It’s the time of year for resolutions – promises to be better, to do better, and to ultimately end up in a better place the next time you replace your calendar. Resolutions, for many people, include fitness goals. That might mean losing weight, or putting on some serious muscle. It depends on your own personal goals and aspirations, and where you are in terms of physical fitness.
But most of these resolutions fail. There are many reasons for that, but most of the time it comes down to a lack of planning and discipline. People simply fail to execute, and that failure in itself snowballs until you’re back at the bottom of the metaphorical hill you were trying to climb, buried in a failure avalanche.
It doesn’t have to be that way, however. Anyone has the ability to finally turn things around. You just need to approach your resolution the same way you approach other challenges: with tenacity, seriousness, and a strategy.
That’s where we’re coming in, with a simple, four-step strategy for hitting your fitness goals this year – especially if you’re planning on bulking up and building muscle. You can use this strategy for a weight loss program as well, you’ll simply need to use these steps as a basic framework. The changes will occur in the details.
So, if you want 2016 to truly be different, start here. Just be ready to leave your comfort zone, sacrifice some of the things you’ve traditionally used as crutches, and take the process seriously. A year from now, you’ll be happy you did.
1. Eat responsibly
This may be the most difficult change for a good portion of resolution-makers. There are people out there who think they can jump on the treadmill for 20 minutes, and that will justify eating an entire pizza for dinner. It doesn’t. As you’ve probably heard before, what you eat is going to have the biggest effect on your level of fitness. If you want to lose weight, that means running a caloric deficit. Want to build muscle? Crank up the calories and protein intake.
To build muscle, you need to eat clean, and often. Your body will be gaining mass, so you need to give it the fuel and materials it needs to build. That typically means protein-rich, low-carb foods. Fruits, vegetables, some dairy, lean meats, and fish should fill your cupboards and refrigerator. And you need to eat them – not look at them, decide you have nothing to eat, and call Domino’s.
2. Plan and strategize
If you can get yourself on a clean diet, you’ll have made some serious headway already. But that’s only part of the equation. If you want to build muscle, it’s going to happen in the gym. And you’ll need to go into the gym with a plan, not merely wander aimlessly, occasionally jumping on a machine, or doing some curls.
You can use our ‘muscle building to-do list‘ to get a head start, but you’ll need to take stock of what your goals actually are, and devise a plan based around those goals. There are a ton of workout templates out there, so start with one, and change it as needed.
3. Give yourself a bed time
It’s just like being a kid again – except nobody is going to physically force you to go to bed. Well, probably not, anyway.
Sleep is one of the cornerstones of health, and you need to make sure you’re getting enough quality sack time. That means being disciplined enough to go to bed when you need to, and turn off the video games, lay down the smartphone, or head home from the bar. Sleeping gives your body time to recover, and actually activate the muscle-building process. If you’re serious about getting in shape, sleep is on par with diet in terms of importance.
4. Make yourself accountable
This is what’s going to hold your entire plan together – you need to take responsibility for your successes and your failures. That means being disciplined; getting up when the alarm goes off, going to the gym when you’re supposed to, eating what you’re supposed to, and going to bed when you’re supposed to. No cheating, no excuses – just taking care of business. And you’re the only one who can hold yourself accountable.
So get out there, get after it, and take it seriously. Or you’ll simply be running through the motions again, and find yourself right back here in a year.
Follow Sam on Twitter @Sliceofginger