New Year, New You—Secrets to keeping your fitness resolutions

December 2011/January 2012 View more

NMAG1211_FitnessWhen it comes to New Year’s Resolutions, I think we can all agree that they rarely stick. We’ve likely read plenty of psychological studies that explain why New Year’s Resolutions are often unsuccessful. Most of them suggest that the reason resolutions fail are due to goals that are too broad or too ambitious. After 25 plus years in the fitness industry, and working with thousands of clients who have crossed my path, there are secrets to setting successful New Year’s resolutions. The secrets are vital if you’re looking to make this year your year of success!

The best-kept secret to setting a successful resolution begins with replacing the word “resolution” with the word “solution.” The truth is that most people set New Year’s resolutions in an effort solve a problem: e.g., “I need to lose weight.” To solve a problem, you naturally seek a solution. A resolution, on the other hand, is more of an announcement of intention; whereas a solution is more action-based, finding an answer to a problem: “I need to become more active, I need to eat better.” The secret to keeping resolutions is pinpointing the problem, and finding a solution by creating an action plan.

When creating an action plan, make sure it makes sense for you and your lifestyle. This is imperative for long-term success. If you’ve been inactive for 10 years, do not expect to be back in the saddle again in six weeks, hitting your high school weight—it’s not going to happen. However, acknowledging that your schedule has prohibited you from being active, you then need to develop a plan that works more closely with your schedule and, more importantly, something that you’re willing to do! Very often people set ambitious goals, but the work is overwhelming and not something that will last more than a week, at best. Therefore, be mindful that the goal you set and the action plan you create is something manageable, not just for a week, but for the next year.

To help with your action plan, consider the SMART approach. These are goals that are Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. For example, stating you resolve to lose weight is too broad. But, resolving to lose 15 pounds in order to walk a 5K is more specific. “Measurable” means being able to comprehend exactly how much or how many. “Fifteen pounds” is measurable, but “losing some weight” is not. Then you need to ask yourself: Is 15 pounds attainable? What will it require of you? This leads into how realistic your goal is. If you were looking to lose 15 pounds in four weeks, the work that this type of weight loss involves would likely be extreme and temporary. However, if you give yourself three months to reach the goal, that is far more reasonable to attain and much more realistic. The last consideration is timely: What is the date you’ve set to reach your goal? I’ve discovered that if you do not give yourself a deadline, the goal is less likely to be met. Therefore, you need to set a date, and even a time, to realize your stated goal.

In the last 25 years, I have watched hundreds of clients set goals that are overly ambitious. Working out seven days a week after you’ve done nothing (which is common January 2nd) never works—trust me, I see it happen all the time. The enthusiasm is admirable; however the results are less than desirable. If you create specific goals and an appropriate action plan required to get you there, this will allow you to better assess if your solution is attainable and realistic.

Getting in to shape takes work and time. So, this year try a different approach. Seek a solution versus resolution, a solid action plan versus an overwhelming intention. These are the secrets that will help you reach and maintain your goals all year long. Happy New Year!