Setting Realistic Fitness Goals for 2024 and Avoiding the ‘New Year, New You’ Hype

Ray, in the gym workout out, after setting fitness goals for the new year

Contents list

Looking back at 2023

Here we are again, another new year! I feel like I always say this, but honestly 2023 just flew by. Maybe it’s because the Covid lockdowns seem well and truly in the rear view mirror now, and we’re back to some sort of normality, busier than ever.

In the busyness of 2023, perhaps your fitness took a bit of a back seat. Or perhaps you’ve never particularly been ‘into’ fitness and you’ve decided that 2024 is your year. Either way, it’s easy to get caught up in the ‘New Year, New You’ hype – especially with all of the marketing and advertisements that the fitness industry shove down our throats at this time of year. And it works. Year after year, the same people will often embark on a new fitness routine, sign up to a new gym, or join a new group, with every intention of sticking to it. 

Yet, the following year, the fitness industry drags them back in with New Year deals and clever marketing, to suggest that this year really is your year. So why not make this year and every year to come, your year? No starting again, no ‘getting back into it’, no beating yourself up when you haven’t managed to keep up with your fitness goals. This is your year for building a healthy, positive, sustainable fitness routine that lasts way past next year’s ‘New You’ hype.

Ditch the Resolutions: Setting Sustainable Fitness Goals for the Long Haul

One of the big reasons that you might find you ‘fail’ your new fitness goals, is that you can’t manage to stick to them long enough. This is often due to going from doing very little exercise, to trying to cram as much in as possible – You want to hit the ground running, start as you mean to go on, all that good stuff. However, going from very little exercise to trying to attend five Barry’s sessions per week, or training in the gym every day after work, or running every other day is pretty bonkers. You’re going to be incredibly tired, firstly from the big increase in activity each day, but also from the mental energy of drastically changing your routine and having to rearrange the rest of your life around it. Setting fitness goals needs to be realistic and sustainable for the long term, not just for January.

Beyond the Hype: Navigating the Pitfalls of Setting Unrealistic Fitness Goals

The key thing to remember is that you don’t have to be perfect in January. You don’t have to be absolutely nailing it, training as frequently as planned, and seeing results within the first couple of weeks. January is a time to find out what works best for you, and how you can make sure that you can keep up with your routine, long term. If you’re finding it too much and not even enjoying it, then how can you expect to be still continuing with it by next January?

Instead of setting unrealistic fitness goals for this month, and ultimately setting yourself up for failure, set smaller, achievable goals instead, and increase these when you’re able. For example, if your goal is to train four times per week, start with two. If you want to cycle to work every day, start with twice per week. Do this for the first month, and then in February, increase to three.

Real Talk: Setting Attainable Milestones for Lasting Fitness Success

Many of us spend a lot of time online, and this is often the place where people tend to share their fitness successes. It’s therefore really easy to see how well everyone else is doing and immediately think that you haven’t achieved anything at all. You don’t know how long other people have been training for, and working toward their goals.

Setting yourself milestones to reflect and look back on your progress can be a good idea to stop constantly looking for results to suddenly appear. Every six weeks is reasonable for this – you’ll be able to look back and see how far you’ve come, regardless of whether your goals are performance based, mental health driven, or aesthetically driven. Any sooner than this and it’s very hard to see real change.

Aim to be consistent for at least six weeks before you go and write yourself off! We’re our own biggest critics and often need to see results from an endeavour immediately to feel that it’s worth pursuing further. But trust me, give it a good go for six weeks, and then decide. 

The Smart Approach: Building a Fitness Plan That Fits Your Life

Ok, enough motivational babble – how should you go about fitting fitness into your life this new year? I’d firstly think about what time of day would be best to train. When do you have the most energy? Or the most motivation and feel the most driven to get shit done? This would be the best time of day to fit a workout in. 

Next, what time of day can you realistically commit to? If your work schedule is changing soon, you need to keep that in mind, rather than getting into a good routine around your current work schedule and then suddenly stopping your routine when those times don’t suit you any more. Planning is key here. Fail to plan, plan to fail, as the saying goes. Get it in the diary, for a manageable time, and then it’s definitely happening.

You might have got all of this figured out but still don’t know what to do. You want to get fit, but you’re not sure what activity to choose. As mentioned earlier, the first month, while you are starting off slowly and sustainably,  is a great time to experiment and try new activities to find out what you really enjoy. Try some new classes, join a club, cycle, dance, run, or go to the gym. Or, if you’re not too fussed about what you do but you’re very committed to making sure you get a good start, you could hire a coach. They can write you a good programme and take you through it, reducing risk of injury, increasing enjoyment, as well as adherence and accountability. But then of course, I would be biassed.

