Five things to do less of in 2021 (and get better results)

After a holiday season full of indulgence, you are motivated to start 2021 off on the right foot.


I don’t need to tell you how much of a dumpster fire 2020 was.

But starting off 2021 by focusing on what you can control (your health goals!) is a wise move.

Regardless of all that enthusiasm, most New Year’s resolutions fall off by mid-February.

The statistics are grim — according to U.S. News & World Report, 80 per cent of New Year’s resolutions fail before Valentine’s Day.

I have worked with hundreds of men and women, many of whom have shared similar stories of setting goals to improve their fitness, failing to reach them and being left to blame their lack of willpower.

Your willpower is not the reason you’re not achieving your goals. The problem is the unrealistic plan of action.

Luckily, this year you’re going to do things differently with a better approach.

This is the year you make sweeping changes and love the way you look, feel and perform.

Toss aside the Zumba DVD, scrap the fad diets and let’s do this thing right. 

Thanks to the popularity of Crossfit and celebrities such as Kate Upton adopting weight training, it’s becoming more commonplace as a means to lose weight.

But there’s still many who won’t step foot in a weight room for fear of putting on too much muscle.

So, let’s dispel that myth right off the bat.

Muscle is very hard to put on.

You could deliberately make every effort to bulk up and end up just getting toned instead.

(Yes, the changes you want would come fastest if you attempted to put on muscle, funny enough).

Any muscle you do gain is gradual so there will always be plenty of time to adjust the plan if you’re fearing bulk.

But don’t confuse the burn in the gym and the pump that follows with actual muscle gain. It’s not that immediate.

But here’s why you should make building muscle a focus in 2021.

Muscle helps get (and keeps) you lean.

As Charles Staley wrote in an article for T-Nation, there are a host of benefits to working to put on muscle.

The training required to build additional muscle requires calories and carbs, both to perform, and also to recover from.

Once put on, this new muscle requires you to expend additional energy on a daily basis simply to maintain it.

When you have more muscle, all activities are easier to perform, making it likely that you’ll do more of these activities, which of course, requires additional energy.

Gaining as much muscle as possible has a powerful impact on metabolic rate. Do it for the carbs you get to enjoy if nothing else (lol).

With that theme of 2021 in mind, here are five things to do less of this year to get better fitness results.

1 – Don’t Be Scared Of Getting Bulky (Hint: It’s not that easy to do)

I’ve worked really hard over the years to get women to focus on getting strong, but a lot of them still fear lifting weights because of this myth they’ll end up looking like a steroid-filled bodybuilder. It couldn’t be further from the truth.

Heck, look around your commercial gym and see all the men actively trying to bulk up who aren’t getting anywhere (they should get a coach ;)). It takes a lot of time, effort and food to add appreciable size.

But that ideal body you envision won’t get “toned and tightened” (for lack of better words) if you’re using super light weights and doing dance classes.

You will see those changes over time when you lift weights relatively heavy for you.

Use weights that allow you to do between 8 and 15 reps per set on average, ending up close to failure on the last rep.

2 – Stop Focusing Only On Weight Loss

If your goal is weight loss, you’d actually benefit from focusing on fat loss, and the way to do that is a good diet paired with weight training and less fixation on the scale itself.

The optimal way is to lose primarily body fat and MAINTAIN (or even gain) muscle. This sets you up with a higher BMR than if you’d just starved yourself to reach a number, and you’re less likely to rebound that way.

One study put two groups on a calorie restricted diet. One group supplemented the diet with cardio, while the other group did strength training.

Both lost comparable amounts of body fat, but the cardio group also lost 9 pounds of lean muscle alongside! Who do you think will look healthier, stronger and be better able to maintain their results afterwards? You guessed it.

You can maintain muscle by pairing a small calorie deficit with strength training and an optional side dish of just enough cardio.

But weight training can double as cardio if done in a way that challenges you.

When you’re lifting heavy (relative to your own strength again) and moving your body through space, your heart has to work just as hard as it does on the treadmill.

That isn’t to say that cardio doesn’t deserve a place in your workout routine. But it isn’t mandatory.

3 – Stop Obsessing Over Your Abs

Breaking news: everyone has a six-pack; you just have to whittle away enough fat to uncover it, and that’s typically driven by diet.

