Setting Fitness Goals

by Rona Berg

The new year signals renewed optimism: a fresh beginning, clean slate, new start. As you begin to set fitness goals for 2022, your chances of success are greater if you keep those goals realistic and attainable. Rather than a complete and total overhaul, think about making small, incremental, daily lifestyle tweaks. Literally, one foot in front of the other, will get you the entire way. We spoke with two fitness experts, who shared their tips.


Kollins Ezekh

Kollins Ezekh is a Los Angeles-based vegan celebrity trainer, life coach and founder of Built by God TV. Ezekh, a boxer who was introduced to Muay Thai boxing at age 12, is the franchise owner of Mayweather Boxing + Fitness.


In addition to physical training, working out takes mental focus and discipline. How can we stay focused and motivated? 

It’s important not just to take care of your body but also your mind. Athletes often train their mind by meditating and doing mindful practices. Another huge part of making physical progress is adopting an optimal rest and recovery strategy. 

What are your tips for setting realistic fitness goals for the new year? 

It’s important to remember what didn’t work out the previous new year. Make sure to set easy goals you’ll be able to follow through. As soon as those are complete you can revise your goals and make them more challenging to achieve. 

How to build inner and outer strength? 

Focus on setting healthy habits and creating an inspiring environment. Surround yourself with people who make you feel your best and inspire you. Make it a ritual to exercise and a habit to eat fresh whole foods. Last but definitely not least, if you don’t hold yourself accountable in any way, it’s much more difficult to achieve your goals. Getting a coach or starting a challenge with a goal date are great exercises in accountability. 

Practical tips on integrating a fitness workout into your life? 

Understanding the benefits of regular fitness and daily exercise for your mind and body can be inspiring and incredibly motivating. Even low-intensity exercise is highly beneficial. Some of the mental benefits that come from a consistent exercise routine include having more energy, being in an overall better mood and having less stress. 

Consistent exercise can also lead to better sleep. While exercise energizes you, regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and help you achieve REM sleep. Other health benefits include reduced risk for heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and noninsulin-dependent diabetes. And reducing your risk for disease and disorders can help you avoid being put on a concoction of medication. For all of these benefits, it seems like a no-brainer to start exercising for just 30 minutes a day. 

For vegans, what is most important in terms of nutrition? 

There is so much misinformation about how much protein we need to consume and what we should eat. Speak with your doctor or a nutritionist about your personal needs. I also suggest focusing on the full picture and looking at macros — the protein, carb and fat breakdown. 

Don’t be afraid to play around with your eating plan and meals, you don’t need to be perfect. Even if you start partially eating more plant-based foods and still have some nonvegan products here and there to make up your protein, you are taking a step in the right direction. A plant-based protein powder can be super helpful for making up diet deficiencies. A couple of quick meals I like to whip after I work out are a tofu scramble or avocado toast with a protein shake. 

Tell us about your favorite no-equipment workouts. 

I’d recommend walking for 30 minutes just to get the blood flowing. If you want to take it up a notch, you can try doing 30 jumping jacks and knee lifts, where you lift one knee to the opposite elbow. Finally, doing 30 squats in place is an excellent exercise for beginners. However, it’s imperative that you get the form right. Beginners can do these anywhere—your bedroom, living room, hotel room or office. 


Thomas Roe

Thomas Roe, an endurance athlete who regularly competes in triathlons,
is a personal trainer and founder of TRoe Fitness and Local Moves Studio in San Antonio, Texas.


You’ve been affected by mental illness in your family. How does this influence your approach to working out? 

Having a sister who battled mental illness for 40 years and eventually took her life, I knew exercise was my go-to therapy. While others reach for drugs/pills (both recreational or Rx), I used sport and training as my coping mechanism. As an endurance athlete and triathlete, my personal training is a reflection of my teachings: strength, endurance, cardio and stamina. 

Tips for setting realistic fitness goals? 

Consult a professional for help with setting a fitness and nutrition plan. How often you work out, train and follow your nutrition plan is contingent upon how committed you are to your goals. As a rule of thumb, two to four days a week for simple health and conditioning. But if you’re committed to dropping weight or building muscle, your nutrition plan, training or workouts should reflect that. 

Based on your mood and your day, you might not have energy for a kick-in-the-teeth workout but you can still go for a walk. If you feel the need for speed, hit a circuit training or boxing class.

Tell us about your circuit training approach—you create a buddy system? 

The buddy system keeps athletes motivated by being supportive and competitive with each other. Social connection is key because it supports mental health. It helps to call, DM or text to motivate each other to take classes together. Whether you’re a weekend warrior or triathlete, classes are designed to push you harder than you ever would on your own. The “buddy system” keeps you accountable.

Jumpstart Your Workout

 Roe shares his full-body workouts for jumpstarting the new year. Begin with three to five rounds of this yoga sequence to loosen up and stretch—Up Dog, Downward Dog, Cat Cow— then start the workout. 

Walking Lunges

 These hit every muscle group in the lower body. Be mindful of keeping your shoulders above your hips, looking straight ahead and not down at your feet. A simple rep/set is a total of 20 exaggerated steps or standing in place for 20 per leg. Never let your front knee go past your front toe; your back knee bends until it almost touches the ground.

How Many? For a beginner or novice: 3x20; experienced: 5x30

Air Body Weight Squats

Put your feet shoulder-width apart, arms at your side or out front and drop into a deep squat where your hamstrings are parallel to the ground or where your tailbone nearly touches the ground.

How Many? Beginner or novice: 3x15; experienced: 5x25

Single Leg Step-Ups

Using a park bench or 12- to 15-inch wall, place your right foot on the bench or wall and step up as if you were running a flight of stairs. Note: never lock out your knee or the leg on the bench or wall. Also, for the opposite leg, never let the heel touch the ground when you step down.

How Many? Beginner or novice: 3x15; experienced: 5x25

Military or Yoga Push-Ups

 In a plank position with shoulders above your wrists, lower your entire body until your nose is an inch from your mat or the ground. If you need to minify, start in a knee position as opposed to your toes in the plank position.

How Many? Beginner or novice: 3x15; experienced: 5x25

Wide Grip Pull-Ups

You’ll need a bar at least six-feet high at a local park or playground. Reaching up with an overhand grip and hands slightly further than shoulder width apart, pull your body weight up until your chin clears the bar. This is a lot harder than you might think and will take time and effort to achieve. 

How Many? Beginner or novice: 3x5; experienced: 5x10

Core

Holding a push-up plank, either on the palms of your hands or forearms.

How Long? Beginner: 30-45 seconds; experienced: 60-90 seconds

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