Goals 104: New Year’s Resolutions

by Carl Raghavan, SSC | February 09, 2022

lifter at the bottom of a squat

The New Year: when people think about their goals. It may be a cliché, but it’s here. Dry January comes around (bunch of quitters) and the horde is back, flooding the gym, thinking all it takes to make their dreams come true is 6 weeks. They are in for a rude awakening. Those fitness infomercials and the transformations they see on social media won’t be what happens to them. As anyone who has spent more than 2 months of the year in the weight room knows, you’re a reflection of your habits. If you squat and deadlift 500lbs, you’re going to have a physique that shows that. If you eat 250g of protein a day and stay mindful of what you eat and drink, you’re going to look like that guy; if you drink 15 pints of lager and get takeaways every day, you’re going to look like a very different guy. In a lot of ways, you are what you continually do.

Why January 1st?

Not all gyms undergo the same influx, but there is definitely something in the water around this time of year. For whatever reason, the cosmic pull of the universe makes people stop and think, “Maybe I should join a gym?” I don’t know why, because honestly the last place I want to be cramming in all my efforts to work off last year’s guilt is in a crowded gym where everyone is watching me do it. I’d prefer the other bar – you know, the one that sells alcohol. Plus it’s nice and quiet in the bars in January time. Must be a coincidence.

What does this chaotic horde want? If you ask, they will say they want to be fit or in better shape, whatever that means. As we know from previous articles on goals, “fit” or “in shape” are two very broad terms that describe very different qualities, which change depending on who you’re talking to. I want a six pack! Sure, you’ll find some cold ones in the fridge, my good man. I want to lose 2 dress sizes! Easy honey, just leave your new designer clothes (tags on) in the park and come back in a week. I want to be beach-ready! Sounds great: book a flight, pack your Hawaiian shirt, and don’t forget your sunscreen.

I could go on and on, but I’m being facetious. I get it. You want to look a certain way in time for a particular event or to fit into a certain outfit. By all means, make a positive change – but why January 1st? What’s so special? Is this Christmas guilt? Do you feel bad about truffling your feelings by guzzling all that food and drink, or did you genuinely have a come-to-Jesus moment on the day of his birth and decide to make a change, man-in-the-mirror style. If it’s the guilt talking, that isn’t strong-enough fuel to keep you motivated for the whole of 2022. I can tell you that from past experience. Diet starts Monday, right? Wrong. When it comes to making a change, the best day to do it is actually Saturday. It’s a day when people tend to be free from the manic hustle of standard working life and are able to focus on a new habit, which helps it become part of their routine – whether that’s going to the gym, prepping food for the week, or starting a new hobby.

Losing Weight

I have a secret technique for you, although it only works if you really believe in the power of words. Brace yourself. Every time you’re about to put food or drink into your mouth, say the words, “Stop being a fat cunt!” I know, I’m a genius, right? The problem for many of us is that our consumption of food is constant. It’s a never-ending, round-the-clock fight. You don’t have to use my phrase, of course, but a mantra or something along those lines that sticks in your head can help remind you to make better daily food choices. Though I have to admit, people who are obsessed with losing weight are usually boring as hell to hang out with. It’s all they talk about, in a neurotic and sometimes almost psychotic manner. Believe me, I’ve known lots of people in the fitness industry like this. Real-life examples of conversation starters:

  • What oil did you cook the chicken breast in?

  • Is that a gluten-free pizza crust?

  • I think I’m lactose intolerant.

  • Sorry, I quit drinking because I’m saving my calories for my next cheat meal.

  • I’m currently on a cleanse/doing a detox/in a food rehab therapy group – only part time, though (weekends off).

Losing weight or recalibrating your body composition is hard. It requires discipline and successful habits that are usually the exact opposite of how you got fat in the first place. For the record, I have the utmost respect for anyone who makes a lifestyle change and loses a ton of weight. Just don’t expect me to feel bad that I’m ordering a cheeseburger and a beer. People who get “out of shape” are usually victims of lifestyle creep.

