Elite Trainer Andy Vincent outlines the do’s and don’ts for sustainable success in 2018

It’s called the most wonderful time of year for a reason. From the office party to tucking in to turkey with family – not to mention the free flowing wine – Christmas is your chance to cut loose. And loosen your belt. But once the fatigue kicks in and you’re sick at the sight of another handful of Quality Street, it’s time to clamber aboard the metaphorical wagon towards redemption. The only problem is, it’s bloody easy to fall of said wagon. Thankfully, this is your fool proof plan to holding on tight and making 2018 your best year yet.

Adjust Your Focus

Don’t: Just focus on weight loss or aesthetics as your goal. Yes, you may have a few mince pies clinging to your waistline, but focusing on the negatives will sap motivation and see you throwing in the towel within days.

Do: Set process goals. Train in blocks of 4-8 weeks and aim for a specific goal. Fat loss is a result of consistency with nutrition and training and therefore you shouldn’t aim for it as a single outcome. It’s best to assign small targets within each training phase. For example, come into the New Year and aim to complete two runs and two weight sessions a week. Then include within that hitting a new 5K and a pull-up PB. Watching the goals fall, rather than pounds on the scales, will motivate you to reset your goals and go again, pushing you on to new heights (and weights).

Train The Right Way

Don’t: Just focus on high intensity work. The last two years has taught us that as good as HIIT training is, it’s not the only way to train. There’s too much focus on hitting the body for hard, repeated bouts, which causes stress, slows down recovery, stagnates process and increases your injury risk. A week on the sofa with a tweaked hamstring will undo your hard won progress.

Do: Sensibly plan out your training and focus across a spectrum of strength, high intensity and the all important recovery sessions to ensure longevity in your training. A good place to start may be two strength workouts, one recovery cardio session and one higher intensity cardio session per week. Using strength workouts to form the base of your training to give you a strong platform to improve across all areas of your fitness.

Fuel Your Success

Don’t: Dream that just pulling on leggings is enough to offset a continuation of your festive diet. The turkey sarnies with layers of stuffing should probably stop at some point, we’re afraid.

Do: Make nutritional changes. We’ve mentioned those doorstep sandwiches already, but to reiterate – it’s much easier to make one or two good lifestyle changes to reduce your calorie intake than it is to burn off a 1000kcal low quality nutrition meal. Your taste buds may not agree, but adjusting your diet is actually the easier way to get back to your best, rather than punishing yourself on the Versa Climber.

Patience Is A Virtue

Don’t: Try and change too much at once. Yes, you can have too much of a good thing. After a booming Christmas period the temptation is to go totally bust and give up alcohol, bread and desserts all at once. However, it throws up too many opportunities for failure – a miss-step that could derail your entire New Year, new you campaign.

Do: Slowly create a new normal by adopting healthier habits over time. The reason you need to be patient is that every single habit takes multiple life changes to implement. For example, if you want to eat more vegetables: firstly you will have to alter your shopping habits, maybe take longer to make certain meals and research recipes. Being mindful that this is a big change will help to take the pressure off. Instead, set a new habit change (running to work on Wednesdays, for example) every two weeks and set reminders to stay on track.

Make Sure You’re Ready

Don’t: Try to set new fitness goals unless you have also worked out how you’re going to prioritise reducing stress levels and promoting recovery. You need a clear head and a healthy body if 2018’s return to form is going to have legs.

Do: Think about your sleep quality and general well being first. If you work in a high-pressure environment and you are stressed, constantly tired and can’t switch off, I recommend addressing these issues before embarking on a programme that involves serious lifestyle upheaval. It’s common to see burn out from people taking on too much in the new year and not being able to manage the recovery section of training. Quality sleep is essential to all fitness goals. Fat loss, muscle growth, performance improvements cannot happen unless you’re recovering from sessions. Chill out and have a lie-in – it’s the resolution you didn’t know you really needed.