In a few short weeks, most Americans will be pondering their resolutions for 2011. A great many of those goals will revolve around better health, meaning that, come January, gyms will be abuzz with the pitter-patter of eager new members.
“Only 46 percent of Americans make it past the first six months,” says Christian Cianfrani, CSCS, an Orange County, Calif.-based personal trainer and former Army aviator. “There are reasons why too many people fail. People usually do not create an effective plan to begin with.” To counter that trend, Cianfrani offers five ways to set yourself up for success in the coming year.
1) Evaluate Yourself
Cianfrani suggests taking stock of your current situation — as well as reasons for previous failures — before embarking on any program. “Take a look at your life over the past several years before making a resolution,” he says. “Don’t make the same plans and mistakes as you have before. Visit a doctor to have your weight, body fat, heart rate, cholesterol and blood pressure checked. Modifying these can be among your goals.”
2) Be Specific
One big reason people fail? Making “get fit” their goal. Most people won’t know when general fitness is achieved. “Set a single, specific goal that can be achieved in a realistic time, such as six months,” Cianfrani says. “Aiming to lose 1½ to 3 pounds per week is a safe goal. Gaining a pound of lean muscle per week, or 25 in six months, is realistic.”
3) Understand Your Plan
Rather than undertaking some fad workout, do your own research to find out what type of training or diet is best for your goals. “The more you understand your plan, the more effective it will be and the greater the odds you will stay with it,” Cianfrani says. Regardless of what plan you choose, Cianfrani adds, make your workouts more challenging every two weeks — by increasing the number of sets or decreasing rest, for example — to ensure progress.
4) Focus on Muscle
Whether you’re a man or woman, the equation for drastically altering body composition is the same: Add muscle and burn fat. To do this, Cianfrani recommends making resistance training part of your New Year regimen. “Overload the body by training the large muscle groups with compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts and bench presses and go to failure — or close to it — on every set.” This, he says, will keep you gaining muscle while losing fat.
5) Performance as a Goal
“Looking at the scale every day is like watching paint dry,” Cianfrani says. Focus instead on improvements in performance. “Perform tests, like push-ups for reps, plank for time, one-mile runs or max pull-ups,” he says. “Fitness tests help provide you with more information than bodyweight does. Plus, improvements in the tests can increase motivation and dedication.
Trainer Christian Cianfrani, CSCS (gym2me.com), is a graduate of the National Personal Training Institute and is enrolled at the Arizona School of Health Sciences for a Master in Science in human movement and sports conditioning.