The Top 5 Books to Read in 2021 to Help Your New Year Goals

It's that time of year again where New Year's resolutionists are flooding gyms (or their living rooms, given the whole COVID19 ordeal). Once holiday gluttony spills over into the midriff, many people feel the need to get in shape and make healthier lifestyle choices. 

While that's an admirable ambition, that mindset is also the ostensible cause of failed fitness resolutions. In fact, research estimates that less than half of people that set a New Year's resolution to lose weight make it through February before giving up [1]. And the percentage of people that realize their weight-loss resolution is considerably lower. 

But don't let that impede you from setting a New Year's resolution. If anything, it should motivate you to achieve your health and fitness goals even more. 

On the off chance you're reading this and haven't quit on a resolution you set this year, way to go — you're a statistical improbability! If that's not the case, it's never too late to start (over)! Read on as we break down how to set a New Year's fitness resolution for 2021 (and beyond) and the five best books to read to make your goal a reality.

How to Set a New Year's Fitness Resolution the "SMART" Way

Let's clear up a common misconception about the ever-so-popular New Year's resolution to "get in shape." If you're familiar with SMART goal setting, you know that a New Year's resolution should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. "I want to get in shape" is neither specific or measurable — it's about as nondescript and unquantifiable as a goal gets. 

So, before you embark on a journey to lose weight and build muscle, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What specifically will you accomplish by achieving your fitness resolution?
  • How will you measure the progress of your resolution? 
  • Is attaining your New Year's resolution realistic with discipline and commitment? 
  • How is your fitness goal relevant to your life? 
  • How much time will it take for you to achieve your resolution? 

weight-loss resolution

Before you construe the above as saying you should set a goal amount of weight to lose or gain by an arbitrary future date, know that quality counts when it comes to fitness. Body composition (body fat) is the more prudent focus if you genuinely want to "get in shape." 

Your body composition tells you how much lean body mass (LBM) you have relative to fat mass. Regardless of how much you weigh, you won't be able to see your abs or muscle striations if your body fat is too high. 

Those who concentrate solely on what number their bodyweight scale spits out every morning overlook an essential aspect of body composition. After all, nobody cares how much you weigh since they don't see a number when they look at you; they see you! Just look at how ripped Olympic sprinters are compared to their marathon-running peers, the latter of whom typically have the dreaded "skinny-fat" look. 

As such, it's wise to establish a New Year's resolution that accounts for both qualitative and quantitative changes. Avoid the trap of losing weight or gaining weight purely for the self-gratification of seeing a different number on your bathroom scale. 

Ideally, you should assess your body fat as a complementary measure to body weight. Taking progress pictures is another practical way to evaluate qualitative changes. 

With that slight rant out of the way, let's dive into the five best books to read to achieve your 2021 fitness resolution!

5 Books to Read for Achieving Your 2021 New Year's Fitness Resolution

best books to read in 2021

#1. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

If you read one book this year, Eckhart Tolle's classic The Power of Now won't let you downThe beauty of this book is that it aligns perfectly with the mindset necessary to accomplish any goals you set for yourself, whether they be fitness-related or not. The key takeaway here is that you can positively influence the world one step at a time if you work on transforming yourself from the inside out, a mentality that we can all benefit from in this life.

#2. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

On the one hand, Covey's timeless self-help book — The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People — is exactly what it sounds like: a guide to the habits of successful and influential people. On the other hand, however, there's a patent undertone that forms the salient takeaway from Covey's magnum opus: living with equality and integrity is the path to our best self.

In a world where corner-cutting, under-the-table deals, and corruption are more prominent than ever, Covey preaches a message that people across the globe desperately need to hear — and shows you how to apply that message in the form of seven simple, practicable habits.

#3. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

A book that likely needs no introduction, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is Mark Manson's esteemed guide to "counterintuitively living a good life." On the surface, Manson's message might sound a bit brash, even the opposite of "subtle." But that's basically the point — life isn't all sunshine and rainbows. Things suck from time to time. There's nothing subtle about that. 

It sounds gloomy at first, but Manson does a fantastic job of expanding on the deeper spiritual and philosophical aspects of what those obstacles mean in the grand scheme of things with ruthless humor and entertaining anecdotes. In the end, you're left with a liberating takeaway: you can't always control what happens to you (i.e. sh*t happens), but you can control how you respond (i.e. be confident in who you are). 

