How to Set New Goals in the New Year

“Get focused on the path ahead.”

Personal Trainer, Dean Robertson, provides you with the motivation and mindset you need to stick to those new year goals.

The festive period is officially over and it’s time to jump right in to 2018. This season tends to bring along with it an over indulgence of all things we swear we stay away from the rest of the year. We justify it with the vow to ourselves that the new year will mean a new diet and training program and the promise for a “better you.” Now, I would never discourage people from making goals and having aims, but the festive period seems to really push people to eat and drink a huge amount more than they normally do. 

The New Year is a great time to re-evaluate your fitness and nutritional routine.

It can become discouraging for them as it can lead to falling at the first hurdle when the new year comes because they try to completely reverse the damage as quickly as it came. These sorts of changes cannot happen overnight, which can ultimately lead to the downfall of their new year’s resolutions.

The first question you may have might be “how can I reverse the damage?” The best advice I can give is to not do it in the first place. While this can sometimes be easier said than done when face to face with temptation, but realising that you are an athlete whose body requires good quality nutrition and training to be the best that you can be is a great motivator. Especially as a rugby player, every extra mouthful over Christmas will have made that first training session back that much tougher!


That being said, a little treat in moderation whether it be food or alcohol never hurt anyone. I would even encourage having a treat in moderation as it allows you to have a much more sustainable and enjoyable lifestyle. As it is now January, you know best yourself which group you are a part of; the indulger, or the over indulger. The damage (if any at all, may I add) has been done already so there is no point dwelling on the subject, but definitely remember to keep this in mind in the future if you plan to keep your fitness and nutritional regimen on track and keep your body in peak condition.

It’s only natural that there will be more food and drink around Christmas and the New Year, but the quality of said food does not have to be low. In the end, you decide what you do and do not put in your body, and just because it may be a bit more plentiful, it doesn’t mean that you need to overindulge your fill. Keeping everything in moderation still allows you to treat yourself and participate in festivities, without having to allow excess time and effort for your body to recover.

The New Year is a great time to re-evaluate your fitness and nutritional routine. You should have some time to relax before you restart your next bout of intense physical training or, if you’ve been slacking, ramp up your training sessions and get a great head start as the majority of people take extended breaks.


It’s always nice to be ahead of the competition come game-time. Regardless of your actions over the extended holiday period, it’s important not to be stressed about them. The stress of the guilt will likely be more damaging than the over indulgence itself, so give yourself some slack. In saying this, it’s still important to always keep your goals in mind.

New Year Goals

Looking forward past the festive period, it’s time to get focused on the path ahead. It sounds cliché to make goals and resolutions at the start of the year, but I think it’s a great way to get focused.

Make goals, go BIG, and don’t limit yourself to small hurdles in case you fail.

Go hard. I’ve always been taught to be realistic with goal setting, but in the end, looking at what I really wanted and desired made me envision the reality that could be if I just put my mind to it. You are no different.

Think BIG, because the only thing standing in between you and achieving it are the excuses. Please do not mistake my confidence here as arrogance, because it’s truly not. Even a big dreamer like myself understands that in order to achieve something great, no matter what it may be, you need to have a game plan. That game plan may likely look vastly different for each person, even if they have the exact same goal, because different people learn and achieve things in different ways. 

Even the largest of tasks is achieved by building upon many smaller achievements and milestones.

The key is to work out how YOU can achieve YOUR goal. This might be tweaking the gym routine to get stronger and leaner to improve your on-pitch fitness or setting time aside to work with your coaches to improve a slightly weaker part of your game. Either way, make a game plan that is going to work for you ON and OFF the rugby pitch.

Setting goals

First, imagine where you want to be. When I say this I mean in any aspect of your life. Not just training or playing rugby but in regards to the personal, financial, and social aspects of your life. Once you can visualise and SEE where you want to be,  it becomes much easier to work back from there.


A great analogy that I often use to describe this to clients is building a wall. Imagine the Great Wall of China, one of the great wonders of the world. A wall that you can see from outer space doesn’t just appear overnight. It takes, years, decades even, and how do you build this wall? One brick at a time.

So no matter what your goal may be, visualise the end result and work back to the first brick. As long as you focus on every brick you lay being well placed, you will eventually have your amazing wall. Even the largest of tasks is achieved by building upon many smaller achievements and milestones.

Let’s put this into a practical aspect from a training perspective, following the festive period seeing as this is our main objective.

Situation: You’ve put on too much weight over the festive period by overindulging and slacking off on training. You’re feeling unfit and the first training session back with the team is looming.

Goal: Be the leanest, strongest, fastest version of myself I have ever been and put the best performances on the pitch and show the highest amount of dedication to my club that I ever have in the past.

Sounds unrealistic right? Wrong.


Solution: Break it down

  1. Get gym membership to suit your training needs – there’s an abundance of gyms flaunting cheap gym memberships at this time of year to pull in new members after Christmas and new year, so take advantage of these. Make sure you shop around and pick one that has all the right equipment to suit your training program.
  2. Commit to training regularly – Your rugby club invests a lot of time in you each week so this year look to repay them by committing to training every week, attending every session where possible. Record your attendance and try to improve on it each month.
  3. Assess current situation & contrast to goal – Where are you now? If you are a few kgs overweight, by starting training to get stronger, you will be burning more calories per day as a by-product and will likely get leaner without changing nutrition up too much. Killing two birds with one stone is an excellent way to see and believe in your results.

