Health and wellness New Year’s resolutions always sound like a good idea at first, but it’s easy to lose momentum once you realize the effort that goes into accomplishing your goal. Did you know that most people give up their fitness resolutions before the end of February? If you have an all-or-nothing approach, with no flexibility, no method of accountability, and no plan to measure success, you will feel overwhelmed and defeated ‒ and ultimately give up your resolution.
These are my five best tips to set yourself up for success in the New Year, if you want to create a fitness routine and improve your health:
1. Determine the “why” behind your goals.
When you think about your resolution, intention, or goal, reflect on why it's important to you. Your “why” should be powerful enough to keep you on track, even in times when you do not want to stay the course. It is unique to you and has personal meaning that you innately connect to. You may have to drill down and ask yourself a lot of tough questions to uncover the answer, but it will be worth it. Journaling, meditation, breathing exercises – any way that you find relaxing ‒ can help uncover the answers.
Once you’re clear about what your goal is and why you want to accomplish it, then you’re ready to do the work and build your action plan. Let’s say that initially, you wanted to lose weight to look better in your clothes. After deep thought, you may find that your real motivation is to improve your mood and help manage daily stress. These fundamental reasons hold more meaning and will subsequently encourage you to be more consistent and stay committed to your goals.
2. “Build the bridge” from where you are to where you want to be.
Becoming clear about what your resolution is and why you want to accomplish it doesn’t mean that you’ll be motivated immediately. Be practical and honest as you assess where you are currently and what lifestyle changes need to occur to accomplish your goal. This is the point where you start building the bridge from where you are to where you want to be.
You can do this by looking to the past and revisiting instances when you were successful in turning ideas and dreams into reality. Tap into that skill set and note all the qualities you possess that made you overcome obstacles and succeed. Now apply your talents and abilities to link with your desired outcome. Focus on the positive and what worked previously; don’t allow negative self-talk to derail your efforts.
3. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals and make your plan.
Time management is an essential part of goal setting. If you use the S.M.A.R.T. goal model, your action plan to accomplish your resolution must be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.
Pull out your calendar and start outlining next steps based on your schedule. If you’re usually busy at work for the first quarter of the year, scheduling a 60-minute workout five times a week is not realistic. Start with minor changes that are a great fit for your daily routine and add on, if needed, as time progresses. Find ways to measure your success and check in weekly so that you acknowledge your progress. If something isn’t working, revise it ‒ and keep revising until it’s the right fit for your lifestyle.
Set a time frame for completing your goal, with markers to celebrate small victories along the way. This serves as motivation. If you want to start running again, enroll in a couch-to-5K program, register for the race and reward yourself with a massage or new running gear when you hit various milestones along your journey.
Remember, fitness can be fun ‒ and it needs to be, for you to remain consistent ‒ so indulge in activities that elicit joy. Following the latest trends that you don’t enjoy will not support you long-term and can be counterproductive.
4. Hold yourself accountable.
Once you know what your next steps are, it’s time to explore how you stay accountable. Let’s be real, motivation kicks into high gear once you start seeing results ‒ and even then, it's not at 100% daily. Support and accountability are incredibly important during this phase. Even though you’re clear about your desired outcome, you’ll achieve it only by changing your existing behavior.
Here are some ways to help you stay accountable:
- Sign up with a personal trainer ‒ initially, for a specific number of sessions ‒ so that you can track progress over a duration of time.
- Invite a friend who’s as enthusiastic as you are about lifestyle change to work out with you.
- Join an online community where you can post goals and workouts and share progress.
- Use a fitness tracker to monitor daily movement.
- Plan your workout schedule at least one week in advance and give allowances for last-minute changes. I recommend using the “if, then” rule. If you cannot make your planned workout, then you will do ______ instead.
- Write in a workout journal and note how you feel before and after exercise as well as your daily nutrition choices.
- If possible, start your own accountability group with friends, family members, and coworkers who share the same commitment to achieving goals.
- Create a mission statement, affirmation, or mantra that you repeat daily to hold yourself accountable to your vision.
5. Embrace a flexible and positive mindset.
Instead of a rigid mindset that often sets you up for failure, embrace a renewed mindset that accentuates positivity and celebrates the best of you. Offer yourself grace as you embark on this new journey, knowing that you’re doing what you can to improve your well-being. Some days will be easier than others, but there are numerous ways to accomplish your goal ‒ so be open to change.
If you haven’t exercised in a while, be patient with your body and honor it with proper hydration, healthy food choices, and a recovery protocol. Recovery days are as important as workout days, so include massages, acupuncture, stretching sessions and infrared sauna sessions when possible.
One step at a time
This year, your shift in mindset encourages you to view fitness as part of your self-care protocol. Let’s approach this year with a beginner’s mind, focusing more on improving slowly as you identify and stay connected to your “why,” the core reason or reasons that motivate you and will underpin your success. When it comes to fitness-related goals, take the time to be mindful of your intentions and focus first on where you are, instead of focusing on where you hope to be in six to 12 months’ time.