New Year resolutions: we see them everywhere from television to social media. Chances are, either in the past or present, you’ve tried or at least been enticed to undertake some sort of resolution particularly regarding fitness and nutrition. For some, the transition from year to year provides motivation to drop unwanted belly fat while others turn their focus to packing on some serious size while the remaining winter months prevail.
With motivation tempting, mindful decision making may be the key to your success. Regardless of the path being chosen, there are some important considerations to be aware of so that you can ensure that you’ll be successful with whatever you choose, even if that means not changing at all.
Motivation is an interesting emotion – it’s an emotion that can be provided in an instant and flee even faster. For many people that follow a generally unhealthy lifestyle, motivation to change can be a catalyst to adjusting their life habits for the better. While this same motivation can certainly be a positive for the experienced fitness enthusiast, it can also lead to unintentional mishaps, injury and failure.
Arguably, one of the most important aspects of success is the ability to decide on a certain goal and stick to the measures necessary to achieve it. Undoubtedly true long-term goals, (the ones that you’ve always wanted to achieve) sometimes change from one modality to the next but typically, primary goals such as “improving body composition,” “gaining strength,” or simply “losing weight” usually stick with us for a long time. In order to reach these long-term goals, most of us usually set small goals that we believe will progress us towards these long-term ones. Thus, making smart and mindful decisions to stick with or deviate from them is very important.
Recognizing Impulse Motivation and How To Deal With It
“Even if your primary goal and training style is bodybuilding focused, you’ve probably walked into the gym and noticed some guy benching or deadlifting some serious weight, which resulted in totally changing up the routine you had planned for the day towards the “let’s see if I can show this guy up” routine.”
More than likely, you’ve experienced a phenomenon in which you observe another individual – perhaps with a better body composition or strength level than you – in the gym training a certain way, and subsequently get the motivation to change your training style for that day, or perhaps even long-term. This is something I call “impulse motivation.” On one hand, this motivation can cause you to rethink your current position and be the genesis of positive change. Alternatively it could cause you to veer off track of your current goals and at worst, even cause a serious injury.
Even if your primary goal and training style is bodybuilding-focused, you’ve probably walked into the gym and noticed some guy benching or deadlifting some serious weight, which resulted in totally changing up the routine you had planned for the day towards the “let’s see if I can show this guy up” routine. This scenario presents us with some important messages.
First and foremost, you should be going to the gym because you enjoy it. If changing your routine on a whim means that you’ll actually enjoy your workout, then doing so may be a valid option. Second, this situation provides an opportunity to recognize the temptation to change up your style of training and reflect on whether or not that change will progress you towards your long-term goals. Again, this decision must take into account whether or not it will allow you to enjoy your training. Third, recognize that changing your training on a whim, such as the example above, could lead to serious injury and sidetrack you for weeks or months.
The second and third messages raise serious dilemmas especially for those of you who have been training for many years and have serious long-term goals when it comes to performance and body composition. As mentioned earlier, you should actually enjoy your training. However at some point you’ll have to consider whether or not this enjoyment is something that arrived via a short term change, or whether you are just generally unhappy with your current style of training.
You’ll also have to consider whether this short-term (1 day) change will positively or negatively affect progress towards your ultimate goal. If negative, you’ll need to decide to forgo the change or consider how much it will actually affect your goal. The third message is often overlooked, but of the utmost importance. If bodybuilding style training is your forte, switching to using 95-110 % of your one repetition max for movements such as the bench or deadlift on a whim presents a prime opportunity to injure yourself. A fresh injury could set you back weeks or even months so you’ll need to recognize the risk when making the decision to change your training.
Once you’ve considered these variables, make your decision to either stick with your long-term goals or give in to your impulse to change.
Making the Decision to Change Your Long-Term Goals
Long-term goal changes such as transitioning from powerlifting to training for a triathlon warrant much more consideration. Chances are, with the New Year riding in the rearview, you’ve at least considered a big life change in terms of fitness or body composition. While the aforementioned scenario sounds like a huge change, it’s really not all that different from an individual making a quick decision to go from “bulking” to “cutting” within a day’s time.
Drastic training and diet changes should only be done so after careful consideration of the work that will be involved, setting a program that will allow you to ease into the new training style, and reflection on whether or not you truly want to change. Changes like this warrant mindfulness.
Consider the Pros and Cons
A way to be mindful when making these big decisions is to really consider all of the pros and cons. For an untrained individual looking to start a healthy lifestyle, there are very few negatives that may arise from starting to work out and changing their diet. Practically any route they take will yield positive results.
The same cannot be said for the trained individual. Continuing with the bulking and cutting example prior, you’ll have to consider that this is a change that should not be taken lightly. You’ll have to consider that eating significantly less food is necessary and then decide the appropriate amount of food you’ll need to eliminate from your diet. You’ll need to change your training style in order to maintain your hard earned strength and muscle gains made in the bulking season. Further, you’ll need to consider how your reduced calorie intake will affect your recovery abilities as well as your mood.
Will you track food more diligently? Will you incorporate cardio exercises, and if so, when?
“If these variables are not considered, you run the risk of ruining your physique, becoming depressed and potentially setting yourself back months in terms of progress.”
These are all things that you must consider when making these sort of changes, which clearly is more complicated than just saying that you want to drop some of your winter weight. If these variables are not considered, you run the risk of ruining your physique, becoming depressed and potentially setting yourself back months in terms of progress. By being mindful of big decisions and the variables involved, you can adjust your goals and begin along your new path in a way that ensures you’ll be consistent and successful.
When you find the motivation to change your training or diet, be mindful of the variables involved and make educated decisions on if and how to do so. Mindfulness regarding these variables can provide logical steps to be successful and potentially set you on a path towards success. Short terms goals likely culminate in progression towards your long term ones and thus, require as much consideration as long term when presented with the motivation to change. After careful considerations of the variables involved both daily and long-term, make your decisions and stick with them.
About the author
Sam is currently a student in the Master’s of Exercise and Nutrition Science program at the University of Tampa. In addition, he holds a B.S. in Behavioral Neuroscience and the CSCS certification through the NSCA. In his free time, he lifts heavy stuff, is currently training for a triathlon, and is an avid video gamer.