Posted January 2, 2018

Resolutions That Actually Work

It’s that time of year again. People will be starting up new fitness regimens and trying to live healthier lives all over the place.


That’s awesome


That’s kind of the main reason people get into the fitness industry in the first place, and it’s something I would hope most trainers and fitness professionals would want to openly encourage and find ways to help new people in the gym find success. After all, we were all new once before, and without sticking with it, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

The disheartening thing about resolutions is how quickly most people abandon them. It may be because they don’t have a good game plan, the dedication, or even the basic habits to make it work. Maybe they set too high of a goal with no idea of how to get there. It could be because they worked hard for 2 weeks, saw no significant change, and gave up. In any case, it’s believed that only 8% of all resolutions are actually maintained.

In their book The Power Of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, Chip and Dan Heath discuss the ingredients that lead to lasting change and moments of clarity where things seem to click in the minds of the experiencers.

They postulate that to make moments like this, there has to be 4 major ingredients:

Moments of Elevation

Moments of Insight

Moments of Pride

Moments of Connection

Without going in depth to each of these, it could be summarized that if people see small successes, get recognized for those successes, and get encouragement to work for other successes, they’ll be more successful in large-scale behavioural changes.

An example used in the book is the achievement of escalating rewards in video games. You start off with pretty much nothing and get rewarded for simply walking around in some examples. Then the rewards become bigger and better, but become harder to work for, and before you know it you’ve lost a week of time and all your relationships, but that new lightning sword is CRISP, YO!!!!

Resolutioners can take this concept and apply it to their own goal set by scheduling small scale rewards or challenges (your own Mini-Boss to use the video game analogy) to keep some interest alive while also progressing towards slaying your own big boss down the road.

Let’s say someone has the goal of losing 50 lbs of body fat. An example series of goals they could go through would be something like this.

Level 1: workout consistently (4-5 times a week) and eat within 80% of your game plan for 2 weeks. Relative difficulty or challenge, 2-3/10 for most people

Level 2: Do a run/walk for 20 minutes, alternating running 1 minute with walking for 1 minute. Alternatively, take a class you wouldn’t normally take, try an exercise you haven’t tried before, or do something new that would previously have scared you to death to try (but that doesn’t actually include a risk of death). Relative difficulty or challenge, 3-4/10 for most people

Level 3: Create a performance challenge to work towards. This could be running a 5km race, doing a complete pull up, benching your bodyweight, squatting your bodyweight, playing a game of pick up basketball, or whatever you feel would be a reasonable challenge you could work towards within the next few months. Relative difficulty or challenge, 4-5/10 for most people

Level 4: Treat yourself to an experience. Book a yoga retreat, a healthy cooking class, get a spa day, hiking in the woods, whatever floats your boat and value system, but make it something that somewhat revolves around your goal, helps you get further towards it, and is a memorable experience. I had a client book a 3 week trip to bike the same course as the Tour de France on professional quality bikes and in a large group. Difficulty or challenge level, 4-5/10 for most people depending on the experience. 10/10 if you’re biking the Tour de France course.

Level 5: Try a specific diet plan you’re interested in. As long as it creates a caloric deficit, you should lose weight on it, but the best way to see what each diet involves is to experience it. Don’t worry about cleanses or hardcore stuff, as most of them don’t really work, but if you want to try keto, Intermittent fasting, or whatever else you’ve heard of, give it a shot and see it through to the end. Relative challenge, 8/10 for most people.

Level 6: set up a photo shoot to show off how far you’ve come. A professional or semi-professional camera operator is a big enough reason for most people to kick things into high gear, and a non-refundable deposit is hard to back out of. Actual difficulty, 1-2/10, but mental challenge of 8-10/10 depending on the person.


This is just an example of something that could work for someone, but isn’t the end-all be-all. Everyone has different motivating features and experiences that drive them forward.

For those of us in the fitness industry, it would be very easy to help people experience these meaningful moments. A kind word of encouragement and acknowledgement of hard work (You’ve been really doing an awesome job at getting your workouts in lately! I like those new workout pants, they look like they’d do a great job at making you feel comfortable doing your cardio!It’s awesome to see you focusing so much on proper exercise technique in your workouts!) can be enough to help someone through the doldrums they may feel with the beginning of a training experience.

For trainers and gym owners, having milestones of activity can go a long way as well. If a client checks in at your gym 10 times on Facebook to show they’re working on their fitness like Fergie, you could show some appreciation with a free water bottle. On their hundredth checkin, they get a new gym bag and t- shirt. Anything that shows the escalation of small steps in a positive direction.

Maybe after 100 sessions a trainer can send an automated email saying “Congratulations! You’ve spent more time with me lately than my own wife/husband/partner/therapist!” Or “You’ve lifted more weight than the total weight of the Titanic on it’s maiden voyage!” Something unexpected, but still showing appreciation and encouragement.

Further in that direction, when someone achieves a PR, maybe give them an unforgettable experience. My wife and I have a tradition that if you set a record in the #basementofchampions, you get to wear the WWE championship belt for a photo op.

This may be something I bring to my new gym. (Hint hint)

Maybe have something where if someone is going for a PR attempt, everyone in the gym stops what they’re doing and cheers them on. It may not be for everyone, so make sure it’s alright with them before the attempt, but sometimes added pressure and instant reward of a cheering crowd can be a massive boost in self confidence.

Create a culture and community within your facility. No one has done this better in my opinion than Mark Fisher Fitness in New York. Their members aren’t members, they’re ninjas and unicorns. They don’t do group classes, they do dance parties and dress ups with exercise thrown in for good measure. They give high quality fitness information masked in the veil of entertainment, fun, and being unique in your own way.

Many gyms are going to be finding it a struggle in the face of expanding competition and a more discerning consumer looking to spend their money on only what they want. Niche markets are expanding whereas the general fitness element is contracting, and people are looking for more than a place with machines. Providing a tangible experience that can’t be specifically measured in check ins or membership rates is going to be one of the largest drivers of financial viability in the fitness industry going forward, and the organizations that provide experiences and goal escalation will likely be the ones who succeed, even if they cater to niche markets or more specific elements of the fitness industry.

General fitness seems to becoming more commoditized, with everyone competing on the same premises and charging different amounts. In situations like this, the lowest cost (both in terms of membership and accessibility) will be the winner. Those who provide meaningful experiences will be able to differentiate themselves from this competition, as low cost can’t compete on experience.

For those setting New Years Resolutions, I’m here to help any way I can. Comment below with your levels of achievement if you have any ready to go. If you just have a big goal in mind, this could be a great opportunity to set up some levels of your own.

For those in the fitness industry, start thinking of how you can create these experiences for your clients, and help them see success to expand that 8%. If you already have some solid experiences built in to your service offering, comment and let people know what you do that’s unique.

Let’s make 2018 the best year of Resolutions possible, and expand that 8%.

  • Michaela

    I want a wwe belt LOL

  • Great Article and really great examples of goals to work towards. As an online and in-person trainer I thoroughly enjoyed this!