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Healthy New Year, Healthy You: Setting Fitness Goals

It’s the start of a new year. Some of us are continuing with healthy habits, while others are just making the decision to get started. Both cases start with a goal. For some, it might be training for a marathon, building strength or hitting a target weight. For others, the goal might be as simple as maintaining a consistent program for general fitness and feeling better. No matter your goals, here are three things to consider toward achieving success.

Your body.
If you are just returning to fitness, make sure you’re realistic. You might want to start off slow if you’re 40 years old, 30 pounds over your goal weight, and haven’t touched a weight since high school.

Gradually building toward fitness will help you avoid injuries. If you’ve been intensely training, consider taking a week to recover so you don’t overtrain and move backward. If you’re full of energy, but experiencing some joint pain or tautness, take some extra time to address the discomfort before jumping back in. Think about the big picture and avoid burning out early.

Pay attention to what your body is telling you. Don’t try to tough it out and put yourself at risk for potential injury. In other words, don’t try to be so impressive at the gym that you push your body beyond its limits. A fitness-related injury could be something small like a strain that could set you back a few days or something much more serious like a complete tear. The former could interrupt your fitness routine, and the latter could affect your training for the rest of your life.

Make it a priority to keep the long-term goal in mind. It’s better to stop one rep short of your limit or to take some time off to address an issue than to sustain a major injury that sets you back for weeks or even months. Assess your current state and how your body feels. Steering clear from injury should be the top priority when making fitness plans.

Your Mind.
Do you look forward to training or do you dread the thought of the gym? If you enjoy your training, build off of that. If your next workout feels forced, something needs to change. If you’re too tired to work out after a long day at work, try starting your day with exercise instead. If you hate that long, two-hour workout, know it’s possible to get in a great routine in half that time. If you just don’t enjoy your style of training, find something else. Mix up your workout for mental stimulation.

It is better to do an OK training routine consistently than a perfect training routine on an irregular basis. If you’re not doing something you enjoy, you’ll be less likely to give it your all and maintain consistency.

Your Progress.
Nothing needs to change if you’re still making good progress with what you’ve been doing. If you feel like your progress is starting to slow or reached a standstill, you should switch it up. It’s generally recommended to add some variety to your workout every three to four weeks. It typically takes that long for your body to get used to working out, make progress and make proper adaptations. Anything after that point tends to bring slower progress. If you are a powerlifter and have been training only five sets of one to three reps, try doing three sets of 10. It might not be what the books say is best for your progress, but you will see the most improvement in the things you do the least. Try it for a couple of weeks, and then go back to your regular training to see if you’ve improved.

Always keep in mind that there is no single right answer to what you should do next. Each person has a different goal and different restrictions. We all have differences in the styles of training we enjoy. Our bodies respond differently to varying styles of training. Just because one person achieved great results doesn’t mean your body will respond in the same way. Just because someone didn’t achieve great results doesn’t mean that a certain style of training isn’t going to work for you.

Be willing to try new things. Learn what works and what doesn’t work for you. If you look at where you are and where you want to be, you can head in the right direction.