How to keep your New Year’s fitness resolution (for once)
We’ve all been there. Every year many of us repeat the same pattern over and over again.
First we power eat all through December. We devour the delicious treats of the season: shortbread cookies, mini quiches, eggnog with a splash (or two) of rum. The endless parade of delicious nibbles goes on and on.
And then with all those parties, shopping, and family celebrations, we find ourselves having way too much fun to squeeze in any physical activity. It’s all one long, happy blur until New Year’s Eve, when the time comes to put on that slinky outfit for a night out on the town. That’s when the sober reality sets in… all those goodies have settled right on our hips.
Disappointed with ourselves as we loosen our belt loop or put on the control top panty hose, we steadfastly mutter under our breath: “This is the year I’m finally going to start exercising, so I’ll be healthier and be able to control my weight.” As the clock strikes midnight, we profess this resolution to our family and friends, only to promptly forget about it the next day, or like some people, about two weeks later.
How do we stop this annual cycle? How can we actually achieve our New Year’s fitness resolution this year rather than have our admirable quest for better health and wellness fall by the wayside as in the past? Many would say the key to success is to recognize that our New Year’s fitness resolution is simply a GOAL, and that in order to succeed, we should apply the same principles as many organizations do when planning their next business year.
The first step is setting the goal. A common analogy used in organizations is that a goal should be SMART if it is to be achieved:
S for Specific — Choose a specific outcome to achieve as a result of your plan to be fit. For example, I want to lower my cholesterol or lose weight versus I want to be healthier or look better.
M for Measurable — I want my cholesterol to be under 5.0 or I want to lose 10 pounds are quantifiable goals.
A for Achievable — If the smallest you’ve ever been as an adult is a size 10, it might not be achievable to aim to be a size 0. Perhaps if I’m currently a size 18, was a size 10 when I was 18-years-old, then now I would like to be a size 14. That seems achievable.
R for Realistic — Maybe running a marathon is not a realistic goal given your commitments, even though it might be achievable if you had unrestricted time to train. Be realistic about what it is you want to do – if it’s not something you enjoy, you’re less likely to stick with it. Remember, physical activity can be any activity that elevates your heart rate and uses your muscles. If you enjoy hiking in the outdoors, plan brisk walks or snow shoeing. Go dancing if that’s what you like to do.
T for Time Bound — Set a deadline, or set multiple deadlines for various stages of progress towards your goal. For example, I want to lose 10 pounds by May 24, 2012, so I need to lose about 2 pounds per month.
Plan your fitness strategy
Once you’ve thought about your SMART Goal, it’s time to plan the strategy of how you’re going to achieve it. Here are some tips for setting a strategy of increasing your physical activity, and then sticking to it:
Commit your goal to paper — When you write out your goal, make sure it meets all the criteria for being a SMART Goal. By committing your SMART goal to paper, you’re demonstrating a serious commitment to achieving your goal.
Keep it visible — Post your written SMART Goal where you can see it: on your bathroom mirror, on your fridge, on your office wall, in your electronic task list, etc. If it’s visible, it will be harder to forget about.
Share your goal — If you’ve shown your written SMART Goal to a friend or family member, you’ll feel a greater sense of commitment to your goal. Now it’s not just you that will want to see you succeed in attaining your goal.
Be accountable — Ask your friend of family member to check in with you at specific time intervals to see how you’re progressing towards your goal. Maybe set regular times for a brief meal together or a phone call once a month to check in.
Work as a team — Encourage a like-minded friend or family member to work towards their health and wellness goal along side you. It’s been proven that people are more likely to stick with their exercise plans if they do it with a friend.
Make appointments with yourself — Treat your exercise times as you would any other important meeting. Put your scheduled exercise time into your day timer. If someone wants to meet with you, these time slots are unavailable.
Hire an expert — What do organizations do when they have a goal but don’t know how to get there? They bring in the consultants. If you’re not sure how to get started on your Physical Activity plan, consult with a certified trainer or qualified group exercise instructor. Not only will these coaches teach you what you need to do in order to meet your goals, they can help you stay motivated as well.
Plan a reward — Establish a reward system for yourself to recognize the achievement of each stage of your goal. For example, write down on your SMART Goal page that for every 20 workouts, you’ll buy yourself a new exercise top, or a night out at a show. This will give you something to look forward to as you reach each target. Plan a larger reward for when you reach your ultimate goal.
Think positive — Don’t let small setbacks defeat you. Think of exercise like brushing your teeth. We all know we should do it regularly. But every once in a while, we miss a session, and we just don’t feel right until we brush our teeth again. Exercise is much the same. We feel great if we do it consistently. If you find an activity you enjoy, and you stick with it, eventually it will become like brushing your teeth. You’ll look forward to the way you feel once you’re done, and will miss it if you don’t.
Much success to you in 2014!