I could never do that? What are all these different things people are doing? What does that equipment do? What if I do it wrong and people laugh at me? Everyone is looking at me, they know I don’t know what I’m doing. They think I’m fat.
You have a horrible experience. The prospect of going back seems even more daunting. Your gym membership goes unused.
It’s worth investing in a couple of hours with a fitness instructor for two reasons. First, they can design a programme for you so you know what you are supposed to be doing. Second, they can show you how to use everything. That way you can look like someone who knows what they are doing and have the confidence to do it.
If you really can’t get on with a gym environment then, if your budget allows, find yourself a personal trainer who doesn’t operate in a gym. Either a home visiting trainer, an outdoors trainer or one who has their own private studio. Yes, that was a plug!
9. You don’t know what to do
What should you be trying to achieve on every visit? What exercises should you be doing, in what order and how much weight and how many reps? How long should you run on the treadmill? At what speed? How should you warm up? And what muscles should you stretch afterwards?
If you don’t know what to do then you might lose motivation very quickly. You might not be working hard enough, so make no progress. You might be doing things that could injure you, and that would halt your progress straight away.
Seek some advice from the gym staff. They are there to help you get the most out of your membership. Get a personal trainer if you don’t want to think too hard about it and you want ongoing instruction.
10. You get injured
You didn’t get instruction and you did something that injured you. You performed an exercise incorrectly. You tried to mimic some of the big guys in the gym. Or you went to a class that was too advanced and you got hurt. Or you didn’t take care to stretch and look after your muscles and you pulled something.
Injury is going to stop you in your tracks. Do the right exercises for your level of capability. Use the right technique. Use the right weight. Warm up and cool down properly.
If you’re not sure of these things, get some instruction.
11. You have no accountability
If you’re only accountable to yourself then you’ll talk yourself out of it, especially if you have no driving motivation.
Try any of the following
- Find someone with similar goals and do it with them. Commit to each other. You won’t want to be the one who gives up and ruins it for both of you.
- Get yourself a training buddy. Train with someone and agree on the time you will meet and train together. You won’t want to let them down by not turning up.
- Make a promise to someone. You’ve promised your fiancé you’ll lose two stones by the wedding date. Don’t let her down!
- Go public. Publish your intentions on social media and post regular updates. You won’t jack it in once you’ve generated THAT level of interest!
- Get yourself a trainer and pay upfront. You’ve committed the cash. You’ve got all the appointments in the diary – same time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. You’ve got to turn up! And your trainer will be tracking your progress.
Even if your driving motivation is not strong, you can overcome that with the right accountability.
12. You have no training buddy
A training buddy is a great idea. Not only will your buddy provide accountability for turning up, but they will also motivate you during the session and provide some healthy competition or moral support.
If you train on your own it’s much more difficult to push yourself and you may not even turn up!
13. You don’t prioritise it
You don’t have time! You have all these other things to do. Work, family, social events, TV to watch.
Huh? TV? When was that part of a health and fitness plan?
Cut an hour off your TV time. Take 15 minutes off family time during the week, compensated by an extra 75 minutes at the weekend. Shorten meal times. Stop hanging around in the office and chatting as you leave. Turn down the after-work beers. Get 7 and a half hours sleep instead of 8.
There you go. You’ve got time.
You just have to decide that health and fitness is important. Health, vitality, longevity is more important than anything. Without your health you’re a shadow of your potential self.
Your health and fitness is a lifestyle choice. It’s going to be a part of your daily routine. It’s a habit and it’s here to stay.
Once you’ve decided that, it’s easy.
14. You find excuses
You’ve just got to finish this piece of work at the office. No, you don’t. It’ll still be there in the morning. The deadline is a few days away.
My heel is hurting from running all the time, I need to give it a miss tonight. No, you don’t. Find some other way to exercise. Go on the cross trainer. Row. Lift some weights.
I’ve had a really stressful day, I can’t face the gym. Come on, do you think the other people in the gym are free of stress? No. In fact, they know that exercise will help relieve their stress.
If you find yourself making excuses then you need to revisit your driving motivation or create some accountability.
15. You give in to peer pressure
You’re invited to the pub after work. You always have a laugh at the pub. Sounds like fun. You put away 800 calories. You feel bad. You wake up the next day and feel rubbish.
You’re on a meal out. The group decides to order a selection of dishes and everyone will share. All the choices are high calorie. And everyone agrees you’ll all share the drinks bill. You don’t have the bottle to speak up because you don’t want any heckling and you don’t want to spoil their fun. You wipe out your calorie deficit for the week.
I’ve been on a stag do and a lad’s weekend to Majorca without drinking any alcohol. I got respect rather than abuse.
Speak up. Tell people. You might be surprised by the respect and support.
