It is that time of year when people start contemplating the changes or resolutions that they want to make in their lives. Of course, some iteration of “getting in shape” falls at the top of the list for many people. I am going to side-step this cliché for a moment. I’m convinced that the most compelling New Year’s Resolution, a resolution that is relevant to nearly everyone, goes something like this: Work on Yourself. You can call this Improve Yourself or my personal favorite, Sharpen the Saw. Whatever the vernacular, the message is the same. Before we can become more effective and contribute more meaningfully in our relationship or add value in the organizations we work in, we must first take care of and in fact, improve ourselves. Speaking of the habit of “Sharpening the Saw,” Dr. Stephen Covey states, “This is the single most powerful investment we can ever make in life – Investment in ourselves, in the only instrument we have with which to deal with life and contribute. We are the instruments of our own performance, and to be effective, we need to recognize the importance of taking time regularly to sharpen the saw.”
Covey goes to great lengths to articulate the importance of taking the time to “Sharpen the Saw” as it pertains to our physical being. That is, we must take the time to improve ourselves through exercise. From this vantage point, exercise is anything but a selfish act. Instead, we must make an appointment with ourselves to exercise so that we can go to work on improving ourselves. In effect, when we Sharpen the Saw via exercise, we are better prepared to be effective in all of the roles that we play.
As you contemplate Sharpening the Saw and setting fitness goals in 2019, I encourage you to consider the following:
- Include process goals. A process goal might include:
- I will strength train 75 times in 2019 (an average of 1.5 workouts per week).
- I will perform one, high intensity interval workout per week.
- I will perform a Bod Pod test every month (this was one of my 2018 goals and it will be a 2019 goals as well).
- Include outcome goals. Examples might include:
- PR (personal record) in a 5k, half marathon, or marathon.
- Achieve a Bod Pod assessment of sub 20% (or whatever percentage makes sense for you).
- Perform one, body weight chin-up with perfect form.
- Link the outcomes you desire to the type of exercise that stimulates those results. Stated otherwise, don’t expect Yoga to help you lose weight or running to help you increase muscle (Yoga and running are great; they just aren’t associated with fat loss or muscle increase, respectively). Surprisingly, the vast majority of exercisers are performing exercise that does not stimulate the physiological changes they desire.
- Work with a higher level of intensity: This means a higher heart rate for cardio and momentary muscle failure for strength training.
- Focus on the process, the form, and the technique. Stated otherwise, don’t focus on how many you did. Focus on how you do them. Exercise is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Lifting X pounds for X number of reps does nothing positive for your fitness.
- Strength train slowly. Avoid any form of strength exercise that involves fast or sudden movement. This fast movement unloads your muscles resulting in reduced muscle fiber recruitment. If you are already moving slowly while strength training, focus on moving even slower with particular attention paid to the transition from positive to negative.
- Consume a post-exercise snack containing 20 grams of protein after every strength workout.
- Increase daily protein intake to 0.7 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
- Create your “stop doing” list. Tractor tire flips, kettle bell swings, and kipping pull-ups should be on the top of this list.
- Exercise less in 2019 that you did in 2018 (but produce better results because you exercised smarter).