It never ceases to amaze us how predictable the first few months of the year are for the fitness industry. It only takes a 5 minute visit to your local fitness center to see scores of recently-initiated gym members that are just mere seconds away from experiencing a debilitating injury or on the teetering edge of vomiting from over-exertion. But as time has told us, these hoards of New Year’s “Resolutionists” invariably thin out before the end of March (some sooner than others).
Need more proof of this trend? Go ask someone working at the local supplement or health food store when their busiest month is. If you are thinking it is sometime during the summer well then you are wrong, because the answer is January.
So are we against people seizing the change of year as their chance of getting into killer shape? Of course not! We are all for the “Resolutionists” and it is our goal to transform them from gym newbies into hardened regulars. Most of the people that begin the year aspiring to get back into shape ultimately fail because they don’t set attainable goals and are basically wandering about in the gym and in their kitchen with a lack of vision. I
n this article, we are going to outline 4 steps to keep you pressing forward towards the body you have always wanted. So if you have already gone out and purchased your gym membership for this year, get out your notebook and let’s get started.
1. Set a clear goal and find out what you will need to do to achieve it.
Now I’m sure you have read this in every self-help fitness article but it really does need to start with an attainable goal. And by attainable we mean, if your goal this year is to lose 100 pounds, it is highly unlikely your going to look like Greg Plitt by the end of the year. So do a Google Image search and find a picture of the body you think you could obtain in 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, etc. If you find some good images, print them out and tape them to your bathroom mirror (or better yet, your refrigerator door).
If you are good at estimating people’s weight and body fat percentage, first apply for a job at the traveling carnival, and second try to estimate these numbers for each of your pictures. This will give you a more precise measurement of how far you will need to go and at what pace. If you can’t do this or don’t have experience with this, no worries, just go by what the mirror tells you. Oftentimes people get too hung up on what the scale or body fat meter tells them, when in reality, because everyone is different, it often doesn’t matter as much as what the mirror says. So keep this in mind.
2. Determine how you will reach your goal physique.
Say you are a 5 foot 10 inch, 160 pound male with above-average body fat levels, and your goal is to look like one of the guys from the movie 300 (like you’ve never heard that one). Well, obviously, your objectives to reach this physique are going to be two-fold: you will need to both gain muscle and lose body fat. Most exercise scientists, bodybuilders, and even gym rats will tell you that it is impossible to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, and most evidence out there backs this claim up. So you will need to determine what order you will do this in.
For the most part, it is up to you which one you choose to do first. But for all practical purposes, it may be more effective to gain muscle first, and then drop the body fat. Because muscle requires more caloric energy than body fat, having more muscle means a higher metabolism, which comes in handy as you are cutting down for the summer.
Once you figure out what your objective are (lose fat, gain muscle, etc) then you can get more specific, which leads us to our next step.
3. Figure out your weekly and daily goals
After you determine the exact weight that you want to achieve, you will need to determine when you want to achieve that goal. Then take the difference between what you weigh now, and what you want to weigh, and divide it up among the amount of weeks you have to attain your goal. So continuing with our example of the 140 pound male: say he wanted to weigh 160 pounds lean in 4 months, he would need to gain 1.25 pounds per week (16 weeks * 1.25 pounds = 20 pounds). Obviously you can adjust these numbers depending on your goals (gain vs. lose weight, more time to reach goal vs. less time, etc).
One Pound of Muscle
Now that you know how much you need to gain or lose in a week, we can break it down even further. Now we will calculate the exact amount of calories you will need to either burn or take in to reach your goal. It is commonly known that to gain or lose a pound, you would need to consume/burn around 3500 calories. So if you goal is to gain one pound per week then you need to eat 3500 extra calories per week. If you want to lose two pounds per week then you need to burn 7000 extra calories per week. So take your weekly goal and multiply it times 3500 to find your weekly caloric deficit/surplus needed.
After you have found your weekly surplus/deficit then, you guessed it, you will divide it by 7 to determine how many extra calories you will need to burn/consume per day. You may already know that your body burns calories on it own through basic metabolic processes (your body uses caloric energy to function properly) so, congratulations. you have already started burning calories!
Then you will add in all of the exercise activity you do throughout the day to determine the amount of calories you burn each day. To find this out, check out this great website that lists the approximate amount of calories burned for hundreds of activities. You can even find out how many calories you burn by brushing your teeth, by laying linoleum, and by harvesting wild rice from a canoe (for all the times that you do this). Add these numbers to your resting metabolic rate to figure out your total burned calories per day.
You’re almost done. Once you determine the total amount of calories you are burning, you can figure out the amount of calories you need to take in. So earlier we figured out how many extra calories we need to burn/consume to hit our fitness goals. So if your resting metabolic rate is 3000, and we need to take in 500 extra calories a day to gain a pound in a week, then you will need to supplement your diet with 500 calories. Conversely, if you need to lose a pound per week, you will need to burn an extra 3000 calories. Calculate this number for your own goals and we are brought to our final tip.
4. Monitor your progress and adjust your goals
Just like you a scientist must keep testing his hypothesis, you will need to make sure that the plan we outlined in the first three steps is matching up to your results. If you are following the plan, you will definitely see noticeable changes in your appearance (assuming you are exercising properly). Keep in mind however, that the calculators we provided you with are not exact, since every person’s body is different from the other. So this could explain a discrepancy in the results.
Another good reason to monitor and track your results closely is that it allows you to reward yourself for doing well and to correct yourself if you are not performing to your expectations. Keep in mind that the road to reaching your goal is a journey, not a race, and that good results take time. We hope for the best for you and your fitness goals in 2017!