7 fitness goals to set for the new year and beyond

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After an indulgent holiday season, New Year’s resolutions often focus on weight loss. But do you really need to start another diet that won’t work or last? Maybe it’s time to have a different approach. What if instead you concentrated on setting fitness-specific goals? I’m talking about committing to running your first 5K race or learning how to do a pull up.

A goal requires planning — make sure it’s attainable and that you have a clear vision on how to achieve it. The best part about these goals is that you don’t have to limit them to New Year’s resolutions. They can become habits you work toward everyday. Whether you’re ready to take on your first marathon or want to achieve your first handstand, there are many ways to reach your target and even go beyond. Take a look at some of the coolest goals you can add to your fitness regimen this year.

1. Create a consistent workout schedule

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Creating a regular workout schedule is a good goal if you have a hard time maintaining an exercise program throughout the year. It’s inevitable that there will be busy periods when it seems impossible to step away for fitness. Planning ahead with a realistic exercise schedule can help keep you accountable. 

One way to stay consistent is by scheduling shorter workouts, such as HIIT exercises, into your regimen. Choosing the same time daily and sticking to it is also a good way to remain committed. Another helpful method is having a workout buddy to keep you going. With the many interactive fitness apps that exist, it’s easier to find a group of people or a friend for moral support. 

2. Achieve a proper push-up

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Push-ups only require your body weight, and they’re one of the best workouts to gain upper body strength. I’ve been strength training for over a decade, and I still do push-ups consistently. They’re an excellent core exercise targeting your chest, back, shoulders and arms. However, push-ups are often done improperly. To do them right, have your form reviewed by a trainer. If you don’t have access to one, you can practice by doing planks, negative push-ups, incline push-ups and push-ups from your knees.

It’s more important to strive for quality push-ups with good form than to just do higher reps. Once you learn to do them well, you can make them more challenging by increasing the volume, slowing down the pace, adding weight or changing the angle.

3. Accomplish your first pull-up

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Achieving your first pull-up is a badge of honor — even if the last time you did one was during PE in elementary school. Women may have a harder time with this exercise than men because they tend to have less upper body muscle mass. However, this doesn’t mean it’s impossible for women to master. It just means they need to practice additional exercise drills to help them achieve this goal. 

According to John Gardner, a NASM-certified personal trainer and the CEO and co-founder of Kickoff, there are various ways to achieve a pull-up. “Using a resistance band helps you understand the technique if you’re unable to perform a pull-up on your own, as well as doing a dead hang — or holding on to the bar for a long period of time,” Gardner suggests. Other ways to help you achieve your first pull-up include adding planksinverted rowslat pulldowns and hollow holds to your workout. 

4. Participate in your first race

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If you’ve decided this is the year to run your first 5K, half marathon or marathon, come up with a strategy to achieve your goal. A 5K is going to require less training and preparation than a longer distance race, such as a marathon, but if it’s your first time tackling this distance you still need to know what to expect. 

Training for your first race — no matter the distance — sets you up for success and gives you confidence to complete it. When I first started training for my first marathon, I remember how daunting the distance seemed at first. But I followed a training plan that prepared me. I trusted the process and was able to accomplish that goal from my bucket list. 

There are a variety of training plans online to choose from. If you’re looking for something more personalized, there are running coaches who can design a custom plan based on your experience and goals. 

You can start by researching coaches through the USA Track and Field directory or the Road Runners Club of America to find one in your area. Remember that fees vary per coach depending on how hands-on they’ll be and how long of a training plan you’ll need.

5. Start strength training

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Strength training builds muscle, gets you stronger, protects your bones, reduces risk of disease and more. The beauty of strength training is that your fitness level doesn’t matter and it’s never too late to begin. If you’ve never strength trained before or you feel intimidated stepping into the weight room at your gym, seek out a trainer who can show you some basic moves. Most gyms provide either a free or reduced-cost training session for new members. Having a trainer do an assessment first will determine your fitness level and address any health concerns before you start an exercise regimen. 

Once you’re cleared to strength train, you’ll learn how to properly do key exercises and how to fit them into a weekly schedule that matches your fitness level and goals.  

6. Deadlift twice your body weight

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During my fitness journey, one of my most empowering experiences was being able to deadlift twice my body weight. The deadlift is one of the best exercises to build your posterior chain and get stronger. Before lifting any weight off the floor, it’s important to make sure you have good form to avoid lower back injuries.

If you’re just getting started and want to understand the basics of how to do the movement, you could take a strength training class at the gym. If you’re working out from home with a set of dumbbells, you can download a strength training class through a fitness app, such as LesMills Bodypump workout, where the instructor can properly demonstrate the exercise.

Once you’re already well-versed with the deadlift and you have a goal to lift twice your body weight, it’s recommended that you hire a personal trainer or strength coach who can guide you. Having an expert assess your form and challenge your abilities will also be a good motivator and learning experience. 

7. Do a handstand

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Handstands are most commonly seen in Crossfit, yoga or gymnastics, and are an impressive feat. This exercise requires a lot of core strength, decent upper body strength and good shoulder mobility. To determine if you’re ready to take on a handstand, you should be comfortable being inverted and holding up your own body weight. 

You should avoid handstands if you’re pregnant, if you have high or low blood pressure, or if you have shoulder, back or wrist issues. If you aren’t sure if you should be doing inversion exercises, check with your doctor first. Regardless of your physical condition, it can be helpful to seek out an expert to guide you through this process and to determine if you’re a good candidate for the handstand.

There are multiple drills you can do to improve your chances of achieving a strong handstand. L.A-based certified personal trainer Morgan Rees says there are various ways to achieve your goal. “Having a wall or cushion behind you is very important to avoid any accidents,” she recommends. Rees says practicing stepping forward onto your hands and lifting your legs up against the wall while upside down is essential. 

Focusing on your form is also crucial. You should concentrate on keeping your arms by your ears, pushing through your shoulder as well as squeezing your butt and engaging your core. Once you’ve mastered this drill, you can try slowly moving your legs away from the wall and seeing if you can hold the handstand without needing the wall’s assistance. 

Most importantly, do not rush through this exercise. Though some may grasp it faster than others, it requires practice. Once you are a handstand pro, you can spice up the move with new variations of the exercise such as handstand push-ups or walking handstands. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.