January 1st looms; a potentially life-changing day where you’re probably hungover as shit.

2018 will be the year you take your fitness regimen to an all new level, or perhaps just start one. But that’s more than a month away. You still have plenty of turkey washed down with copious amounts of alcohol to get through before that.

But what if starting to think about that New Year’s resolution now would increase your likelihood of succeeding post-Christmas? I shouldn’t need to quote a research study to convince you that most such fitness resolutions go down in flames, so perhaps I can convince you to do a bit of prep work in advance so you stick with it come next year.

Here are 10 possible fitness resolutions and some tips on how get ready to implement them starting 2018.

1. Starting from Zero
Everyone has to start somewhere, and if you’re a root vegetable taking root on the couch then you have nowhere to go but up, and out the door.

And getting out the door may be a good place to start, because walking is the most popular form of fitness on the planet. It can also give you some resilience to the tougher work to come in a couple of months. If you spend some time walking regularly now, you’ll build a base so you feel less like dying when you engage in a tougher workout regimen come January. On top of this it’s a good idea to start thinking about your what, when, and where. Put together a bit of a strategic plan with dates and times and activities for you to adhere to. If you decide a gym is for you, start investigating which one fits best and consider hiring a trainer as well.

2. Cardio
I just made it one word so it would be more impactful, because I know that, chances are, it scares the shit out of you. Some meathead websites have built their brand around hating on cardio, writing bullshit article after bullshit article on how it’s worse than Hitler. But it’s not, and you’re going to do it, right? So if you’re already a gym goer hitting the iron, then you can start off by trying some cardio machines now for 5 or 10 minutes at the end of each workout. While not as fun as being outside, a treadmill is biomechanically very similar to running over ground and can get your road ready. And people may crap on elliptical trainers, but they’re actually a great workout.

Committing to a bit of pre-training now will make longer and more intense cardio a lot easier to start and stick with in the New Year.

3. Get Stronger
If you’re already a lifter there is a chance you want to be stronger than you are, because, duh, STRONGER!

Stronger, stronger, stronger. Now it sounds weird. This requires having a solid body, because you’re going to tax it. In advance of your resolution to put more plates on the bar, you’ll need to address any injury issues to make sure you can handle it. You can also seek out a qualified powerlifting coach and even investigate powerlifting competitions for added motivation.

4. Exercise More Frequently
Going out to exercise more frequently is one of the most important things you can do to improve your fitness level, not just for health and performance, but for achieving physique goals. This is going to come down to scheduling and habit formation. If you’re used to later day workouts, you’ll want to start dabbling in early morning exercise sessions so you can do the occasional “two-a-day.” If you’re a weekend warrior, you’ll want to figure out how to implement midweek exercises or vice-versa. Sit down with your calendar and figure out where these extra workouts are going to fit in and what steps you’ll take towards forming the habits to make them stick.

5. Exercise with More Intensity
Intensity takes on many forms. From a cardio perspective it generally means going faster, so you’re going to need some psychological preparation along with a good GPS watch to track your speed. Prior to the New Year, start engaging in some interval training to increase your speed capabilities. If you really want to get faster, a hiring a coach is a great idea, so start looking around.

From a lifting perspective, this can be things like more reps, more sets, shorter rest breaks (which are not always a good idea) and lifting more weight. Do some investigating into designing a progressive lifting program or consider getting a qualified trainer to design on for you so you have a detailed outline of what you’ll be starting on come Jan 1.

6. Workout Longer
Part of this is scheduling. You’ll need to adapt your sleep / work schedule to fit in more time so you can stretch that 40-minute workout to 50 minutes or an hour (or more). The other part involves rational planning to prevent in order to prevent burnout and injury. As an example, do NOT attempt to both increase intensity and length of exercise session at the same time. Focus on one or the other.

7. Incorporate New Exercises
If you’re trying out new stuff in the gym, it’s wise to get instruction. If you’ve never been one for a deadlift, I strongly recommend seeking out a qualified trainer to teach you the proper mechanics or you might wreck yourself. This goes double for Olympic lifting, and also applies to trying out kettlebells.

If you’re looking for something totally new but aren’t sure what to do, start asking others for ideas. You may end up getting into kayaking or rock climbing or skiing. Talk to friends and do some internet searches then you’ll know what kind of equipment to ask for this Christmas.

8. Change Up Your Lifting Routine
First off, understand that change for the sake of change in lifting isn’t necessary, and “muscle confusion” is a myth. The primary reasons to switch things up are either boredom or specificity. That latter one means adopting a new lifting regimen to improve your performance in non-lifting related activities. So the first thing to do is to find out what activity it is you desire to get better at. Skiing or striking a ball? Punching or paddling? Or something else? That decided, you’ll need to find a sports performance trainer with ample experience in training people to excel at their sport and have them design an appropriate program for you.

9. Get Ready for a Race
The most popular form of racing is via foot, so let’s use that example.

It really depends on the distance and the time you’re going for. You’ll have to start by figuring out which race you want to do and register for it. If you’re new and just want to do a 5K, there is no reason you can’t just Google a race plan. But if motivation lags, there are plenty of “Couch to 5K” running groups you can join. If you’re feeling ambitious, and going for either a longer distance, a faster time, or both, you’re going to need to put together a detailed training schedule that involves intervals, long & slow distance training, and pace runs. Whether or not you need a coach depends on how independent you are, as well as how ambitious you are. If you want to qualify for the Boston Marathon you probably need a coach. If you just want to finish a marathon you can probably just download a training program from the internet.

10. See Your Abs
I’ve done this more than once, and man is it hard. It’s getting even hard since in 6 months I’ll be old enough to qualify for membership in the AARP.

The first thing I will state is that setting a date is good for motivation. Just saying “I am going to see my abs this year” probably isn’t enough. You need to realistically assess how much weight you need to lose and then design a weight loss schedule to achieve it. Timing it with something like a beach vacation can be a great idea for motivation. In fact, booking that vacation now can be the ultimate motivation to make you hit your goal, and may make you indulge less over the holidays because every pound you add between now and New Year’s is one that needs to be burned off later.

Six-pack abs is a laudable goal, but also involves suffering and isn’t going to suddenly make your life wonderful all by itself. Before you decide to pursue this goal, I suggest reading my article Six Things That Suck About Six-Pack Abs.


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James S. Fell, MBA, writes for the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, AskMen, the Guardian, TIME Magazine and many other fine publications. His first book was published by Random House Canada in 2014. He is currently working on his next book, which is about life-changing moments.