Another New Year

By Michael Krueger

Oh boy, here comes the New Year. Another arbitrary, calendar-based chance to make big changes in your life–or not. Every fitness magazine will have at least one article talking about how to make the coming year your best ever and infomercials will temp you with easy fixes.

As I’ve said before, I don’t care for New Year’s Resolutions since they don’t tend to stick. But since our culture isn’t about to change just to accommodate me, here is my take on how you might make some positive changes rather than have this year’s resolutions end up on the trash heap like a tangled mass of broken holiday lights.

 

Success

In fitness as in life, we all have struggles and we always will. We all have successes as well but tend to overlook them or think of them as anomalies rather than the result of hard work and dedication. If you have been working out regularly for the past year or so, then you have had a certain amount of success. The New Year is a time to build on that rather than think about what problems and difficulties you may have had.

It’s time to once again drag out the log books and see just how far you have come in the past 12 months. Odds are, you can see some major improvements here and there, a few stagnant areas, and perhaps something that you abandoned because it wasn’t working out no matter what you did. All this would be about par for the course, but I want you to look at what’s really going right.

As human beings, we focus on problems rather than victories. You remember the days when you didn’t make you rep goal or you bailed on your interval training. It takes mental training to refocus and find the triumph in the day-to-day struggles with fitness.

Victories aren’t always obvious, either. Sometimes, it takes a fair amount of time and perspective to see that what you thought at the time was a failure was, in fact, just a steppingstone to later success. That can be hard to accept when you are lying exhausted after a hard and disappointing workout, but trust me, it’s true.

So, kick back when you have a few quiet moments, and look over your workouts from the past year; you might be pleasantly surprised at what you see.

 

Failure

OK, so maybe you looked over your log book and found big gaps where you didn’t work out at all. These were followed by frantic attempts to catch up, and then more blank pages. How do you spin these from failure to success?

Rationalization first comes to mind, but that isn’t a particularly helpful course to take.

The fact that you even have a log to go back and look at is a success in and of itself. It shows a certain level of commitment even if the workouts were sketchy and erratic. Dig deep into the data and see if there was a pattern. Did you miss when you had long work shifts, or perhaps you did fine at the station but missed when you were at home? Were the workouts that you did record solid and enjoyable as opposed to dragging and soul sucking? Was there any consistency from workout to workout, or did you try something new each time, or perhaps did you work out with someone and simply do what they did?

If you were having a bad day, did you just quit on your workout? Or perhaps you did finish it, but with less than stellar intensity? Maybe you bounced around from program to program, never staying with anything long enough to see if it had even a chance of panning out.

Did you have major life changes–marriage, divorce, children, death, illness, or a lot of stress and drama in general? In the short term, all of these things can distract you to the point where you do more sitting on a bench in the gym and staring into space than you do working out and, in the long run, you simply forget to make taking care of yourself a priority.

Take the wisdom that your log has to offer and learn from it. If you are willing to think honestly about what you have written–or not written, for that matter–you will find much that will be to your benefit.

Apply what you learn in planning for the next year, and you will turn the past year, no matter how it may seem now, into a major success as well.

 

Building on Success

As I said, failure can be success if you choose to learn from it. So now how do you build on what you’ve gained over the past year if it doesn’t appear that you gained anything?

If you are sitting there trying to figure out how to improve over the next year despite a lack of impressive progress over the past year, you are already on the path to success. You’ve gained some sense of accomplishment or you wouldn’t be looking forward to the year ahead. So, where do you go next?

First, make sure that your training is in fact taking you in the direction you want to go. Perhaps you have gained some muscle bulk, but that wasn’t really what you had been trying to do. Most guys would look at bigger muscles as a win, but if you thought you had been working on program to lean out, then it is time for a reassessment. Just as if you had been trying to get bigger and stronger but ended up losing weight instead, you need to think about what you had been doing.

In the above scenarios, success seemingly masqueraded as failure and failure as success. It all depends on your goals and your perspective. But, in reality, both were successful outcomes, because you got insight into how your body responds to a particular stimulus. So, you take this new information and apply it to your next program and perhaps this time you will get the results that you are expecting.

Every opportunity to learn about your body and how it responds to exercise is a success. It can take many years of trial and error to find the ideal program. Then, over a few years, you have great progress, and then something changes, and all of a sudden the “ideal” program no longer works.

This is the perfect opportunity to figure out a new and improved program for the current you. You need to know where you’ve come from, understand your current situation, and positively adapt to any new circumstances; these are all steps on the path to renewed progress and more success.

 

The Rest of Your Life

Life is always changing; as soon as you think you have it figured out, something happens to put you back on your heels, but setbacks just give you a chance to reassess your situation and move forward. More is often learned from failure than from success.

So, over the next year, set goals rather than make resolutions, learn from your mistakes, and enjoy your successes; next year at this time, you’ll have another incredible 12 months of life to review …

…and you’ll definitely like what you see.

 

Michael Krueger is an NSCA-certified personal trainer. He got his start in fitness training while serving in the United States Coast Guard. He works with firefighters and others in and around Madison, Wisconsin. He is available to fire departments, civic organizations, and athletic teams for training, consulting, and speaking engagements. He has published numerous articles on fitness, health, and the mind-body connection and was a featured speaker at the IAFC’s FRI 2009 Health Day in Dallas, Texas. E-mail him at MKPTLLC@gmail.

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