The start of a new year brings with it the excitement of everything to come and the opportunity to make a fresh start. Whether you want to get into fitness but don’t know where to start or want to step up your personal goals and performance, the new year is a great time to begin.
In this Fitness First guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about getting fit in the new year and how to stick to it!
Why do people set goals in the New Year?
Setting goals at the start of the new year is like opening a fresh page in a book — it’s an opportunity to start anew and bring positive changes into our lives, both mentally and physically. It’s also a time when we feel inspired to think about what we want to achieve and set our sights on new aspirations.
People also set goals for several reasons:
- It’s a moment of reflection and renewal. The transition from one year to the next is a natural time for reflection. It’s a moment to look back on the past year, celebrate successes, learn from challenges and think about what could be different in the year ahead.
- It provides motivation and a fresh start. Often celebrated as New Year’s resolutions, it taps into the natural sense of renewal that comes with a new calendar year and brings about a fresh start. It’s like a psychological reset that encourages us that change is possible and just within reach.
- It provides a time for us to focus. Once the hustle and bustle of the festive season is winding down, many people find that they have time to sit down and think about their goals and aspirations for the year ahead without the distractions of everyday life and Christmas.
Remember, the key to successful goal setting is not just in making the resolution but in taking small, consistent steps to achieve it. It's about progress, not perfection.
What are some tips to keep yourself motivated to workout?
1. Set short-term goals
Long-term goals can be great; they can give you a direction to focus your efforts and remind you where you want to get to. However, the problem with long-term goals is that they can seem quite distant when you’re first starting out, which can hinder your motivation. And, when your goals are that far away, you’re less likely to hold yourself accountable.
Setting short-term goals can act as a stepping stone to help you reach your target. Whether it’s something simple like turning up to a set amount of workouts in a week or just staying consistent with your nutrition, short-term goals help make positive steps towards the bigger picture.
2. Set realistic targets
It’s great to be ambitious, and we all want to start the year as we mean to go on, but the worst thing you can do is set a goal that is too ambitious. A common approach is to set an attainable fitness goal, something that you can work towards that can keep you motivated from January and beyond.
If your New Year goal doesn’t fit in with your lifestyle and responsibilities, you can quickly find yourself feeling burnt out and putting your workouts on the back burner — one missed session can lead to another, and another and another.
3. Make sure to celebrate your successes
We’re our own biggest critics and are quick to put ourselves down if we don’t reach the goals that we’ve set. It’s inevitable that you’ll slip up during your journey, whether you miss a workout or fall off your meal plan, but this is normal and isn’t the end of the world!
If you set a short-term goal and stick to it, acknowledge and celebrate this just as much as you would acknowledge when you’ve slipped up. We often forget that we need to reward ourselves when we reach a goal instead of just setting another one straight away and forgetting that success.
What are some easy exercises for beginners?
If you’re new to the world of fitness, it can seem quite daunting when you don’t know how to perform an exercise properly, but have no fear; we’re here to help with some beginner-friendly movements.
What does the move do? — Squats are a fundamental exercise that targets your lower body, primarily focusing on your quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves. They also engage your core and can improve your balance and coordination. Regularly performing squats can enhance your overall lower body strength and improve mobility.
How to perform a squat:
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointing forward.
- Extend your arms straight out in front of you for balance.
- Slowly bend your knees and hips, sitting back as if you're about to sit in a chair.
- Keep your back straight and chest up, ensuring your knees don't go past your toes.
- Lower down until your thighs are parallel to the floor (or as close as possible).
- Press through your heels to return to the starting position.
What does the move do? — Planks are an excellent exercise for core stabilisation. They work not just your abdominals but also your lower back, hips, and shoulders. Consistent practice can improve core strength and posture and reduce the risk of back pain.
How to perform a plank:
- Lie face down on the ground.
- Prop yourself up onto your elbows, ensuring they are directly under your shoulders.
- Extend your legs behind you, resting on your toes.
- Keep your body in a straight line from head to heels.
- Engage your core and hold this position for a set amount of time.
What does the move do? — Push-ups work your upper body, including your chest, shoulders, triceps, and core. They help build upper body strength and improve your posture and core stability.
How to perform a push-up:
- Start in a plank position, with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Keep your body in a straight line from head to heels.
- Bend your elbows to lower your body towards the floor, keeping your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your body.
- Go down until your chest nearly touches the floor.
- Push back up to the starting position.
What does the move do? — Lunges primarily target the thighs and glutes and also engage your hamstrings and calves. They can improve lower body strength, balance, and coordination.
How to perform a lunge:
- Stand upright with feet together.
- Take a big step forward with one leg and lower your body until both knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Your back knee should hover just above the ground, and your front knee should not go beyond the toes.
- Push back up to the starting position and repeat with the other leg.
5. Bicep curls with dumbbells
What does the move do? — Bicep curls focus on strengthening the bicep muscles and forearms. They are essential for upper body strength, aiding in lifting and pulling movements.
How to perform a bicep curl:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand at arm's length.
- Keep your elbows close to your torso and rotate your palms to face forward.
- Curl the weights upward to your shoulder level while keeping your upper arms stationary.
- Pause at the top, then slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.
