As we were preparing to ring in the New Year last week, my niece observed that the gym would be extra crowded for the next few weeks, filled with people looking to make a fresh start. If you work out at a fitness center regularly, you know the drill, too: a full parking lot, lines for the popular machines, and over-crowded classes. You also know that by mid-February you won’t have to wait for a treadmill, and you’ll have more elbow room in your Zumba class. Sadly, the good intentions of January 1st will be guilt-ridden memories.
I actually don’t make New Year’s resolutions because I believe you should assess your lifestyle more often. You can decide to change your life 365 days a year, so why wait? I understand, however, the symbolism of the New Year for turning over a new leaf, so here are some suggestions for making your resolutions stick.
Set a concrete goal.
Most resolutions are too vague to be successful. “Get fit” or “eat better” or “lose weight” capture the spirit of your intentions but they don’t provide enough direction to stay on track. A specific target will help you make the right choices to turn your resolution into reality.
Here are some examples of what I mean:
- Exercise 5-6 days a week.
- Run a 5k without stopping by April 1st.
- Lose 5 pounds a month until reaching your goal weight of ______.
- Eat “clean” (as you define “clean” – like “no sugar” or “no processed food”) on weekdays.
Make Weekly Plans
Planning provides the how-to for achieving your goal. However, schedules change, life happens, and the best-laid plans can be turned upside down. So the trick is to be specific but not plan too far in advance.
Every Sunday I size up my week and plan my workouts. I put what I’m going to do and when in my calendar. This helps me accommodate business travel (e.g., packing Beachbody DVDs that are easy for me to use in a hotel room). It also ensures that I achieve my desired mix of cardio, stretching, and strength training. I admit that a plan is motivating for me – I actually wake up looking forward to a particular workout.
When you have a thoughtful plan in place, it’s also easier to change your plan and stay on track toward your goal. Eisenhower said, “Plans are useless. Planning is everything.” So if an urgent pre-dawn overseas conference call threatens my scheduled workout, I can make appropriate decisions that attend to work and accommodate working out. For example, if I was planning to do 45 minutes of cardio, I can pop in a DVD that’s only 25 minutes long (like Focus T25), or adjust swap that day with my scheduled rest day, or block out lunch as busy on my calendar so I can squeeze in a noontime run.
While you’re sitting down to plan your workouts for the week, why not plan your meals, too? You’ll be less likely to buy food you don’t need or make impulse choices.
This idea is built into the concept of a New Year’s resolution. A resolution, after all, is a “declaration” or a “promise.” When you say you are going to do something, you set
yourself up for public scrutiny. That’s great motivation when you want to hit the snooze button instead of lacing up your sneakers in the dark. So share your goal with family and friends.
Keep a journal (or use a fitness tracking app).
This blog post was going to contain only 4 tips until one of the people in my fitness accountability group posted her commitment to keep a food journal. It’s a great idea! Recording what you eat and what you do helps you:
- Identify patterns in your decisions. (Do you snack more when you skip breakfast? Do you tend to skip workouts when they’re solo activities?)
- Discourages less healthful choices. (Who wants to write down they ate an entire bag of potato chips?)
- Gives you the chance to celebrate your accomplishments.
- Make informed decisions if your plan doesn’t seem to be producing results. (The best salespeople track their sales-related activities, knowing that more prospecting or sales calls generate more revenue.)
Find an accountability partner(s).
Change is hard. Time management is hard. It helps to have someone to confide in, to share your struggles, to check in on your progress, to encourage you when you’ve lost your way or hit a plateau. I’m a big fan of online communities, where I can benefit from the ideas of a group of folks. I also have a coach who I rely on for advice. You may want to make a pact with your BFF and agree on a reward you can enjoy together when you achieve your goals. Just don’t go it alone.
If you’d like to join one of my online health accountability groups, let me know by filling out the form below. Happy New Year!