The January Gym Goer

New Years Resolutions

Hello all, and welcome to my first blog of 2017. My goal is to help people achieve their best and realise their potential.

Today, I'm going to talk about the mistakes the average January Gym Goer makes and ways in which you can be successful.

After two weeks of festive fun and thousands of calories later at the back of our minds, most of us are thinking about change. Although I don't agree with setting a date for improving our lives, you can't fight human habit. For some people change could be learning to switch off and live in the moment, but for most of the people reading this blog it's a change toward improving our health and wellbeing.

Where Does It All Go Wrong?

The good intentions are there. We agree to go Dry For January, sign up to the best gyms and head to the shops to buy fruit and veg that we've never even heard of, but by the time March arrives the drive has left us and we're heading down a slippery path.

It's the motivation that gets you started, but the forming of habits that keep you going. This may seem obvious but it underpins the entire concept of success, whether it's becoming wealthy or keeping fit. Habits take time to form so you need to keep motivated for long enough to reach the point when going to the gym is no different than cleaning your teeth. 

From my experience, the reason people don't reach the point at which habits are formed is largely due to the speed they take off from the starting blocks. You can't sprint 800m, you need to pace yourself, but in January millions of people will flock to the gym like sheep. Their minds focused on quantity, thinking that the more they exercise the quicker they will see results. Most have little knowledge or experience in gyms or even a clear, progressive programme set out to follow and this is, in my view, where people fail before they begin. Their bodies aren't ready to take on the beast and people become injured, fatigued and overtrained. You body is an incredible machine so it will take a lot of punishment, but will ultimately crash in a few weeks or months.

What Change Should look Like

Change isn't simple. It's not just a physical change you need to make, it's also an emotional one. Here are my 6 top tips to turning January motivation into habit.

1. Be realisticIf you've been a desk jockey for the last 6 months it's unlikely that your body or mind is ready to train 6 days a week, two hours a day. Muscles, tendons and ligament need to to build strength and this takes times. Success in the gym is about consistency not intensity. Focus on high repetition, low weight exercises. Sessions might start at 30 minutes in length, 3 times per week. 

2. Set Goals: Although you're motivated now, this might not be the same in 6 weeks. Give yourself a realistic goal. Like Christmas presents, I find it helpful to have a main goal with small achievements along the way to build drive. For example, you main goal 6 months away could be a 10k race with your best friend, along the way you complete 3km runs, then 5km runs.    

3. Keep things Simple: Gyms these days can look awfully like a torture chamber and with new functional training areas, the exercises you can do are almost limitless. You're not a personal trainer, so I would pick 6-8 exercises and stick to them for at least a month. In all honestly, don't get hooked up on whether you should be doing a double or single arm kettle bell swing. As long as you are consistently moving, doing it properly, and have a progressive programme, you will see results - fact!

4. Monitor Progress: This comes back to motivation. Many gyms now offer health assessments, such as Nuffield Health which offers free Health MOTs to all members. If you don't have access to an assessment, then at least measure your weight or bicep diameter with a tape measure. For an idea of aerobic fitness jump on the running machine and set the speed to 4kph, increasing the speed by 1kph and seeing how many minutes you can last. I would monitor biweekly as this will give you feedback to the success of your programme and whether it needs tweaking or your diet needs work (more on that later).   

5. Build a Programme: I have mentioned the word progressive several times so you might have been wondering exactly what that meant. Well, the body adapts to change very well to stress (exercise), but you need to keep asking things from it. If you lift the same weight or run the same distance for 6 months, you will probably become pretty good at it, but ask more and you may struggle. You need to start at a realistic point which puts the body under stress (the Alarm phase of adaption) and throughout your programme you need to increase the intensity/volume by changing weight/repetitions/distance (the Adaption phase of training) to promote further improvement, but If you push it too hard you will find yourself overtrained and the body under too much stress (the Overtraining Phase). Below is a graph to help show this principle. If by now you're a little lost, I have attached a simple, progressive exercise programme that you can download and use.  

6. Buddy Up: Your success rate will dramatically increase by being accountable to someone else. This could be a best friend, work colleague or personal trainer. It's human nature to support each other and you wouldn't want to let your best friend down who's waiting in the park for you at 6am waiting to go fro a run.   

Planning Gym Sessions

This can be a minefield so to make life easier I have built a simple, progressive training programme that can be adapted to every January Gym Goer's needs. For now, the secret is to target all areas of the body. I find it helpful to work in push and pull exercises. For example, a chest press is a pushing movements, so the opposite would be a low row which is a pulling moment. Initially you need to build the "house" by completing low weight, high repetition exercises which focus on movement (form) and flexibility. A high repetition range for weights could be 15-20, completing 2 sets with a 1min rest between. 

Changing Diet

Although I have left this part to the end of this blog, diet ultimately underpins your success. The amount of calories you can consume versus use is astronomical. You can eat a slice of cake in one minute, but it could take you one hour of exercise to use those calories. Take a moment to think about that, or even better, go out running for an hour.

I'm not going to go into diet in depth in this blog but my advice to you to get started is to remove energy dense food from your diet such as cakes, biscuits, soft drinks, fried food, and all fast food. Put your energy into preparing you own meals, basing them on plant-based ingredients that will help nourish your body and improve physical and mental wellbeing.  

Download My Free January Gym Plan

I have put together a simple, effective, and progressive gym training programme that's easy to follow and replicate in most gyms. If you have any questions then please get in touch as I'm more than happy to help you to reach your goals.   

Thanks for taking the time to read my first blog of 2017, there will be many more to come, including Podcasts, so subscribe, Like and share to help others.

Healthy regards,

Graham Swingler