Making it Last: Fitness in 2020

By Tia Norris, January 2020 Issue of Echo Magazine in Phoenix, AZ.

The number one New Year’s Resolution, every year, is some kind of diet or fitness-related goal. 

While people almost always have the best intentions in eagerly embarking on their wellness journeys, I’ve seen too many fall short of reaching their often overambitious goals, only to doom themselves to a perpetual cycle of start and stop on repeat. 

The pursuit of “getting healthy” is multifaceted, involving more than just physical fitness; it also includes critical mental and emotional components. Here are some of my trainer tips to set yourself up to be more successful in all three of these domains in pursuing goals in 2020. 

Mental fitness:

One of the smartest things you can do in setting fitness goals is to start small. Sure, people get excited about making changes and want to hit the ground running; but unfortunately, many people overcommit and make things far too hard on themselves too quickly. An example of this is going from exercising zero times per week to five times per week; of course, this is quite an adjustment. Effort must be scaled appropriately based on your starting point. My advice would be to start with exercising three times per week at first. 

And then, progress slowly. Get used to three before you upgrade to four; and get used to four before you upgrade to five. Although this gradual progression may not yield as immediate of results as a more aggressive program, ultimately it’s the one that will go the distance and produce more results over time. If you progress too quickly, you increase your risks for injury, overcommitting, and burnout. 

Additionally, if you’re like most people, you might need help with making a good plan or instead hiring someone to make it for you. Trainers and coaches are both educated and experienced in what works, fastest, and most comfortably. Don’t underestimate the value of paying for expert advice! 

Physical fitness

Newsflash: you should not hate your diet or exercise program. Pick activities and diets that you actually like and can sustain. Your fitness life is too short to trudge through something that you despise, multiple times per week, for months or years. There are an infinite number of options out there – find one that you like and can tolerate most times. And perhaps more importantly, this goes for diet, too! Read this very carefully, five times: crash and extremely restrictive diets, cleanses, magic pills, and cosmetic treatments do.not.last! Long term results hinge, critically, on your ability to like your diet most of the time. If it’s extreme, it won’t last and it therefore won’t work! 

Here are some more hard truths: walking does not count for 90% of the population, and more is better when it comes to exercise. The minimum recommended exercise prescription is 3x moderate/vigorous sessions per week. More workouts equal more results. Three times per week is the gold standard; less than three sessions will likely not yield appreciable results.

While we’re cutting to the chase: you cannot completely  avoid either diet, or exercise, and only do one of the two. Err on the side of more activity and less dietary restriction to achieve better physical fitness, aesthetics, and quality of life. My tried and true equation is: exercise hard, diet moderate, for best results. 

Emotional fitness

Focus more on the process, less on the results. I have a saying: “if you play the numbers game, you will lose, every single time.” On one hand, you need to have goals and a direction to shoot for; but on the other hand, you must not live and die by your numbers. This includes: weight on the scale, pounds on a key lift, time on an endurance effort, and more. Long story short, you cannot hang your entire self-worth (and the success of your program, which involves dozens of other factors!) on achieving a number. Focus on doing your best; let the numbers fall where they may. 

Don’t complain, it’s not cool. Frankly, I am not impressed with how hard you think your fitness program is. Stop complaining on social media about the difficulty of your diet or exercise. Stop vocalizing your dread for your upcoming workouts or meals. You chose this; no one is making you do this. Change your attitude, not only out of consideration for others, but also for your own improved success. 

Connect healthy choices with positive outcomes. More movement and better food choices make you feel better. Doesn’t everyone want to just feel better? Sure, I love burgers and fries and pizzas, but I can’t eat that shit mid-day during the week when I’ve got hours more of hard work to go. Sure, I love sleeping in and lazing around and having fun; but none of that will bring me accomplishment, pride, and success. Do the work, to get the results. And even better, if you can connect the work to the outcomes, you’ve really got it made. 

Remember, it’s not just physical choices that make you successful in fitness; you’ve got to be sharp mentally and emotionally, as well, to achieve holistic results. 

Happy goal setting for the New Year!

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