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New Year fitness goals: how to set targets you can actually achieve

Rikki Swannell
Article written by Rikki Swannell

Date published 28 January 2024

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Sports broadcaster and journalist Rikki Swannell talks to personal trainer Amy McCully about the importance of setting realistic fitness goals.

🕒 4 min read

Whether in jest or with an element of truth behind it, many of us have uttered the phrase "new year, new me". The calendar ticks over to January 1 and we're bombarded with thoughts, words and images of change and reinvention, a fresh start, goal setting and overhauls.

Much of this 'reinvention' revolves around health and fitness, and it's a truism to suggest that gyms and personal trainers see a surge in new members and clients in the second half of January and early February. However, it's also unfortunately the case that many of those new sign-ups fall by the wayside a few months later.

So, how can we set manageable targets and realistic health and wellbeing goals that will last from January to December... or thereabouts?

Be motivated but realistic

Auckland-based personal trainer Amy McCully has seen it all. A former amateur boxer, McCully implores her clients to be realistic when starting out with new health and fitness goals, while also encouraging people to go after them.

"Definitely roll with those feelings of motivation and the 'new-year-new-you' hype for sure, but I think it's important to be mindful that you may not feel as pumped as you do now every single day," she says. "Even personal trainers and elite athletes don't always feel motivated to work out or cook a nutritious meal, but their success comes from actions that are in line with their goals day in, day out."

She cautions about going too hard, too soon. A lot of people set the bar too high, and she sees this as a reason that a lot of people crash and burn after a short amount of time.

"That's not to say don't set big goals in January, but I suggest having realistic expectations of yourself and what you can actually commit to based on your life, not what you may see someone else doing on social media."

McCully says there's real merit in starting slowly and trying to avoid instant fixes or all-or-nothing approaches. Although she agrees it can be tricky to change mindsets.

"We live in a society of instant gratification and want things – including our results – express delivered overnight from Amazon! Consistent effort over time doesn't sound sexy but it's a much quicker route to achieving your goals than the shiny, new fad diet or exercise programme."

Consistency is key

As the Southern Hemisphere basks in a hot, sunny summer there are still a few months of long days and social nights ahead. The extra daylight hours, wedding season and extra public holiday long weekends aren't always conducive to maintaining our new exercise and eating regimes. McCully, who also coaches clients online around their nutrition, advocates for having a few healthy habits that are non-negotiables.

"These can be scaled up or down depending on what's going on in your life," she says. "When you have social events or weekends away, your non-negotiables might look like a hike, swim or bike ride with the family, a high-protein breakfast and making smarter choices on the dinner menu. It's easy to pop some protein powder in with everything else you've packed to throw into a smoothie or have with berries and yoghurt for brekkie."

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However, a more gentle, slower approach shouldn't deter anyone from setting a fitness target and going for it. Whether you want to enter a 5km event, start building towards a bigger goal like an Ironman or simply want to move and exercise more consistently, McCully says there are simple steps to help you take on those challenges – but there's one key thing to always keep in mind.

"With any movement goal I think the most important aspects are to have a strong 'why' behind it, make it social and make it enjoyable... and at least feel good after doing it!"

Give yourself a boost

Get yourself moving this new year with these energising supplements

Kick-Start Gum: Fast-release caffeine to increase mental alertness.

Energy Gels: Naturally flavoured gels with fast-acting carbohydrates and electrolytes. Choose from espresso and caffeine, passion fruit, citrus or apple and blackcurrant flavours.

Pre-workout Fuel: An advanced formulation powder of carbohydrates, creatine and amino acids (L-taurine, L-tyrosine and beta-alanine). Available in berry or lemon flavours.

CurraNZ Blackcurrant Extract: Full of New Zealand-sourced blackcurrants (and their active ingredient, anthocyanins) to help the body overcome stress and support performance.

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Rikki Swannell

About Rikki Swannell

Rikki Swannell has been a sports broadcaster for 20 years, and now works in a freelance capacity as a commentator, reporter and writer. She is a regular on Sky Sport, commentating on rugby, netball and tennis, and also commentates on Rugby World Cups and the World 7s series for World Rugby. Rikki has attended numerous Olympics, Commonwealth Games and World Cups. She is the author of two books and writes regularly for a variety of online and print publications.