As one year is coming to a close and another is anxiously waiting to get started, we all face the same dilemma … New Year’s Resolutions! Only a small percentage of people can face the new year knowing they accomplished what they outlined just twelve months earlier. The rest of us make the “walk of shame” as we reflect on the same journey we seem to take each and every year (like a vicious cycle):
- We start off in January with good intentions. We figure out our goals. We put together a plan. We are ready and on a mission!
- We stay on track for the first few months and see gradual progress towards our overall goals. We are doing good!
- Summer time hits and distractions get in the way. We stay active but we let many things slide (i.e. poor food choices, socializing and drinks and missed workouts and/or physical activities). We’ve fallen off the wagon.
- Thanksgiving rolls around and we begin to stress about parties, family travel and staying fit for the holidays. We can’t turn back now.
- We look at where we ended the year versus the previous year and realize that we are back at square one … again!
Take comfort in the fact that the majority of people who make resolutions (at all) go through this thought process each and every year. According to a 2012 study published by the University of Scranton, Journal of Clinical Psychology:
- 45 percent of Americans usually make New Year’s Resolutions.
- 75% maintain their resolutions through the first week while only 46% go past six months.
- 39% of people in their twenties achieve their resolution each year while only 14% of people over 50 achieve their resolution.
- “Losing weight” was ranked #1 on the list of New Year’s Resolutions for 2012 (“staying fit and healthy” ranked #5).
For more information on the published results, click here.
It IS possible to stop the vicious cycle that often accompanies any “New Year’s Fitness Resolution”! To be honest, most people don’t fail for a lack of trying. They fail because they don’t have an effective plan to keep them on track or to remind them of the consequences of their foolish or impulsive actions along the way. The following are seven (7) steps for effectively keeping your fitness resolutions this upcoming year:
- Establish S-M-A-R-T goals.
- Establish short term goals to support your long term goals.
- Outline a 12 month calendar of activities (with regularly scheduled checkpoints).
- Identify your current dietary habits.
- Identify your daily caloric needs (to achieve your goal).
- Outline manageable changes to your diet and nutrition for long term success.
- Identify your support system.
1. Establish S-M-A-R-T Goals
Regardless of what you want to achieve (i.e. weight loss, strength increase, run your first marathon), setting goals gives you a long-term vision and short-term motivation. Effective goals use the S-M-A-R-T Principle:
- Specific – the goal specifies WHAT needs to be done and WHEN it needs to be completed.
- Measurable – the goal specifies HOW much or many and uses descriptions that specify quantity.
- Attainable – the goal is reasonable and under your direct control.
- Relevant – the goal needs to be important to you and something that matters a great deal.
- Time-bound – the goal should identify WHEN the goal needs to be completed (definite target date or timeline).
2. Establish Short Term Goals to Support Your Long Term Goals
Having specific and well thought out goals is important but only the most self-motivated individuals can succeed on long term goals alone. Short term goals break up a long term goal into more manageable pieces and make the end seem realistic and always within reach. These goals can be used to:
- Break up the size of your overall goal into manageable pieces (i.e. 10 lb., 20 lb. and 30 lb. check points on your way to losing 40 lbs.).
- Steps to take (in order) that help you achieve your overall goal (i.e. consistently get 8 hours of sleep per night, consistently make your own lunches to take to work, eat out only once per week, etc.).
Reevaluate your short term goals at least every three months to ensure you are staying focused and on track. Remember … life changes along with priorities. You need to make sure that everything stays aligned and make modifications when necessary.
3. Outline a 12 Month Calendar of Activities
One of the most common excuses we have for not getting active is that there “isn’t enough time”. A calendar is a powerful tool to help us stay on track when it involves activities and physical commitments that require our participation. You schedule your doctor’s appointment, dentist appointment and social outings. Schedule in your regular workouts and sporting activities so that you don’t encounter conflict between your commitments. Problem solved!
Make your workouts at regularly scheduled days and times and make them recurring appointments in your online calendars or Smartphones. If you are using a more manual approach, it’s just an extra few minutes each week to ensure you reach your goal at the end of the year … well worth the effort!
4. Identify Your Current Dietary Habits
Regardless of your fitness goal, your dietary habits play an important part of your overall success. Optimizing your health through your nutrition is essential for effective results (i.e. weight loss, muscle gain, rest and recovery). Consider the following:
- How many calories do I currently take in on an average day?
- What foods do I currently eat that should remain in my healthy diet?
- What foods do I currently eat that would not be good additions to a healthy diet?
- At what time am I eating breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks?
- Am I getting enough hydration throughout the day?
Once you’ve uncovered information about your current dietary routine you can make adjustments accordingly.
5. Identify Your Daily Caloric Needs
The first step in developing an effective nutrition strategy is to understand how many calories your body requires each day (for work, rest and play). Everybody’s energy expenditure varies due to height, weight, age, gender and activity levels. To effectively determine your approximate energy expenditure you can use the Harris-Benedict Equation (click here for the calculation for men and here for the calculation for women)
The Harris-Benedict Equation tells you approximately how many calories per day you need to consume to maintain your current body weight. In order to lose weight you need to take in fewer calories than you use each day.
6. Outline Manageable Changes to Your Diet and Nutrition
Human beings are creatures of habit and traditionally we don’t like “change”. Small, bite-sized changes are more likely to become habits than major changes overnight. Because you now have a clear picture of your current eating habits and physical activity plan for the year you can outline some realistic steps to take to help get you closer to reaching and exceeding your goals. Make a list of all the small changes you can make that will help move you forward. You don’t have to implement them all at once. You can simply add one new change to your daily routine every few weeks. By the end of the year, you should have incorporated a whole new lifestyle that isn’t too overwhelming.
7. Identify Your Support System
Rome wasn’t built in a day. It also wasn’t done alone, either! You will need the help and support of other people to help you achieve your goals (without sacrificing your sanity). These individuals will provide some level of emotional support during times of weakness, uncertainty and fear. Before choosing the members of your support team, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do they respect and care about me?
- Have they been supportive of me in the past?
- Do they provide good advice and perspective when I need it?
- Will they understand what I will be going through as I work towards reaching my goals? Have they had the same aspirations in the past and succeeded?
- How can they best help me reach my goals (i.e. motivator, workout partner, shoulder to cry on)?
The success in reaching any goal is in the ability to overcome the many challenges that will come along the way. They are inevitable and having a plan to overcome them more effectively and efficiently is the difference between overall success and potential failure.
Ready … Set … GO!
Now that you’re armed with the tools … DON’T WAIT! The New Year is just around the corner but it doesn’t mean you can’t start planning for success today. Make this next year your best year yet!