1. BE SPECIFIC
Skip those generic goals like “lose weight” or “get in shape” in favor of an actual number of pounds, or a specific fitness objective that’s “measurable and trackable—and you should write it down,” Barrett advises. “I ask my clients to have a notepad where they track the amount of weight they’re using for exercises, as well as rep and set counts. If this week you’re benching 50 pounds, the following week you want to be able to bench 55 pounds. If you stick with 50 you’ll get tired and bored and won’t make any progress.” But be realistic, of course. “If you don’t have a history of working out and you say you’re going to go to the gym seven days a week and expect to have a six-pack in two weeks, you’re setting yourself up for failure.”
2. START SMALLIt’s easy to burn out if you go too hard in the beginning. Start small and work your way up in order to sustain your fitness regimen. “Don’t think you’re going to go big and see results in two weeks,” says Barrett. “That’s a mistake a lot of people make. They forget change takes time.” You also run the risk of giving up because workouts become too strenuous or you injure yourself. “You don’t want to be sidelined from working out entirely, and too scared to go back to exercising once you heal.”
3. GET INTO A GROOVE
“Your mindset comes into play here,” says Barrett. “You can’t work to hit a goal if you don’t have a routine.” Schedule an appointment with a personal trainer to help jump-start your fitness. “You don't have to work out with that trainer for a long period of time,” says Barrett, though he suggests the longer you can, the better. “All you need is to establish a workout program that works for you.” And don’t underestimate the power of a workout buddy. “They help hold you accountable,” says Barrett. Plus, the ongoing conversation you’ll have about fitness and goals is one you’ll want to continue long past January.
4. RECRUIT MORE MUSCLES“The more muscles you recruit [or use during a single exercise], the more fat you burn, weight you lose, and muscle you build,” says Barrett. Translation: faster results! An inverted row, where you’re using multiple muscles in your arms, shoulders, and back, or a push-up, which activates your chest, shoulders, legs, and core, are both great examples of moves that target different muscle groups simultaneously. “If you aren’t sure, ask a trainer or consult a fitness professional to make sure you’re incorporating the most effective moves,” Barrett adds.
5. MASTER FORM
Proper form is everything when it comes to exercise. Not only does it help you achieve your desired results, it also keeps you safe and injury-free. “You must be able to master an exercise in order to progress it. Otherwise, if you do progress, you’ll do so in a way without proper form and technique,” says Barrett. Not sure if you’re holding the barbell correctly or if your chest is lifted enough during a squat? Use gym mirrors to check your position or ask a trainer if you’re uncertain about a move (or how to advance it).
6. SWITCH IT UP
When coming up with your fitness plan, be sure it’s not the same day-in and day-out. Lack of variation can cause boredom, which can lead to you abandoning your plan altogether. “You want to keep your body guessing, too,” explains Barrett. “Muscle confusion helps produce change.”
7. EAT WELL“If you don’t have good nutrition, you won’t have good workouts,” says Barrett, who notes that while he’s not a certified nutritionist, he advises clients to seek out vegetables rich in color, whole-grain foods, and lots of water. You already knew this, of course. What you may not know, however, is how big a role nutrition plays in one’s fitness. Simply put, “you can’t expect to see results if you don’t” eat well, Barrett says. Think of it this way: Your diet should help power your fitness routine—not be something you work out to compensate for. And even as the science evolves one rule never changes: all things in moderation. After all, that burger at The Polo Bar is all the more enjoyable knowing you worked out hard this morning.
- ALL PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF RALPH LAUREN CORPORATION