6 Baby Step Fitness Goals that will Lead to Big Changes in 2021
We’ve officially reached the end of what’s likely been the most trying, and quite possibly the oddest year of our lives. 2020, amiright? One for the history books, eh?
I could go over the things we’ve all been through and endured this year, but why dwell on the past and make ourselves more depressed than we might already be? LOL. Let’s focus on the present – warmth, family, joy, holidays, comfort, and joy. It’s the season of miracles! Let’s allow ourselves to be of good cheer and enjoy ourselves as much as we can right now.
And in a few day’s time, BOOM. 2020 will be over, and 2021 will rear its hopefully-not-as-ugly head. I would like to say 2021 is gonna be all sunshine and rainbows, but I know, know, KNOW that’s just not the case. It’s gonna continue to be more on the hand sanitizer and facemasks end of the spectrum. COVID isn’t like Y2K – it’s not just gonna go away at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Day while we all laugh at how silly we were for freaking out about it.
But! This does not mean that 2021 can’t be your year! Hell, if 2020 has taught us anything it’s how resilient and adaptable we are. It may not be a smooth or pretty transition while we figure shit out, but we do figure it out. So looking forward, know you can take on anything 2021 throws at you, and then some. You can do hard things. Not only that, but you can do hard things during trying times.
So why not tackle your fitness or weight loss goals in 2021? Starting a workout routine while also working from home and homeschooling your remote-learner, amidst mask and lockdown requirements, will make working out seem like a piece of cake once all this mask, Zoom meeting, e-learning BS is behind us. Start now, and by then you’ll be the Queen (or King) of making it work.
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Why not put your mental health and physical well-being in the forefront in 2021? So often we exclaim how grateful we are for our health, bodies, and abilities – especially during the holidays when we more mindfully practice gratitude. So act like it. Honor your body. Enhance your abilities. Show yourself some damn respect. Caring for our physical selves allows us to grow and thrive mentally, which is the real strength that propels us through challenging times.
Asking yourself where you want to be on your fitness journey this time next year is all well-and-good, but it might be too “big picture.” There’s no end game here, only hard work and mindfulness that never truly ends. Your goals will evolve with time. Where you think you want to be this time next year may completely change between now and a few months down the road. So it’s best to start small and see where manageable changes and baby steps take you.
Here are some great “baby step” goal ideas to consider when you’re making your list of intentions for the new year. It’s important to choose 1 or 2 manageable goals to work on at one time, and master those before piling more onto your plate. Fitness, becoming disciplined, and staying healthy is a combination of many factors and can be overwhelming if you try to change too much too fast. Overwhelm can lead to shutting down and giving up, which is counter-productive to reaching your goals. Obviously. These are perfect foundations to work on and build upon over the course of your YEARS long fitness journey. Start here and allow yourself to grow on your own terms, with less focus on the scale or a timeline.
- Eat less “trash”. Yeah, yeah, yeah – no food is inherently “bad” or “good” and I probably shouldn’t label something as “trash.” Because, to be quite honest, I eat “trash” carbs literally every. Single. Day. And it’s not that they belong in the garbage can – unless by garbage can you’re referring to my tum-tum. It’s just that they don’t provide much nutritional value. This is what the fitness industry or diet culture or whatever the hell you wanna call it refers to as “empty” calories. Rather than providing filling fiber, necessary nutrients, satiating protein, or healthy fats, they provide calories for the sake of calories (and also, deliciousness. Which, don’t get me wrong, is important).
An easy way to lower your daily calorie intake is by eating fewer crackers, chips, and breads with your meals or snacks, and eating more vegetables, fruit, and protein. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat bread and chips – omg, kill me now – but maybe enjoy a handful of chips or one dinner roll instead of a whole bag or basket, and load up half your plate with vegetables and fruit for a filling, nutritious, balanced meal.
- Go out to eat less. So COVID might actually help here. I guess. Not having the option to dine-in at a restaurant might keep you from overindulging on free bread or chips, multiple unnecessary courses, larger-than-necessary portions, and high-calorie dressings and marinades. But, there’s still the option to carry-out and drive-through some of your favorite restaurants. An occasional meal out isn’t gonna make or break you, but making it a multiple-times-per-week habit will.
