With 2021 fast approaching, if you are going to smash through those lofty new year’s health and fitness goals, you should start doing the teamwork as soon as possible in order to give yourself the best possible chance for success. As a former NCAA track and field athlete, retired professional Muay Thai and MMA fighter, Muay Thai instructor and personal trainer, I have had the pleasure and honor of working with thousands of clients over the past fifteen years, and the pitfalls that they have all had to navigate through were the same when it came to adopting a fitness based lifestyle and making it stick!

The biggest obstacle to overcome in my humble opinion is always the same, and it’s YOU! Your old self is always one trigger away from sabotaging your goals and taking you back to square one, back to the old lifestyle and into the same loop that got you to where you are right now. Think about it, you are what you do, and if your actions have gotten you to the point where you now need to take remedial action and get back into a healthier fitter lifestyle, then those actions are going to need to change… Change however takes time and effort, and in today’s city dwelling lifestyle, it can be much harder than you think. We are who we are right now because of our habits. There was a time when our habits and hobbies used to serve us well, but over time, if we don’t take the time to review the utility within these habits based on our current goals, we can find ourselves in a very precarious situation.

It takes an average of 6 – 8 weeks to form a new habit, and it is within those 6 – 8 weeks where most of us fail. Alone, it is an arduous undertaking to try and change your habits. Your habits have triggers, and when these triggers are pulled, they activate what is called a habit loop, and your body subconsciously executes the habit associated with the trigger. A trigger could be something as simple as a bad day at work, which leads to a couple of beers after work, 2 or three cigarettes, burger and a poutine, and voila, that diet you were trying to stick to is out the window, along with your self esteem and resilience to follow through on your goals. The answer to this riddle is actually quite simple, you need a support system in order to hold you accountable, and provide you with the guidance you need in order to successfully navigate the resetting of your habits, and on the way to adopting that fitness lifestyle you so eagerly crave. A good teamwork support system consists of three pivotal elements, a personal trainer or fitness coach, a certified nutritionist, and a recovery and maintenance specialist.

Personal Trainer/Fitness Coach

A personal trainer in my opinion should be your first stop! If you are at a point where you have decided to get in shape as a new year’s resolution, then the likelihood of you knowing exactly what you need to do is next to none, otherwise you wouldn’t find yourself in the position that you are currently in. More importantly, you probably haven’t been engaging in any sort of meaningful exercise for a long time, so you will need to consult someone who can ease you back into the flow of things. Let’s call a spade exactly what it is, a spade… You have no idea how to structure your workouts in a way that progressively improves your fitness while avoiding the risk of injury, as well as maximizing the time that you do spend working out. A personal trainer will also function as a mentor and guide during the process because they have seen other individuals in your particular predicament before, and as a result, will have numerous tools available to help keep you focused and motivated. In order to find the right trainer for yourself take heed of the following:

  1. Look for someone who looks, and/or moves and performs the way you would like to: If someone can’t do it for themselves, or haven’t done it for themselves in the past, it is going to be hard for them to take you there. Good teamwork is key.
  2. Certification and/or documented experience: Certification typically comes with a high level skill set. Anyone who has taken the time and effort to pay for a course and see it through to the end is a good option to consider. Having said that however, experience is the best teacher, so someone who is certified but has zero experience might not be the best person to go with. In this case, someone with a wealth of documented experience would be better.

Certified Nutritionist

You are what you eat, and this goes double in the world of health and fitness! Your body uses the food you ingest for ALL of its bodily functions, including recovery from exercise and working out, as well as building lean muscle. The effectiveness of your workout program directly hinges on what you put into your body, and so does your performance throughout the day. When you add 3 – 5 hours of workout time to your usual work week, the demands on your body are considerable, and you have to follow a strict diet in order to ensure that you can get through the day while meeting the energy demands of your new fitness lifestyle, as well as supplying the body with enough building blocks to fully recover and be ready to take on the next challenge. Remember:

  1. You’re a unique individual whose dietary requirements are unlike anyone else’s, so take the time to sit with a teamwork nutritionist who can get a full picture of what your life looks like in order to prescribe the right nutrition plan for you.
  2. Do not follow generic meme style advice or add in any supplements you haven’t been prescribed by your trainer or nutritionist. Too often people fall into the trap of following generic dietary advice indirectly from established fitness professionals… This can be problematic because you do not have the same foundational background as your favourite Instagram fitness celebrity and those supplementary products might have an undesirable effect.

Recovery & Maintenance Specialist

Working out is hard, and don’t make the mistake of taking it lightly, moreso if you have not been leading an active lifestyle prior to starting your new workout plan. Basically, working out is the act of breaking down the body and then allowing it to rebuild itself. The human body is a survival engine of sorts, meaning, it will make the necessary adjustments in order to become better at handling whatever the lifestyle you are exposing it to requires. If you are engaging in a workout program that primarily focuses on the use of free weights for example, your body is going to naturally build more muscle in order to optimize the execution of your activities. As you start to lift more weight and execute more complex movement however, the risk and potential for injury increases as well. This shouldn’t deter you however, because engaging a recovery and maintenance specialist will allow you to effectively recover from the work you have already put in, as well as prepare for the work that is to come.

  1. Seek out a therapist (or team of therapists) whose experience covers a wide range of recovery modalities.
  2. Pay attention to how your body feels and have clear concise conversations with your therapist at least once every two weeks, once a week would be best, but not necessary.

Getting the right teamwork support system in place will allow you to not only hit your 2021 fitness goals, but help you establish a fitness lifestyle that will add years to your life and drastically improve the quality of it as well. Additionally, you might want to keep a journal in order to accurately track your progress, as well as your thoughts and feelings so you can have more information to help you look, feel and perform better!

By Mukai Maromo