When it comes to health and fitness-related New Year’s resolutions, there are three that tend to top most people’s list each and every year: to lose weight, eat better and get fitter. All admirable, all quite vague.
Keeping those resolutions, as everyone knows, is far trickier than making them – especially when they’re not very well defined. So a good starting point is to flesh out your plans a little, rather than simply declaring you intend to be more healthy in the future. To help with this, Coach sought advice from personal trainer Max Bridger, co-founder of LDNM.
The Resolution: Lose Weight
To lose weight you need to reduce your net calories (ie expend more through activity than you’re taking on through diet) per day. However, you want to do this in a manner that is sustainable so it is body fat you’re losing rather than simply decreasing your total weight including fat, muscle and water. You also want to reduce the level of calories gradually so that sticking to your diet isn’t a living nightmare.
Rather than simply picking a random low-calorie target and aiming for it in the hope this causes effective and sustainable weight loss, track your calorie intake for a week with the MyFitnessPal app. If your weight has been steady on this average daily intake across the week you can either reduce the average by 200 to 400 calories and set this as your new target, or add exercise three to five times per week – or do both! This way your calorie target won’t be impossible to maintain beyond a few weeks.
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The Resolution: Eat Better
Calorie and protein intake are the most important factors, so getting these under control and consistent is what you should do before worrying about tweaking carbs and fats to suit your eating preferences and lifestyle.
Establishing a diet that you can maintain over a long period of time and use to reach your fitness goals should be your aim. Aim for around 80% of your food intake from wholefoods [unprocessed foods like meat, fish, fruit and veg, and wholegrains], and 20% from treat foods. Including a little bit of what you really like or crave every day is a great way to prevent bingeing and to increase the longevity of your resolutions.
The Resolution: Get Fitter
This one is the easiest to get right. Think of your favourite sports, active hobbies and also your most accessible forms of exercise. You want to strike a balance between all these to make your exercise regime both effective and, most importantly, enjoyable.
Resistance training at the gym or at home is ideal because you can increase the intensity steadily over time, which is key for continued results. This means increasing the weight or resistance used, the amount of reps, the difficulty of the exercises and/or the length of the session. Once you have established two to four days per week for these core sessions, think about adding sports or exercise classes you like around them. This helps improve your co-ordination, cardiovascular fitness and social life – and increases your calories burnt each week.
Max Bridger is a personal trainer and co-founder of LDNM, which offers downloadable fitness guides. ldnmuscle.com
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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.