6. Bent-over rows with dumbbells
What does the move do? — This exercise targets your upper back muscles, including the lats, rhomboids, and traps. It also works the biceps and helps improve posture by strengthening the back.
How to perform a bent-over row:
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing your body.
- Bend your waist while keeping your back straight, almost parallel to the floor.
- Lift the dumbbells towards your chest, keeping your elbows close to your body.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top, then slowly lower the weights back down.
What about more advanced exercises?
For those already familiar with exercise and looking to challenge themselves with more advanced movements, here are some examples with step-by-step instructions:
What does the move do? — Deadlifts are a compound movement that targets the glutes, hamstrings, lower and upper back, and forearms. This exercise is excellent for building overall strength, improving posture, and enhancing grip strength.
How to perform a deadlift:
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with a barbell in front of your shins.
- Bend at your hips and knees, grabbing the bar with an overhand grip, hands just outside of your legs.
- Keep your back straight, chest up, and core engaged.
- Lift the bar by straightening your hips and knees, driving through your heels.
- Keep the bar close to your body as you rise.
- At the top, stand fully upright without leaning back.
- Lower the bar to the floor by bending at the hips and controlling the descent.
What does the move do? — Pull-ups primarily target the upper back, specifically the latissimus dorsi, along with the biceps, shoulders, and core. They are effective for building upper body strength and muscle definition.
How to perform a pull-up:
- Hang from a pull-up bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, palms facing away.
- Pull your body up until your chin is above the bar, focusing on using your back muscles.
- Slowly lower yourself back to the starting position.
- Keep your movements controlled, avoiding swinging or using momentum.
3. Pistol squats
What does the move do? — Pistol squats are an advanced single-leg exercise that challenges your balance, coordination, and lower body strength, particularly targeting the quads, glutes, and hamstrings.
How to perform a pistol squat:
- Stand on one leg with your other leg extended straight in front of you.
- Extend your arms in front for balance.
- Slowly lower yourself on one leg, keeping the other leg extended.
- Go as low as you can, ideally until your bum touches your heel.
- Push back up to the starting position.
- Maintain balance and control throughout the movement.
4. Turkish get-ups
What does the move do? — This full-body exercise improves functional strength, focusing on the shoulders, core, hips, and legs. It enhances stability, mobility, and body conditioning.
How to perform a Turkish get-up:
- Lie on your back with one arm holding a kettlebell straight up.
- Bend the knee on the same side as the kettlebell and place your foot flat on the floor.
- Roll onto your opposite elbow, then push up onto your hand.
- Lift your hips and slide your straight leg's knee under your body, coming into a kneeling position.
- Stand up, keeping the kettlebell overhead.
- Reverse the steps to return to the starting position.
5. Clean and press
What does the move do? — The clean and press is a dynamic compound movement that works the entire body, focusing on the legs, core, shoulders, and arms. It improves power, coordination, and overall athletic performance.
How to perform a clean and press:
- Start with a barbell on the floor, standing over it with feet shoulder-width apart.
- Bend at your hips and knees, gripping the bar with an overhand grip.
- In one smooth motion, lift the bar, pulling it up to your shoulders and slightly lowering your body in a squat position.
- Stand up straight, then press the barbell overhead.
- Lower the bar back to your shoulders and then to the ground in a controlled manner.
What does the move do? — Muscle-ups combine a pull-up and a dip, targeting the upper body muscles, including the back, chest, arms, and core. They require significant strength, coordination, and control.
How to perform a muscle-up:
- Hang from a pull-up bar or rings with your palms facing away.
- Perform a pull-up, and as your chin passes the bar, transition into a dip motion.
- Push your body upwards until your arms are straight, lifting your entire body above the bar or rings.
- Lower yourself down and transition back into a hanging position.
It’s important to remember that these moves should be approached with caution, even if you’re clued up on your fitness regime. Proper form is crucial to prevent injury, and it may be beneficial to consult with a fitness professional — such as one of our Fitness First personal trainers — before attempting them.
How should you schedule workouts and rest days?
When scheduling workouts and rest days, it's important to strike a balance that allows you to maximise your fitness gains while giving your body enough time to recover and rejuvenate.
Here are some useful tips to help you plan effectively:
Structuring your week
- Regular exercise is key — Aim for at least 3-5 days of exercise per week — the NHS recommends at least an average of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity. This ensures consistency and progress in your fitness journey.
- Balance different types of workouts — If you're mixing strength and cardio, try not to do intense sessions back-to-back. For example, if you do a heavy leg workout on Monday, consider a cardio or upper body workout on Tuesday.
- Listen to your body – Some soreness after a workout is normal, but if you're feeling excessively tired or sore, it might be a sign to take a rest day. Remember, go at your own pace!
Incorporating rest days
- Schedule rest days in advance. Plan at least one or two full rest days per week — these are days when you don’t do any structured exercise. It’s a time for your muscles to repair and grow stronger.
- Opt active recovery. Active recovery can be as beneficial as complete rest. Activities like walking, gentle yoga, or light cycling can help in muscle recovery and maintain mobility.
- Remember to sleep. Never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep! It's a crucial part of the recovery process. Read our guide on whether or not you should exercise if you're tired to learn more.
Get your New Year fitness on track with Fitness First
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