A seemingly healthy, low-cal salad or “lighter” option entree can give you a 1,200+ calorie kick in the teeth. It’s stupid, and quite frankly unfair, to any weight-loss conscious human being. I’ve been burned by this frustrating truth twice in the last month…even after more than TWO years into my current fitness journey, and what feels like a lifetime of visiting online nutrition facts before dining out. Yeah, I’m still bitter. Okay, it didn’t make or break me or my diet or my day, but what chaps my ass is I was actively trying to order to suit my nutritional goals, and still got duped despite my best intentions.
Eating out less equates to cooking at home more. Search online for simple recipes requiring few ingredients – Pinterest is great for this! Don’t get caught up thinking you need to buy fancy meal plans. Don’t overwhelm yourself with planning your entire week’s meals. Don’t spend a ton of money on super random ingredients for complicated recipes. Don’t think you need to prep every morsel of food you’re gonna eat during the week each Sunday.
Start small. Ask yourself what you like to eat, and find a way to cook it in a way that supports your goals – either by finding lighter recipes online, or by swapping in lower calorie, low-fat, or nonfat ingredients for heavier, higher calorie items. Examples: have your tacos as a salad rather than on tortillas (or use these!), use nonfat Greek yogurt instead of full-fat sour cream, cut down or eliminate the amount of oil you saute or marinate meats and veggies in, top your casserole with half the amount of cheese it calls for, or use low-fat or non-fat cheese, use high-protein lavash wraps or low-calorie tortillas rather than sandwich bread, etc. There’s a lot of ways to cut calories without sacrificing taste or eliminating the foods you love from your diet.
- Move your body more. Schedule it, and don’t cancel on yourself. You deserve better than that. Look ahead at the week or day in front of you and make the time for movement. It doesn’t have to be an hour long session, it doesn’t have to be intense. But it has to be something. What can you easily manage to fit into your life right now? A 30-minute jog? Two 15-minute walks around the block? A 45-minute weight-lifting workout at the gym? A 28-minute circuit workout at home?
I know life happens – I was a mom to a 3 year old and 3 month old when I started my fitness journey. Shit happens, literally and figuratively. Adjusting and adapting to your day, your ever-changing schedule, and the ridiculous demands on your time is necessary. There’s 7 days in a week – yes, weekends are included! – so when you must erase, you must replace! Figure out when to prioritize your health later in the week. This being said, unplanned rest days and missed workouts happen, and that’s okay, too – just don’t make it the norm.
- Say “no” more. To prioritize your health and fitness, you have to come to terms with the fact that it will take effort and time. And not in just a generic, vague sense. You will need to consciously, deliberately make and take the time, and put forth the effort on a daily basis to make progress toward your goals. Once you realize this, you then have to accept that this also means you must be selective and deliberate with how you spend your available time.
Get comfortable with turning down invitations for events you don’t really want or need to attend. Be proactive in protecting your time and energy by respecting your needs and schedule. Don’t say yes to helping everyone with everything all the time. You’ll only run yourself ragged, wonder where the time went, and risk never forming your health-supporting habits. Running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to please everyone and do all the things zaps the energy and focus necessary to make your fitness a priority. You must guard your schedule – especially in the beginning – in order to solidify your routine.
- Drink less alcohol. Booze is great, in my opinion…to an extent. My Instagram handle is @squatto4moscato, so yeah…I squat and I drink. Unfortunately, alcohol happens to contain calories. Such a pisser. So, instead of drinking a bottle of wine for over 600 calories after a long Wednesday, maybe just have a glass or two. Or maybe just take a long, hot bath or do some yoga.
Not only does alcohol add to your calorie intake in itself, but it lowers your inhibitions when it comes to, well, all things, but I’m choosing to focus on food right now. After a few drinks you don’t have as much willpower to stay out of the pantry or leave some of the cheese on the charcuterie board. Snacking under-the-influence is no doubt delicious and fun, but can inevitably lead to a hefty caloric surplus. When you’ve got fitness and weight-loss goals, this can present a problem should it happen more often than not.
- Get more sleep. Sleep helps everything. When energy levels are up it’s a lot easier to want to workout and fuel your body properly. When you’re tired it’s a lot easier to make excuses to skip workouts and grab another cookie – your body is just trying to get through the day and looking for quick, cheap pick-me-ups from caffeine and sugar.