#4. Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins

Awaken the Giant Within is arguably Tony Robbin's most acclaimed self-help book and, once you read it, you'll know why. Most of the books on this list zero in on a specific subject, but this one gives you the whole enchilada and then some. 

Robbins gives his best advice for improving your life, relationships, and finances from the ground up, starting with confidence and finding your purpose. Naturally, this book ties in seamlessly to New Year's resolutions of all types. 

#5. The More You Do The Better You Feel by David Parker

For procrastinators, David Parker's The More You Do The Better You Feel is like reading a personalized psychoanalysis report written by a psychiatrist that followed you around for months. While that may sound unnerving, it's more so a credit to Parker's uncanny way of resonating with those that struggle with procrastinating. 

He asserts that procrastination isn't just a by-product of "lack of discipline" or "feeling depressed," but rather, it's often the root cause of those things. Notably, he provides straightforward strategies to stop procrastination in its tracks as you progress through the book.

Five Elements of a Mindset for Success

New Year's resolution fitness

Mind is everything. If you don't believe you can succeed, you won't. To further prepare for the year ahead, consider the steps below that outline five key elements to reaching your 2021 fitness goals. 

Remember, there are no "magic pills" or fad diets that will turn you into a shredded specimen overnight. To get in the best shape of your life, you need to be consistent and master the basics. Don't make the process more complicated than it needs to be.

It's Not a Race

It's not uncommon for New Year's resolutionists to think losing 50 lbs in three months is "realistic." While it's great to shoot for the stars, your resolution needs to be something you can actually achieve (healthfully/sustainably). Starving yourself and doing hours of cardio every day is not a healthy or sustainable way to lose weight

Give yourself plenty of time and be practical. It's not a race. You may need six or more months to lose 50 lbs, and that's okay! The fact that you have more time to work with should ease some of the stress. Crash dieting will make you miserable, and in all likelihood, you'll regain any weight you lose (and then some) [2].  

Create Stepping Stones that Lead to Your Capstone Goal

Approach your resolution in a piecewise fashion, with defined stepping stones that pave the way to your ultimate destination. For example, if your fitness resolution is to lose 40 lbs, a short-term stepping stone could be as simple as losing one pound this week. Sure, one pound seems like nothing when you want to lose 40, but consistency adds up over time.

Don't Overthink Your Workout Routine and Diet

To paraphrase George Patton, you're better off acting on an imperfect plan today than executing a perfect plan months from now. Control your calorie intake, balance your macros accordingly, and don't get too caught up in the rest. 

In terms of exercise, countless workout routines work great and will help you improve your physique as long as you're consistent. If you're a beginner, keep it simple with something like this push-pull-legs routine.

Surround Yourself with a Supporting Cast

Naturally, you'll have to be a little selfish if your goal is to improve your physique and be healthier. However, don't misconstrue that to mean that you need to isolate yourself. The path to bettering your health and fitness doesn't have to be a lonely one, and we can all agree that selflessness goes a long way.

Seek out like-minded resolutionists, whether it be through online forums or social media groups, to support and encourage one another on your respective journeys. Even better, maybe you run into someone at the local gym that has a similar goal. Accountability matters, and having another person to check in with from time to time can make all the difference. 

Prepare for Setbacks

Resiliency is crucial for seeing your New Year's resolution through to the end. When it comes to adversity and setbacks, it's not "if," but "when." 

Know that failing or slipping up is not the same as quitting. In fact, failing can be an impetus to succeed [3]. Every momentary setback is a chance to grow wiser, get back on your feet, and hone your craft.  

Start Your Fitness Resolution and Make it Happen!

And there you have it — five of the best books to help you accomplish your New Year's resolution in 2021 (and beyond). If you've struggled to stick to fitness goals in the past, don't worry. It's quite common since most people don't approach fitness resolutions with the right mindset. 

The good news is you can finally turn your fitness resolution into a reality with preparation and commitment. Remember, transforming your body and well-being for the better is not something that happens overnight. The journey is the destination. Be consistent, live in the moment, and strive to be better than yesterday. Eventually, you'll get to where you want to be.

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