16. You haven’t told anyone
You’re embarrassed that you are having to lose weight. It’s like admitting you are fat. You think if you tell people they will judge you, or sneer at you or mock you.
But the reality is they are full of admiration! They are thinking that they wish they had the bottle and the motivation to do it.
Or they are full of respect. They congratulate you. They offer support. They ask how it’s going. They engage you in conversation about it. You’re interesting suddenly!
If you don’t tell people then you will always be hiding it. You’ll make up some nonsense about why you’re not going for drinks. You’ll worry that you’ll bump into someone you know in the gym. You’ll worry that people will notice you losing weight and quiz you on it. What?! You worry that people will see you lose weight? How did you get to that contrary position?
Tell people. Get their interest. Seek their support. Get buy-in.
17. You have not gained support
Telling people is one thing. Gaining support is another.
If what you are doing negatively impacts them then they will not support you. If your attitude is without regard to others then you will not gain support.
Discuss it with those who will be affected. Make sure you convey the importance of the end goal and why it matters to them as well as to you. Agree on a set of changes that work for everyone.
If you do this, if you start without a fixed plan with the intention of being flexible, then you will garner support much more easily.
18. You haven’t sorted out your diet
You’re exercising, you’re working hard and you’re enjoying it!
But you’re not making progress.
You fail to realise there are two sides to the weight loss formula. Calories out. Calories in. You’re paying no attention to the calories in, you’re just continuing to eat the way you always ate. In fact, you might be eating a little more because you’re a bit hungrier now that you’re exercising.
You become frustrated, declare it’s not working, and give up.
You have to learn about food and you have to make better choices if you’re trying to lose weight.
19. You reward yourself.
I’ve been to the gym, I can have a little bit of cake. No! You can’t! You absolutely cannot! Perhaps if you are maintaining your weight and working really hard in the gym you can have your cake and eat it. But if you want to lose weight you have to make sacrifices.
Most people underestimate how many calories they burn in the gym. An hour’s hard work? Maybe 500 calories. More if you’re big and heavy, less if you’re lighter. Piece of cake? Not far off 500 calories. Oh, and you were good, you just had the one biscuit. And you only had a small glass of wine. But you can have that because you went to the gym. No, you can’t.
Don’t reward yourself. Kate Moss once said ‘Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’. Although she has been criticised for this comment, there’s definitely an element of truth in it. Feeling fit, looking good and oozing self-confidence feels a lot better than the momentary gratification the comes with a piece of cake or a biscuit.
Be strict and be consistent.
20. You starve yourself
You’ve sorted out your eating but way too much! You’re eating salad every meal and you’ve cut out all fat and all carbs. You’re starving yourself. You find it incredibly tough. You’re hungry all the time. You’re grumpy and tired. You feel weak. You lose a bit of weight but then plateau.
Then when you resume eating normally all the weight goes back on. You conclude that you’ve got the wrong genetics.
It’s not your genetics, it’s your approach to food. A crash diet is going to trash your metabolism, your libido, your vitality, your muscle tissue.
Set your expectations, be patient and lose weight slowly.
21. Bonus mistake! You have the wrong habits
I know it says 20 but the truth is there are way more than 20 possible reasons why you don’t achieve your resolutions. I wanted to add this one and couldn’t decide which one to take out. So this is a bonus!
If you make exercise or healthy eating into a habit then it’ll stick.
Here’s an example. Imagine you intend to do some exercise first thing in the morning. Get your kit ready the night before. Put it in a pile somewhere where it can’t be ignored. When you get up, put your kit on, make it the first thing you do. Now you’re in your kit that’s your trigger for the daily routine. Do your exercise then have your reward. That might be the endorphin rush, or the satisfaction or sense of achievement. Or it might be a decent breakfast. Whatever your reward, you’ve created a habit. Trigger -> routine -> reward. Whenever you put your kit out the night before, you know you’re getting up to do your exercise and get your reward. You’ve made it a habit. It’s a habit you’ll crave and find hard to break once you’ve got into the swing of it.
Contrast this with your chocolate habit. Every evening after dinner you take your plate to the sink or the dishwasher. That’s your trigger to grab some chocolate and take it back to the sofa. Your take a small square but the taste gives you a craving for more. You go back several times for more squares until you tell yourself enough! Your reward is the pleasure response produced by the brain. It’s addictive. Again you have a habit characterised by a trigger, a routine and a reward. But this time the habit is not so healthy. Instead, replace the routine with something healthy – perhaps a low-calorie hot chocolate or, better, some delicious sweet berries. This way you keep your habit, you keep the trigger and reward, but you’ve changed a bad habit into a good one.
The wrap up
Do any of these 20 New Year’s resolution mistakes ring true for you? Then why not take the advice above and see what difference it can make. You don’t have to give up on your New Year’s resolution or your health and fitness aspiration. You CAN achieve success, you just need to avoid the common mistakes.