9 keys for taking a tactical approach to your fitness plan

New Year’s resolutions often involve new gym memberships or recommitments to existing ones, but too many people fail to follow through for the whole year — here are nine keys to achieving your goals

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Every January, gyms are flooded with a rush of new members hoping to make this the year that their fitness resolutions stick. The majority of these hopeful people get derailed and give up by February. These tips will help you take a tactical approach to your fitness goals and ensure that you achieve them this year.

1. Know Your ‘Why’
Before committing to a goal, be crystal clear on the motivations driving your desire. I bet you know exactly why you chose a career in law enforcement. Your fitness goals need that same level of clarity. Answer this question: Why is now the time to start a new workout routine or diet? Don’t settle for vague answers like “I want to be fit” or “I need to lose weight.”

Everyone knows that but it’s not motivation.

Your “why” is much deeper than that. Pretend you are explaining your goal to a curious child that will ask multiple obvious follow-up questions. If your answer is “I need to lose weight” a child would ask “Why?” and you’d be forced to explain further.

Your “why” may be anything from cardiovascular disease concerns, having a use of force encounter where your fitness was put to the test, or simply wanting pride in your appearance. Keep drilling down with additional follow-up questions until you get to the root cause of your motivation. Once you know your “why” you will be laser focused on your goals.

2. Make SMART Goals, Not Resolutions
New Year’s resolutions are inherently associated with failure. When you make a resolution, people expect you to fail. Don’t make a resolution this year, make a goal instead — and make it a SMART goal. Smart goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

“I will lose weight” is not a SMART goal because it is not specific enough to be measurable or achievable and it is not time-bound. The SMART version of this goal would be: “I will lose 25 pounds in the next six months. I will do this by eating protein and fresh vegetables with every meal while limiting processed foods. I will follow a strength training program, lift three times a week, and perform cardio once or twice a week to achieve this goal. I will hold myself accountable with a food journal and training logs. I will lose five pounds per month during this six month period to achieve this goal.”

3. Prioritize Your Goals and Focus on What’s Most Important
If you choose more than one goal, prioritize their importance and establish which goal is the main goal. If any of your supplementary goals compete with the main goal, eliminate them from the list. Gaining 10 pounds of muscle, losing 20 pounds of fat, squatting twice your bodyweight, and improving your run time in the mile-and-a-half PT test are all great individual goals. However, if you try to achieve them all at the same time, you most likely won’t achieve any of them.

4. Record and Share Your Goals
Once you have established your motivation and goals, physically write them down. The act of writing your goals down reinforces your commitment. Post your goals where you will see them regularly, such as in your locker or on the fridge. Then share them with people close to you such as your family and partner. Choose positive people who will help support you and check up on your progress.

5. Use Short-Term Goals to Achieve Long-Term Goals
If you set an audacious long-term goal, such as running a marathon or losing 50 pounds in the next year, use short-term goals to stay on track. Set a date to run your first 5k or set monthly goals of losing five pounds. Each short-term goal you achieve is a little win that causes a snowball effect towards your long-term goal. The more audacious your goal is, the more frequent and easier to achieve your short-term goals need to be.

6. Start Where You Are (Not Where You Want to Be)
It’s easy to get fired up on a goal and try to jump in full steam, but this is a recipe for disaster. If you’ve been out of the gym for a while, don’t try and jump back in with your favorite football player’s advanced plan. Swallow your pride, pick a beginner program, and it will pay off in the long run.

Similarly, don’t go at 100 percent every single workout. You can work out at full throttle, and you can work out often, but you can’t work out at full throttle very often. Medium and light intensity training sessions are just as important in the long run as the all-out workouts.

7. “The Enemy of a Good Plan is the Dream of a Perfect Plan”
This quote is by Prussian General Carl Von Clausewitz. You don’t need the perfect diet or the best workout plan. Time spent pondering over the ideal solution is time wasted. Just get started with one that is good enough to get you to your goals. Don’t chase perfection, just try and be a little better today than you were yesterday.

8. Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail
Looking for the perfect plan wastes time, but having no plan leaves you directionless and at the mercy of willpower. Whether your goal involves weight loss, strength, endurance, or gaining muscle, choose a plan that supports your goal and stick to it. Don’t try to put your own workouts together on the fly in the gym. Follow a plan and know every single exercise, set, and rep that you are going to do before you walk into the gym.

9. Life Will Get in the Way, So Plan Accordingly
No matter how diligent you are, life will throw you a curveball occasionally. Overtime, court, family emergencies, and illness will get in the way and force you to miss workouts or eat an unplanned meal. Accept that this will happen occasionally, and that it is okay.

Resolutions that deal in absolutes are often derailed at the first speed bump. Luckily, you are operating with a SMART goal and not a resolution. Deal with the speed bump and get back on track with your next meal or training session.

What are your fitness goals this year? Start recording and sharing your goals by telling us about them in the comments. 

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