Jillian Michaels: The American gym guru on how to reach your fitness goals

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January is always a bit bleak. It’s dark, cold and summer feels like a lifetime away. And on top of that, many feel lumbered with continuing to commit to the health goals they set for themselves when they were in a chirpier, more motivated, post-Christmas mood. 

If you vowed to sort out your fitness regime in 2023, or perhaps build on your strength, form and stamina, you’re definitely not alone. Also like you, many others are probably feeling regret when they’re faced with a trip to the gym at 6am on a windy January morning. According to athletics brand Sundried, 95 per cent of new year’s resolutions are fitness related but after just three months, only 10 per cent believe their resolutions will last. So why, year after year, do we create resolutions we struggle to stick to? 

Los Angeles-based personal trainer Jillian Michaels knows this conundrum all too well. After making a name for herself as a trainer on the US edition of The Biggest Loser, Michaels has gone on to create a best-selling fitness app and hosts Keeping It Real, a long-running podcast which features in-depth interviews with the world’s leading wellness experts. 

Through her work in the industry, she’s well aware of motivation (or the lack of it) being a huge stumbling block when it comes to fitness. But, Michaels reveals, it’s also about how and why you’re setting such goals in the first place. We get the lowdown, and discover how you can well and truly achieve your fitness ambitions in 2023. 

Set fitness goals you will actually stick to

“The key is not just how you proceed, but how you approach it to begin with,” explains Michaels. “Make sure that you begin any endeavour in life from a place of self-love and worth.”

Often fitness resolutions come from the burning desire to change how you look physically, but losing weight is no quick fix. Pushing your body to the limit without sustaining it properly with a healthy, nutritious diet will only result in failure down the line, simply because you don’t have enough energy to continue. It’s about a change in mindset, explains Michaels, “Work out because you love your body not because you hate it. And because you want to have the absolute best for yourself, not because you think you are currently less than.”

jillian michaels

According to Michaels, setting a solid exercise commitment should start with a question: why do you want to do this? “Work with purpose becomes passion. Work without purpose feels punishing,” she says. “Determine all the reasons you truly want to make a change and all the ways your life is going to be better [because of it]. This helps you make the harder choices because you have the perspective that it’s worth it.”

Once you’ve set your goals, work out how to achieve them. There’s no point going to the gym blind about what exercises to do and how to do them. Michaels says, “Do your homework and be realistic. Often people think that goals are about bringing action to intention but this isn’t so.The key is to bring intelligent action to your intentions. Misinformed action can actually set you back. There’s a reason they say knowledge is power.”

The same ‘be realistic’ rule applies to diet as well. “You aren’t going to avoid eating ice cream for the rest of your life so work it into your calorie allowance 20 per cent of the time,” says Michaels. “You probably can’t train for an hour five days a week with work or family time constraints but can you find four-and-a-half hours a week to exercise?” 

Pro tip: download a fitness app or buy a personal training package which allows you to workout at home and in the gym, so you don’t always have to drag yourself to a studio or get on a treadmill just to tick it off your to-do list. 

jillian michaels

How to stay motivated with your fitness goals 

Be reasonable with yourself. No one can possibly be motivated 100 per cent of the time. We all have our slumps, that’s completely normal – it’s getting yourself out of them that can prove to be a challenge. After pinpointing why you want to make changes to your fitness routine and educating yourself on the subject, here are Michaels’ top tips for sticking to your goals:

  1. Be part of a community either online, in an app, or in real life. Having that social element helps keep you accountable and offers continued support.
  1. Aim to conquer at least one thing a month and make it a habit. Whether that’s clearing out the downstairs cupboard or trying to hit a personal best in the gym, setting monthly goals is another great way to keep yourself accountable with a short-term, achievable goal. 
  1. Walk 5,000 steps a day and work your way up to 10,000 if you can. You can probably walk for longer than you can run, it’s not rocket science. More steps equals more calories, whatever pace you might be taking them at. An hour-long walk may be better than a 20-minute run in terms of exercise, simply because you’re training for longer. 
  1. Focus on sleep quality and work towards seven to eight hours each night. Research has proven that sleeping fewer than seven hours per night is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. Aside from the health benefits, sleeping is a form of rest, meaning you’ll have more energy to smash your workout the following day. 
  1. Drink at least two litres of water a day. It helps with clearing toxins from your body, reduces fatigue and gives you more energy. 
  1. Cut back on your alcohol intake. There’s a reason why professional athletes don’t often drink alcohol. It increases blood flow but reduces blood sugar. The former can slow down the healing process for injuries, whereas the latter can impact performance as you’ll have less energy to sustain yourself during a workout. 

Read more: Longevity: Who wants to live forever?

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