Deeper Look: How to Craft the Perfect Fitness Plan For 2018
January 5, 2018
2018 is just underway, and gyms across America will be loaded down with people… at least for the first part of January. After that, you’re likely to see the gym parking lot just as empty as it has been the rest of the year. If you’re one of those people who will be hitting the gym harder than ever before this month, then you should have a plan. Having a plan will keep you motivated, make you disciplined, and get you to the goal you set right after the clock struck midnight. Creating the perfect fitness plan for 2018 is easier than you think.
Make your goals clear
The first step in crafting a fitness plan for the New Year is to understand exactly what you are aiming for. Ideally, your goals should be clear and quantifiable. As we discussed in a recent article about how to stick to your New Year’s resolutions, you will never achieve a goal that can’t be clearly achieved. “Losing weight” isn’t a goal, it’s a desire. “Losing 20 pounds” is a goal. You can weigh yourself and be absolutely certain that you have achieved a quantifiable goal.
Make your plan possible
In addition to making your goals quantifiable, something you need to consider throughout every step of crafting your fitness plan is whether or not it is possible. Setting a goal that you can’t realistically achieve will only lead to feelings of disappointment. Similarly, your fitness plan for 2018 needs to be achievable to be effective.
Consider the sacrifices that you would need to make to follow through on your plan. If your plan involves six hours of exercise everyday, but you also need to work and spend time with your family, you need to reconsider your plan. Consider the timeframe of your plan, as well. To achieve long term goals while maintaining motivation and cultivating discipline, your plan should not be to “lose 20 pounds,” your plan should be to burn 500 calories more than you take in everyday. Your plan should not be to “work out everyday,” your plan should be to go to the gym and do 20 minutes of cardio every week day, and work a specific muscle group each day.
Part of possibility is consistency. Part of the reason that New Year’s resolutions are rarely followed through throughout the year is that you won’t remember on January 31st why you made a decision on December 31st. Sure, you may know what you said, but you won’t feel it. If you can create a habit in that timeframe, you’ll have no issue following through on your New Year’s resolutions. You cannot make a habit of something you’ll only do once a year, but you can easily make a habit of something you do everyday.
Consider your resources in creating your fitness plan, as well. If you can get to the gym every day, you can plan for going to the gym. If you can’t, you should be leaning towards workouts that you can do at home. If the leg machines at your gym are constantly full the first hour you’re there, you shouldn’t plan to be on them during that hour. If you are more focused on having the ability to do what you want to do than simply doing what you want to do, it will be very hard for you to achieve your goal.
Leave room for evolution
While your plan should be consistent, you should also avoid it being concrete. As the year goes on, your situation may change. Your schedule at work might change, or you may see significant gains. If you are planning everyday from January 1st to December 31st right out of the gate, you will notice an inevitable lull in your plan. Remember that you’re making the plan work for you, you are not working for the plan. If your fitness plan for 2018 is going to be truly perfect, it should be malleable.
Look for a template
It would be arrogant to assume that you can create a fitness plan for 2018 that is truly perfect entirely by yourself. With hundreds of years of research having been done and more information than you could ever consume at your fingertips at all times, something you should absolutely be doing is looking for a workout plan to base yours on. If you are aware of your goals, you should try googling things like, “fitness plan for losing weight at home.” Don’t marry the first one you date, but look around. It’s highly probable that you will find a plan that you can reasonably follow through with and use to meet your goals, and you’ll be able to skip the planning phase and get straight to doing.
That said, you shouldn’t be afraid to personalize these plans. If you’re entirely new to working out, or haven’t hit the gym in a while, you should try the plan as it was written for at least a little while before making changes, but if something isn’t working for you, you can easily find a replacement.
Think beyond exercise
It’s highly unlikely that your only unhealthy habit is lack of exercise. When creating your fitness plan, look at all of the factors that may affect your health. If you’re a chainsmoker, your plan should include quitting. If you love soda, your plan should involve lots of water. If you’re a binge eater, your plan should include cutting back. If you find yourself buried in the couch all night, your plan should involve standing up. Working out is a tremendous help in getting healthier, but it isn’t the only step you need to take.
Be aware of the hazards of working out
Working out is good for you, of course, but it can cause problems. When you’re planning your workouts, and especially when you’re actually working out, you should be aware of the health problems that may pop up, and be prepared for them.
Some of these things are small. For example, if you’re going to be running, you should know to wear long socks. If you’re wearing short socks, the friction between your shoe and your skin can cause your skin to become rubbed raw, and eventually bleed and scab up. Some of them are much larger. For example, if you’re going to be getting on the leg press, you should be aware that you need to keep your legs bent at all times. If you lock your knees while you have weight on your legs, it can cause strain and injury, and in some cases will make your joint snap.
Gym equipment is a major risk when working out. If you are using any machine that has not been properly maintained, it can cause an unnecessary strain. If you walk around your gym and see machines working poorly, you should avoid those machines in your plan. If you walk around a gym and feel the workers are working poorly, you should avoid that, as well. Gym workers, especially trainers, should be properly qualified and certified. If they aren’t, you will not have the tools you need to safely work out.
Beyond the maintenance equipment, you should also be thinking about how often equipment is cleaned. Gyms are a hotbed for infection when they are not properly sanitized, as many infections are spread through sweat. When you put your hands on a bar, the handles of an elliptical, or a mat to do push-ups on, you are putting yourself at serious risk of the equipment has not been properly sanitized. Everything from the common cold, to athlete’s foot, to STAPH infections can be picked up from the gym.
Your form and spotting at the gym are the most important factor. Going to the gym and putting in hours of exercise with improper form will cause your muscles to develop improperly, and can lead to long-term health risks. Using free weight without a spotter may be okay for you 99% of the time, but that doesn’t make it safe. Dropping weight can cause muscle strain, snapped tendons, and generally damage your body in ways you can’t (and don’t want to) imagine. If you slip and drop a bar on yourself while benching, and can crush your trachea, which will likely lead to death. Working out with poor form is similar, as it can shift weight to an area it doesn’t belong. Deadlifting with poor form can lead to a rectal prolapse. Working out improperly can be—and is—a hazard.
Talk to a professional
If you want a truly perfect fitness plan and you don’t have a medical degree, then one of the most impactful steps you can take is to talk to someone who does. While all of these tips are a good way to get started, and you can find great plans that may work for you online, remember that these are all created with a completely average person in mind. Even if you would consider yourself to be average, it is highly unlikely that your health needs are the absolute norm. Consulting with a professional will help you to personalize your fitness plan, and make it truly perfect for your needs.