1. Actually SET some goals.
It may sound obvious, but you can’t possibly achieve your goals unless you have first set them out properly. This will enable you to plan in a way that will lead to success. Simply saying you want to ‘get stronger’ isn’t really helpful, and you should instead consider setting a SMART goal, however big or small that may be.
Now, you’ve probably heard of SMART goals, and they can be broken down as follows:
S – Specific. Instead of saying you want to get stronger or leaner for example, think about what EXACTLY it is you want to achieve. Maybe decide you are going to add 20kg to your one rep max squat, or reduce your bodyfat by 3%. Doing this will help significantly with building a plan and keep you working towards it.
M – Measurable. If you aren’t testing, you are guessing. So if we continue with the example goals set out above, deciding to test your one rep max squat at the start of your training block, and periodically throughout the year will ensure you know precisely what you are achieving. Similarly, using bodyfat calipers or bioelectrical impedance analysis to discover your current bodyfat level, and subsequent changes, will mean you can measure the success of your strategy and adjust if necessary.
A – Achievable. There is no point trying to add 200kg to your squat in a year or to drop to 5% bodyfat from 35%, and the inevitable failure will likely derail you from your efforts altogether. Instead you should set goals that are actually possible, if challenging, to give you a good chance of developing a plan that will lead to success.
R – Relevant. Make sure that the goal is something that is worthwhile to you, and something that you actually WANT to do. There is little point in setting goals that you are not motivated to achieve, or that are going to be precluded by other factors in your life.
T – Time bound. This is important in order that you can make an effective plan to achieve your goals, and break it down into a series of smaller steps. Without deadlines, timeframes or testing in place it is very difficult to prioritise your training, diet and lifestyle in such a way that will keep you on track.
2. Make Hay While the Sun Shines.
It seems inevitable that, certainly for the first part of the year, your training may well be impacted by gym closures or restrictions, depending where you are in the world and how 2021 plays out.
For this reason I encourage you to get going right now, in the best way you can. If you delay starting until tomorrow there is a very real possibility that your gym may have to close, meaning your goals will be pushed back.
If you commit to doing as much work as possible with a structured, well thought out plan while the gyms are open you’re going to be much more likely to progress, and continue moving forward, during any further lockdown restrictions that you face.
With the immediate future being less certain than we are used to, it would be wise to do whatever you can, whenever you can!
3. Be Flexible.
It’s worth talking about what to do if you are affected by gym closures or other restrictions in the coming year.
One thing I learned in 2020 is just how important action is. Doing something is infinitely better than doing nothing, and I have been able to guide numerous clients and athletes through some pretty impressive progress by working with what we could, when we could.
Your ultimate goal may well be the pursuit of absolute strength, and without access to a gym you may not be able to lift the heavy weights required to achieve this. But do you have some light weights at home that could improve your muscular endurance? This improved capacity for work will stand you in good stead for performing high volume work with high percentages when you return to the gym. Will finally getting round to improving your cardio by running and cycling allow you to recover better from high intensity work and ultimately make more progress? The answer to these sorts of questions is of course yes, so be prepared to lay foundations for the future with the tools you have at your disposal right now.
As Theodore Roosevelt wrote, quoting Bill Widener, “Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.”
4. Get Help.
In order to optimise your potential while working towards your SMART goals it may well be beneficial to seek guidance from an expert, perhaps in the form of programming, one to one coaching or nutritional planning.
If strength training, biomechanics or nutrition aren’t your fields, external guidance will be invaluable. Even if it is something you are well versed in, having a coach may well benefit you by being held accountable or make you think about things from a different perspective.
When choosing a coach, make sure you are checking what professional qualifications and experience they have, in order to find the right fit for you. Remember, having a six pack or 10 000 Instagram followers does not make them an expert!
5. Just Keep Swimming.
A year is a long time. It is inevitable that during 2021, no matter how motivated you are, your resolve will waver. This may be because you feel that you aren’t making the progress you deserve, that Covid 19 restrictions are derailing your plans, or simply because your resolve can weaken over time.
If this is the case, seek guidance from a coach, comfort from your friends, or some oomph from your favourite playlist. Modify your programme, make a heavier sandbag for the garden or have an extra rest day to recharge. Do what you need to do to keep moving towards your goals.
No matter what challenges you are faced with, and there will be plenty, why wouldn’t you follow this advice from a small blue animated fish: “When life gets you down do you wanna know what you’ve gotta do? Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming.”