Six things to remember when making a new year’s fitness plan

January 5, 2013

OK, it’s that time of year when you want to buckle down and get in better shape, but the way you approach your fitness plan will determine whether you experience success or failure. Here are six things to remember that will help you get started the right way in the new year.

Start slowly

One of the biggest mistakes people make when starting a fitness plan is going too hard too soon, only to fizzle out without getting any real results. This usually happens because they are so anxious to get in shape, they end up doing workouts that their bodies aren’t ready for, and they become discouraged and quit. You can avoid this by starting out slowly with a workout that’s easy enough to be successful but hard enough to know you did something. Remember, soreness is not a gauge of success; if you are so sore you can’t walk up the steps after your first session, you’ll need to ease up. Instead, start off with about 60 percent effort and add weight as your body gets used to the workout.

Cycle intensity

Most people need to change the intensity of their workout every three to five weeks to continue making progress. This means adding weight, reps or sets, or upgrading to more difficult exercises to keep your body off balance and continually challenge your muscles. If you are just starting, you don’t need to change a lot, because cycling the weight lifted for the first four weeks will set you up for long-term progress. A good example would be lifting at 60-70 percent on week one, 70-80 percent week two, 80-90 percent week three and then finally 90-100 percent week four. This will ensure that you are progressively challenging your body and building the foundation needed to burn fat and gain lean muscle.

Go for quality, not quantity

When it comes to getting in shape it’s important to constantly challenge yourself, but don’t confuse quality with quantity. Who cares if you can do 50 minutes of cardio when 15 minutes at a higher level would give you much better results? Why spend hours in the gym doing countless sets of weight training if you are lifting weights too light to exhaust your muscles? Gradually working up to a workout with challenging weights and good form along with tough cardio will go a lot further than just spending a lot of time at the gym.

Set realistic goals

When confronted with a task, it’s important to set small, attainable goals that are realistic and can be accomplished in a reasonable amount of time. Once you reach your first goal, re-evaluate and set a new goal. For example, maybe your first goal will be to be consistent with your workouts during the month of January, and then in February you might decide to drop an additional 1-2 pounds per week. Remember, little goals add up to big accomplishments and help guide you in the right direction.

Make a fitness journal

For most people, working out is mindless experience where all they have to do is show up and do some reasonably hard work and the rest will take care of itself. They fail to realize that results depend on constantly challenging yourself with new and creative workouts. Keeping records of past routines will give insight on what you’ve done and how to make the necessary changes to continue making progress in the future. As the old saying goes, “How do you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been?”

Change your diet

The missing component and the reason most people fail to get in shape is they refuse to change their diet. The bottom line is, you are what you eat, and if you want to lose fat and expose lean muscle, you must eat healthy. This doesn’t mean you can’t eat your favorite foods every once in a while, but it does mean you will have to change your lifestyle and sacrifice foods that are stopping you from reaching your goals. Eating smaller, more frequent meals, adding quality protein to your diet and cutting sugar and high-glycemic carbohydrates out of your diet will yield the best results.

  • Chris Antonio is a personal trainer and former world-class weightlifter. He has been lifting for more than 20 years and has trained a wide variety of clients ranging from All-American athletes to the average person trying to get into shape. To send a question to the Ask the Trainer column, email Chris at or check out

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