By Jonathan Aluzas

In December I got to thinking about January. ?In January, what happens is that a whole bunch of people you haven’t seen for a while suddenly show up in the gym again, or people who have actually been around consistently show up with a set jaw and a look of determination. ?The reason for this is simple: They dropped the ball the year before. ?The reasons are many, the excuses weak, and the self-loathing palpable. ?It’s my “I-told-you-so” month.

  • I told you you’d regret it if you took December off.
  • I told you you weren’t going to work out on your own.
  • I told you you wouldn’t lose weight without journalizing your food intake.

I get to be right in January, but it does nothing for me. ?Why don’t people do what they’re supposed to do with regard to fitness? ?Now, I believe that, despite what people say, they DO actually know what to do to get in shape, be healthy, etc.. ?But, just to make sure I’m covering all of the bases, I figured I’d write out the necessary steps or actions to take in order to get into great shape; that way no one can say they didn’t know.

A few weeks back I posted what I believe are the basics, the fundamentals you need to implement in order to have success in 2012 with regard to your fitness. ?In the event you either didn’t read the post or have forgotten what they are, here they are again.

  • Be a part of something
  • Be on time
  • Always give your best
  • Journalize your food intake and workouts

Theses are really, really important actions to take, but, as mentioned, they’re the “basics,” the “fundamentals.” ?These are the bedrock upon which your success will rest. ?These need to be mastered first, before you can get anywhere with your fitness goals. ?But, where do you go once you’ve mastered the basics? ?You step it up. ?And here are your “step it up” action steps:

Set performance goals

We are ALL, to varying degrees, invested in our appearance. ?Living in Los Angeles doesn’t help. ?Most of us are fixated on abs, arms, losing weight, etc.. ?Fine. ?But this doesn’t necessarily get us anywhere as far as “fitness” is concerned. ?And, I believe, it is the single biggest cause of failure and frustration in the fitness world. ?Why? ?Because of what I call the “Mirage Effect.” ?When you make “looking good” your primary objective, you set yourself up for failure. ?As you improve and look better and better, your expectations change, your scrutiny becomes sharper, your self-judgement becomes more harsh, and the finish line of looking a certain way is always off in the distance, just out of reach. ?You’re never satisfied, never fulfilled, always thinking you can look better.

How do you counter this? ?Make your objectives performance-related instead of appearance-related. ?It gives you something tangible and measurable to reach for, something concrete. ?And, if you train and eat in a way that serves your performance goals, you will likely improve your appearance at the same time. ?But it will happen as a fortunate accident, as a byproduct. ?Instead of staring at yourself in the mirror to see if your love handles are shrinking or your arms aren’t as fat:

  1. Set a goal to run a mile in a certain time, or jump rope for a certain length of time.
  2. Set a goal to run a distance greater than you ever thought you’d be able to do.
  3. Test yourself monthly on how many push ups and sit ups you can do to failure.

Take on a challenge

Step outside of what is normal and customary for you, stretch, challenge yourself. ?Don’t overthink it, just do it! ?Thinking is the death of action.

Team Arena at the Spartan Race Finish Line

Just jump in and:

  1. Sign up for martial arts or dance classes (Zumba is great)
  2. Jump into a pick up basketball or softball league
  3. Register for a 5k, a Spartan Race or a Warrior Dash
Jumping into the deep water forces you to swim. ?If you sign up for an event that is over your head, you’ll step up your game so you don’t get hurt, don’t fail, or, most motivationally, don’t embarrass yourself.

Clean up your diet

You have begun to journalize your food intake, and that’s great. ?The next step is use better judgement when it comes to your food choices. ?One of the purposes of food journaling is to bring your attention to the issue of food quality, but if you don’t take it to the next step of improving the quality, you’re missing out on a crucial step. ?You don’t have to read a 300 page book on nutrition, just start with these three steps:

    1. Prepare your food at home instead of eating out. ?You can using higher quality, more nutritious ingredients and save a ton of calories.
    2. Increase your intake of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, and decrease your intake of processed foods.
    3. Increase fish, decrease other meats. ?Wild Alaska Salmon tops the list.

Learn how to recover and regenerate

Training is a huge part of fitness, so is recovery. ?Don’t get so locked into your training that you neglect to properly take care of your body post-workout and maximize the value of your time and effort spent working out. ?Failure to allow your body to rest and repair will negate your improvements and increase your potential of injury. ?It’s great that you’re so dedicated to personal training, kickboxing, bootcamp, whatever, but you have to let your body recover and regenerate in order to progress.

    1. Self Myofascial Release, aka, foam rolling. ?Foam rolling is an excellent way to relieve trigger points, increase joint mobility and break up soft-tissure adhesions resulting from exercise (
    2. Corrective exercise. ?If you have chronic pain from injury, follow the protocol given to you by your doctor and/or physical therapist. ?If you have postural distortions and/or muscular imbalances (most of us do), talk to your physical therapist or personal trainer to help you design a stretching and strengthening protocol to correct or manage these issues.
    3. Recovery time. ?Learn to take at least one full day off per week from ALL exercise to let your body recover. ?Additionally, if you train intensely and frequently, you might want to take several days off once or twice a year to avoid overtraining and injury. ?Training is great, folks, but there are limits. ?If you don’t give your body time off occasionally, it will break down.

In the end, there is this: Progression is the key. ?If you’re one of the dedicated few who thrive in their weekly semi-private training sessions or daily runs in the hills, congratulations, you’re one of the few! ?But remember that there’s more to getting fit than just moving around. ?You have to always be seeking out the next way to confuse your body in order to continue your upward trajectory.

Jonathan Aluzas is the owner of Arena Fitness, a personal training and group exercise facility in Encino, California.