Breaking the Cycle: Why Small Changes Trump Drastic Resolutions in Fitness

Depending on how big of a change it is, new habits can take anywhere from a few weeks to six months to build and to become comfortably embedded into your routine.The smaller and more achievable the habit is, the sooner it becomes part of your lifestyle. So setting smaller, achievable targets that eventually build up to the bigger goal is the way to go. With smaller changes, you don’t have to take big drastic measures that you’ll feel resistant to. Over time, your new lifestyle slowly starts to take shape, and before you know it, in six months time, you’ve kept up with everything you wanted to, and it feels as normal as going to work each day.

Mindful Fitness: Balancing Ambition with Achievability in 2024

Being ambitious with your goals is a really good thing, as it can help with your motivation and adherence to your sessions. I’m sure we’re all guilty of being too ambitious at some point or other. Therefore, it’s important to balance ambition with achievability.

If you pushing yourself too hard, it can lead to injury and burnout. As previously mentioned, it’s easy to compare yourself to other people’s fitness achievements, but constantly trying to live up to someone else is only going to lead to negativity. While you’re looking at someone else and wishing you had what they do, someone else will be doing the same to you. You need to focus only on you and what you’re realistically capable of achieving in the next few months. If you simply focus on a few months at a time and keep consistent, by this time next year you should see a big step forward. 

Ray, your female personal trainer in Manchester, doing some pull-ups

Progress, Not Perfection: Redefining Success when Setting Fitness Goals

By now, you should be realising that this journey, is indeed, a journey. You’ll have weeks where you are more motivated, and weeks where you simply don’t want to move.  You don’t need to be perfect. As long as you are setting yourself achievable, smaller fitness goals on the way to the larger goals, you can only win. You’ll have to put in the effort of course, but by making sure you recognise and celebrate the smaller wins, the steady progress you make week on week, you’ll still feel like you’re progressing. If you never celebrate your smaller achievements and will only allow yourself to celebrate once you’re ‘there’, chances are, it’ll never happen.

We always want more, so as soon as we reach ‘the’ goal, we’ll still want to achieve more anyway, and often let it go unnoticed.

Celebrating the small wins also helps with staying motivated, which means you’re more likely to stay consistent and therefore, the smaller successes are the things that make the biggest difference in achieving, or not achieving your goals. When I say small wins, I mean things like making the effort to work out even when you’re a bit tired, spending more time cooking a nutritious meal to support your progress, going up a weight in a strength exercise, or shaving 30 seconds off your 5k. 

2024 Fitness Resolutions: Succeeding Without the ‘New Year, New You’ Hype

My main advice is simply to be honest with yourself. You know what you’re realistically going to be able to fit into your current lifestyle. You know what you might need to cut out to make more time for fitness – and also whether you actually will. Therefore you can create a realistic, achievable plan for yourself in terms of when, and how often you will train.

The second piece of advice is that no one can do this for you. Progressing in fitness doesn’t just happen accidentally, so you are going to have to put the work in. If you need someone to push you and to give you guidance on what you should be doing in the gym (if this is your activity of choice), personal trainers can often be more affordable than you think,so it’s always worth a chat.

Finally, view this journey as something you will carry on for years. If you can’t actually see yourself continuing to slot some form of fitness in a few times per week, then it won’t happen. Have a think about what’s stopping you, address it, and you can move forwards. If you’re looking for a hand to get started, feel free to pop me a message and we can discuss what might work for you.

Leave a Reply

Picture of Ray Hickford

Ray Hickford

Hi, I’m Ray, a health and wellbeing professional in Manchester working with clients through training and nutrition programmes to help them feel more confident, strong and happy both in and outside of the gym.
As a Qualified Personal Trainer and Level 4 RSPH Nutrition Advisor, I am constantly learning myself - from my clients, from other industry experts and sometimes myself! And sometimes I write some of this down for ya.

Why fat is the new black

We’ve all heard that too much fat in our diet is bad for us right? But how much is too much? How much is too little? Is there such a thing as not enough fat in our diet? And what about that Keto diet?

related posts

A set of two dumbells that can be used for cardio and weight training

Cardio vs. Weight Training: Finding the Right Balance

An age-old debate that often has people prioritising one over the other. We probably all know someone who is really into cardio, and someone else who swears by weight training. But is one better than the other? How do you choose which to take up? Read on to find out…

Read More »