Assign yourself a bedtime, have a routine, and figure out how to wind down in the evening to support a good night’s rest. I know if you’re a parent, especially to babies and littles, this is easier said than done. But this is exactly why you need to take the chance when you get it – don’t scroll Facebook for 2 hours after you crawl into bed. Don’t continue binging Netflix way past your bedtime. Every little bit helps!
Time to Get Specific
Now that we’ve identified some small steps that yield big results with consistency and time, you need to choose which goals to focus on and specify what, when, and how much. Goals must be S.M.A.R.T – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound – in order to be effective. All of these characteristics are important to note, but I’m putting more weight on the first 3 here.
It’s easy to say “I’m gonna eat more veggies” or “I’m gonna get more sleep”, but it’s another thing to identify how you’re going to achieve those goals. You need something of a plan to make good on reaching your goals. Maybe your plan is to add a cup or two of vegetables to one meal per day, or leave your phone on the charger in the other room when you go to bed each night. These are the everyday habits to focus on, rather than having a pie-in-the-sky goal without any concept of how you’re actually gonna make it happen.
The headers for the baby step goals I listed above are vague and relative – you must define what “less” and “more” mean to you, and actually quantify those terms to fit you specifically. You are the only one who is walking in your shoes, living your life, with your schedule. You are the only one who gets to decide what works for you and your own particular, unique situation. You are in charge. You have all the say here. That’s pretty cool, right?
You don’t need to train 7x per week, run sprints, or do yoga just because they do. You don’t need to go keto, intermittent fast, or track macros just because so-and-so does. If some of those things strike your fancy, by all means go for it, but if they sound like a terrible way to spend your life…DON’T.
On the other side of the coin, with great power comes great responsibility. Having all the say and being in charge of your journey also means that you gotta make the tough decisions when they arise. If you’re making bullshit excuses to avoid following through with changes that will make you a better person, mentally and physically, you gotta call yourself out on them. You are the one in charge of reaching for the heavier weights or not reaching for the bag of Doritos. You are in charge of when you push yourself and when you restrain yourself. Make yourself proud.
As a final send off, I’m gonna leave you with an invaluable tip that will help you reach your freshly-made New Year’s goals. The secret to weight loss and fitness, in general. That’s right. The Holy Grail. I can tell you what it is. For free. Interested? Of course you are. Well, here it comes…
Without it, you will get absolutely nowhere. Fast. Consistency is the ultimate goal with any intention you set for 2021. So, if drinking diarrhea-tea for every meal, running 100 miles per week, or forbidding any little bit of sugar from passing your lips don’t sound like practices you can follow forever, don’t even start.
Because even if you do manage to accomplish these unrealistic feats for a few weeks, the tactics are unsustainable and you’ll be miserable. Indeed, you will likely see results, and probably get somewhere fast…too fast! Any progress you make will be fleeting, and you’ll inevitably end up right back where you started once you quit the unrealistic methods you’ve imposed on yourself.
You’ll save yourself so much torture, pain, and hunger – not to mention precious time you could spend creating sustainable, healthy habits – by finding and implementing strategies you can consistently follow forever, rather than just for a few short weeks.
Sustainable, healthy habits you can do consistently will get you everywhere. Maybe not fast, but what’s the rush? Slow-and-steady will beat out fast-and-drastic in the long run EVERY TIME, I promise you. Hang in there in the beginning when change feels like the hardest thing you’ve ever done, and stay the course when your journey feels stagnant. Good things will come as long as you don’t quit.
Fitness is more than physical and you might just be surprised at what and who you become over time. Accomplishments in the mirror and in the gym pale in comparison to the mental strides you’ll no-doubt experience, as well as the newfound motivation to improve yourself and your life far beyond the physical.
Check out the ups and down of my personal fitness journey on Instagram, and check out my previous blog posts about how and where I started.
My journey has evolved, and so will yours. My goals and intentions have changed, and so will yours. You don’t need to have it all figured out or perfectly planned, or go all-in on everything going into the new year – you just need to pick a couple small areas to focus on and put forth some conscious effort. Allow your mindset, aspirations, and journey to develop from there. You got this. Happy New Year.