With heavy strength training, your abs get a ton of work as it is. Try squatting without bracing your abs (actually, don’t, because you’ll fall flat on your face).

If you want to train them to improve your core strength, simply finish your workout with an exercise or two for a handful of sets in the 15 to 20 rep range a few times a week. No need to dedicate an entire day to abs.

Take caution when training your abs with weights, too.  Oddly, I see a lot of this in the gym. But the waist is comprised of muscles and muscles respond to heavy weights by getting bigger gradually over time, so you may be hurting your cause if a thin waist is the goal.

Stick with bodyweight ab exercises or machines that allow you to do 15-30 reps per set at a moderate weight.

4 – Spend Less Time in Group Spin Or Exercise Classes

Remember, you want muscle in 2021 for the reasons listed above, and excessive aerobic exercise isn’t building you up in that fashion unless there’s a heavy weight component involved.

By all means, keep doing it for the cardio for the health benefits and social element, but you’d benefit from spending a bigger chunk of your time lifting weights and walking if you want to change your physique in noticeable ways.

5 – Don’t Punish Yourself With Exercise

Exercise shouldn’t be used as a tool to burn calories alone.

In fact, even if you track how many calories were burned during a workout, it’s often wrong.

A study at Stanford University took a look at seven different devices to check their accuracy. The results showed that the most accurate of them was off by an average of 27 per cent and the least accurate by 93 per cent.

The bigger issue? Many users think they can “eat back” the calories burned from exercise. Do you see the problem with that? The number isn’t accurate to begin with, and that’s now how metabolism works anyway. It’s not a simple input:output mathematical machine. The human body is complicated and no one is the same as another.

The point here is this – exercise to better your day-to-day life, not as a punishment tool to lose weight.

There’s a mountain of evidence linking weight training to improvements in strength, mood, anti-aging and metabolism.

It is seen as a vehicle to lose weight and nothing more. But an active lifestyle is about so much more than that.

It’s about reducing stress and increasing productivity. It’s about respecting the body we live in to treat it right. It’s about mental and physical health.

Maybe that’s what gets you started – shedding weight to lose some pounds and fit your old pair of jeans – but the “promised land” of fitness is something completely different.

The promised land is where exercise becomes a part of your identity – where you can take on any challenge life throws at you.

Exercise is the launching pad to a life fulfilled in many ways.

The majority of my clients are committing to fitness for themselves, because of its health benefits, allowing them to get off pharmaceutical drugs, reducing blood pressure and anxiety, and lowering the risk of disease.

The nice thing is, when you approach fitness in this way, the weight loss takes care of itself and you end up loving the way you look.

What this looks like in practice…

What if trying to go slower actually got you better results?

I want you to think differently about how you view dieting and exercise.

Because you’re viewing it as black and white.

All or nothing.

And it’s not your fault because we’re programmed to associate unsustainable behaviours as the only way to success!

I’m talking horrible stuff like…

  • Cutting carbs and giving up all fun foods…
  • Eating a separate dinner from the rest of our family…
  • Waking up at 5 am and slaving away on the treadmill 7 days a week…

Sure, the scale drops doing those things, but eventually the wheels fall off the wagon.

A lot of that “rapid” weight loss you experience early isn’t actual body fat, but water.

Your body fat changes – for better or worse – gradually over time.

When you take it a bit slower, and EMBRACE eating fun foods at the right times, the whole process becomes easier and you drop fat without feeling like crap.

It’s less “forcing it in there” and more smooth and satisfying, if you feel me?

I don’t know if you’re anything like the clients I coach…

But mixing in their vices like wine and ice cream WHILE seeing the pounds and (more importantly) inches melt away is motivating and freeing in a lot of ways…

You can either choose to stay where you are…

Believing that you’ll suddenly have the strength in 2021 to diet as hard as you think you need to.

Or you can destroy your delays…

…And take action today with my MET FLEX Method™ and fit fun foods into a plan that works right now.

Here’s the 3 pillars of our unique approach in both the Drop 2 Sizes and Belly Burn Blueprint

To book yourself a complimentary coaching session to identify where you’re going wrong and potentially talk next steps, visit



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Mitch Calvert is a Winnipeg-based fitness coach for men and women like his former self. Heavyset in his 20s, he lost 60 pounds and now helps clients find their spark and lose the weight for life.