Statistics show that nearly 3 in 10 Americans actually make New Year’s resolutions in an effort to hold themselves accountable. Such a practice is not new. Some 4,000 years ago, the ancient Babylonias made annual promises to the gods to pay their debts and return any objects they had borrowed.
Times have changed. In modern times, our most popular New Year’s resolutions involve getting more exercise, losing weight or improving fitness.
No surprise there. What may be more surprising is that only 8% of Americans who make a New Year’s resolution actually keep them all year, while 80% have failed by the start of February.
Following many months of sheltering in place or limiting our reentry into society, there is a huge shared desire to improve our physical (and mental) fitness. Yes, the two often go hand in hand.
So how do we buck the trend? It may be helpful to look at one more set of statistics. A recent survey revealed that around 35% of participants who failed their resolutions admitted they had unrealistic goals, 33% did not keep track of their progress and 23% simply forgot about them.
It’s obvious that most of us want to be healthy and happy, live longer and be more productive in the process. We just need to develop the motivational tools to push ourselves forward toward our goals — to resist falling back into old habits, and to counter those burdensome feelings of guilt with heavy doses of forgiveness and hope.
The fact of the matter is it’s easy to set goals — sticking to them is what’s difficult.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to better ensure you’re able to achieve your fitness resolutions:
Set SMART goals
Setting a vague goal is a great way to set yourself up for failure. Instead, use the SMART acronym:
- Specific — It’s not enough to want to “lose weight.” The more specific you are, the more likely you are to go after and achieve your goals.
- Measurable — Keep goals quantifiable so you can track your success.
- Attainable — Make sure you’re actually physically able to achieve your goals. You’re not going to be able to run a marathon if you need to lose 100 pounds first.
- Relevant — Make sure your goals really resonate with who you are and what you want, not what you think you should do or what other people want you to do.
- Time-Based — Give yourself a “by when” date.
Write down your goals
Studies show that we are all neurologically wired to achieve something if we write it down (similar to how students taking notes during a lecture remember more content).
Equally as important is tracking your goals. Whether you use an app, a notebook, or an Excel file, make sure you track what’s most important, such as: pounds lost or gained, inches lost or gained, how you feel after working out, and time/weight/distance progress.
Find an accountability friend
A workout partner will help keep you motivated. When you’re feeling down, they can build you up (and vice versa). Plus, knowing someone is counting on you is a great way to get out of bed for a workout when you feel like lounging in bed.
Start out small
Don’t begin the year with sweeping changes to your lifestyle. Instead, set small, attainable goals that allow you to gain momentum.
If your plan involves vigorous exercise, be sure to get an OK from your doctor. And don’t forget to include your spouse, friends and family in your plans because they can cheer you on and help along the way. And a professional trainer may sound intimidating, but he or she can help you proceed at a safe pace.
Give your body the fuel it needs
You can’t achieve your fitness goals on willpower alone. You need actual, physical power, which means you need to fuel your body. Good nutrition can help you perform better and recover faster after each workout. Talk to a nutritionist about creating a diet plan that suits your needs.
Add some variety to your workout
Be sure to take some time each week to check in with yourself. Are you losing steam? Starting to dread your workouts? If so, it might be time to switch things up. If winter jogging becomes drudgery, move inside to a treadmill. Is the walk around the track monotonous? Head to the hills! Or, if you have a dog, put him or her into the workout.
Remember to reward yourself
Minor missteps along your journey are completely normal. You put whipped cream on your mocha? You lined up twice for a buffet? Let it go. It’s important that you simply notice it and try to do better.
When you do reach a weight or diet goal, it’s a good idea to remember that you can be nice to yourself. Allow yourself an afternoon nap, or an occasional pat of butter on your mashed potatoes.
You’ve earned it. Remember, too, not to be overly focused on negative thoughts about your appearance. Zero in on what makes you special, and surround yourself with people who reinforce that ideal.
Our collective goal within the Mee Memorial Healthcare System is to see our extraordinary rural community thrive. We wish for all of you a happy, healthy and fulfilling New Year!