That’s a very simple 3-part approach to breaking down a once colossal goal. How can we ensure that we follow through with the plan? When motivation starts to slow and we get a bit bored and the novelty wears off, how can we strive to meet our goals?


  1. Be accountable to someone – Training with a gym partner/teammate or even hiring a coach is a huge boost to your efforts when someone is helping or driving you harder than you could alone.
  2. Track your progress –  Take note of what you are doing and see what is happening as a result of your efforts.
    If you are not assessing, then you are simply guessing. 
    I regularly have clients track their training sessions, weights, measurements, body weight and even keep a nutritional log in order to assess their body compositional changes. We revisit their goals frequently to ensure they are achieving targets. If not, we push harder or evaluate and change what’s necessary. It’s always satisfying to look back and see how far you have come.
  3. Have milestones – We have discussed the benefit of setting a BIG goal,  but remember it is very important to have smaller steps on the ladder to greatness.  As you work toward the smaller milestones and ensure you recognise when you achieve them, the larger goals become smaller and smaller as you begin to chip away, making it less intimidating and much more attainable.
  4. Enjoy the work – Don’t do work that you don’t enjoy. Have a system that you feel is a pleasure rather than a chore. No matter if someone told me running was the best thing to get me bigger and stronger (for the record it’s not), you still wouldn’t catch me pounding on a treadmill day after day as I personally find it boring, monotonous and potentially injurious.muddy-rugby-resized
  5. WANT IT – This sounds pretty obvious, but believe me, there are thousands of people who say they want to do something but apply themselves only for a short period of time, if at all. If you truly want something, you will find a way. If not, you will find an excuse.
  6. Do it for YOU – Trying to achieve something for other people will only lead to short term happiness and, realistically, the people you are trying to impress probably are not even that interested. When you see yourself as your biggest challenge, you will always come out on top as it you against you.
    This is called intrinsic motivation which can be an intensely strong driver when you learn how to harness it. On the flip side, extrinsic motivation can also be a powerful driver. For example, you may push yourself to be the best that you can be to ensure you get a place on the team. You have used extrinsic motivation to attain a result but intrinsically you are pushing yourself to be better than you. Very powerful.
  7. NEVER give up – Remember that health and fitness is not a sprint. It’s not a one week/day/month thing. Make the commitment to be in it for the long haul. The people who stay true to their goals and keep on track get the best results. Stick to the game plan and see your goals through to achievement. Remember, “it’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up” – Vince Lombardi.

Planning Ahead

When it comes to planning your nutrition and training, it really comes down to one thing – preparation. If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. Just look at the people that walk into a gym with no idea how to train that do the same boring thing over and over with little effort and no results. I don’t blame them for leaving the gym after a while.

The key here is to have a program that is suitable for your needs and then give it 100%. After around 8-10 weeks of hard week on a given program, assess the results. If you are happy with the progress then continue, and if not, then find another program that may provide superior results.


There’s an abundance of well-constructed training programs readily available online that you can use as templates. If you don’t feel that it is suited to you, or you are struggling with the execution of the exercises, invest in a good coach or trainer that can demonstrate the exercises effectively and ensure you get the most out of it.

Better still, invest in an individualised program that you can work on which is tailor-made to your aims and objectives. This investment will be a small price to pay in comparison to months, if not years, of wasted gym time. Do your homework to ensure that this coach can produce the results that you are looking for by speaking to their current clients and researching their credentials to make sure you get your money’s worth.

 If you want to achieve the optimal results in the gym, you must also focus a substantial amount of time and effort on your nutrition 

In the end, if you want to achieve the optimal results in the gym, you must also focus a substantial amount of time and effort on your nutrition. This is often overlooked as people feel that if they spend hours in the gym, they can just eat whatever they want. While this may be true for some, why wouldn’t you want to treat the inside of your body with the same respect you treat the outside?  


In order to attain the best results from your training and to achieve your goals as quick as possible, it’s an absolute necessity that your nutrition is on point. So if you, like many people out there, have trouble with nutrition, take the time to either educate yourself or invest in a coach that can assist you in the construction of a suitable nutrition plan.

In the end, this article wasn’t really about how to be the “new you” just because it’s a new year. It’s about how to help you become the best version of yourself by setting goals and learning how to achieve and measure them. The good thing about being a rugby player is that you already have your team mates for moral support and your coaches to give you a kick if you’re slacking, so use them to your advantage.

That said, the presence of these external people mean nothing if you don’t truly want it yourself. Decide what you want to achieve by the end of the week, month, or year and go after it. These guidelines may be useful when achieving training and nutrition related goals but it really is much bigger than that. It becomes a part of your lifestyle. Make the decision today to be the better you, and don’t look back unless it’s to see how far you’ve come.

Dean Robertson MSc BSc (Hons) owns an Edinburgh based personal training company called Elysium Personal Training. He trains a broad range of clientèle from elite and novice level athletes to individuals simply looking to improve their health and well-being. He can be contacted at or found on Facebook at Elysium Personal Training.

 More Training and Nutritional Articles on the Blog:

The Skinny on Fats

Overcoming Winter Training Challenges

Optimal Recovery for Rugby

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