They might:

  • Not train

  • Order takeaways a lot

  • Have a desk job

  • Work long hours

  • Prioritize social events

  • Not have friends into fitness or a sports community around them

  • Be heavy drinkers

  • Smoke or take other drugs

  • Not have any hobbies

  • Have an unbalanced work-home-sleep routine

  • Have a busy home life with kids or older family members to look after

  • Have low self-esteem

  • Always prioritize themselves last.

Imagine juggling all these issues and then squeezing yourself into old gym clothes (or brand new ones) and bouncing around in a gym full of strangers like you belong there. It’s intimidating. I’d feel out of place too.

What Is Your Goal?

So we’re back to square one, the root of these articles. Your goals. When January rolls around and you’re tempted to make some impetuous and ill-fated resolution, instead try sitting down and thinking long and hard about some realistic goals. What is important to you? It doesn’t matter how stupid other people think they are. These are your goals, not mine – and not what your parents think is best for you. Your goals. Why the fuck are you here, working your balls off in the gym? You can’t outrun a bad diet.

If it’s weight loss you care about, you need to focus on the food you shovel down your pie hole. No amount of training is going to make a change if you don’t address the root cause: food is first for bodyfat goals. Training and other interventions come later, but food is the key, not running on a treadmill. We only have a few tenuous threads of free will, especially when we’re trying to overturn an ingrained habit, and once that tiny thread gets cut – we’re sick, we pick up a minor injury or niggle, we’re hungover, we pig out on junk food– we crash and burn, never to be seen again at the gym. Until next year’s attempt.

The point is that you need to have a strong why: something that makes your journey in the weight room bigger than just you. A purpose that you’re willing to go for, all-out. Figure it out, then chase it with both hands. What is your why.

I’m biased, so I’d say strength should be your priority. It’s the single most important attribute the gym can give you. Strength and the journey it takes you on – not only your body but also that grey mush between your ears – is crucial. For people who have never been strong, it’s almost a revelatory experience. It can turn a couch potato into a badass quicker than you can say four-o-five!

My Thoughts on Resolutions

The problem with New Year’s resolutions is that they are the enemy of consistency. They’re not really about self-improvement. They’re just a marketing scam. The reality is, it doesn’t really matter what year it is. There’s no huge difference between December 31 and January 1. Personally, when the new year comes around, I’m thinking to myself, You mean I have to do all this shit again, and it’s gonna be even harder than last year? Fuck me. I’ve been on this path for over a decade, looking to get stronger every year (by this point I’ve almost stopped counting). I find it’s better if I just keep my head down and focus on day-to-day tasks. That keeps me on the straight and narrow.

I show up to the gym 3 – 4 days a week, I don’t miss reps, and I eat and sleep enough to keep making progress. Even now, those are the most important things I focus on in my training. Not how much creatine or B-12 I’m getting, or which wrist wraps feel better (or are more expensive). The basics are still all that matters, and I always strive to be a master of consistency. Staring up at the mountain of my next big lift makes me exhausted and almost demotivated. I’d rather do the unglamorous grunt work of putting one foot in front of the other and focusing on the things that I know drive progress. These are all the same things I tell my clients, and anyone else who wants to listen. They are: Rip’s First Three Questions, technique, and consistency. That’s the secret recipe. That’s self-improvement.


The gym is a lifestyle choice, not a 2-month Fat and Unfit Anonymous camp. Many of the newbies don’t know about barbell etiquette (aka how not to be a twat). Part of me is sorry for them – after all, they don’t know any better, and at least they’re trying – but the part of my brain that is trying to focus on my next set of squats is screaming Get a coach! or What the hell are you doing??? You look like a lost puppy! Can we please reserve the weight room for serious people? By that I don’t just mean experienced lifters – after all, everybody has to start somewhere – but serious people. The squat rack is the altar of the gym. As Tom Platz said, you should genuflect when you pass through or arrive in the weight room, and give the squat rack respect. I like that.

A (Totally Hypocritical) New Year’s Resolution of My Own

If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s how easily we can be controlled. So this year, in 2022, let’s make finding some guts our New Year’s resolution. No stand-up useful gal is going to be looking for Mr. Right wearing a #metoo or a “feminism” t-shirt in the vegan aisle of Whole Foods. Come on dude, grow a fucking pair. Let’s make man boobs extinct again.

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