So when it comes to making New Year’s resolutions, your track record hasn’t been the greatest. There was that year you resolved to start actually getting to work on time. But it’s just so dark in the morning and well, binge-watching Jane the Virgin until 3 a.m. makes it hard to not hit snooze. Not to mention that resolution about reducing your binge-watching.
You’re not alone. Most of us have trouble making good on our goals. In fact, stats show that 92% of people fail to follow through on their resolutions. Turns out, it’s not that we’re bad at keeping our personal promises; we’re simply making the wrong promises. Here are the health and fitness resolutions that are destined to fail, plus the tweaks that will make this year a win.
“I’m going to eat healthier”
Ah, yes, the old “I’m going to eat better” resolution. Who hasn’t tried, and subsequently failed, with this one? The problem with most of the common nutritional resolutions is that we keep our goals too general. What does “eating better” even mean? Does it mean you’re going to cut calories or eat more nutrient-dense foods? Go on a juice cleanse? Cut out carbs? Sodium? Alcohol? (Kidding on the last one.) The point is, because this statement is so broad, it’s hard to put together a plan of action and make the intention come to life. It means we either go into the New Year trying to make all the healthy changes we can at once, leading to a quick burnout, or being overwhelmed about where to begin.
Toronto-based psychotherapist Andrea Skitch says to start with a clear, easy-to-follow plan. “If you can’t make the small specific change tomorrow—like drinking another glass of water per day, or adding one salad per day to your diet—then it’s probably too big to achieve at this time in your life.” These are great examples of specific changes that can be made right away. Resolving to drink a glass of water every morning before breakfast is a great place to start. Another one could be to quit snacking after 8 p.m. or to swap your regular latte for a black coffee (with a touch of milk). These goals are easy to follow, easy to swallow and can make a difference right away. Keep it simple, people!
“I’m going to lose 20 pounds”
In my experience as a personal trainer, this is the magic number that everybody comes into the gym with. Obviously the possibility of attaining this depends on the person, their body type and their health habits, but more often than not, it’s an unreasonable and unnecessary goal to make. While it’s easy to get excited when the New Year rolls around, it’s very important to set realistic intentions otherwise we set ourselves up for failure. The truth is, 20 pounds is a lot of weight and it will take a lot of time and work to get there healthily. When people come in with this type of expectation and don’t see big results right away, they tend to get discouraged.
Instead, I suggest setting a series of small, progressive goals. When it comes to my personal training clients, I recommend starting with the goal of five pounds in the first month, which works out to about a pound a week, which is very doable. When the first goal is met, it creates a sense of accomplishment and momentum to keep going. If you progressively make it to a total of 20 pounds, that’s great; but if you don’t, you’ll be happy and proud of the small wins you’ve accomplished so far.
“I’m going to hit the gym more often”
I like the idea of clocking more gym time. Unfortunately, this statement in itself is not enough to last longer than a few weeks. One way to make this goal stick is to write it down. Studies show that if we take a pen to paper we’re 10 times more likely to follow through on our goals. Skitch agrees: “Writing can be a great way to complement your day-to-day goal-oriented actions.” But it’s more than just writing down the resolution and walking away; it has to be an ongoing habit. First, it’s beneficial to pencil in the weekly plan of attack: the what, when and where of the workouts (like Monday, 6 p.m. yoga class at Moksha; Wednesday, 7 a.m. boot camp at gym; Saturday, 10 a.m., run with BFF). Keeping a progress log has also been shown to be extremely helpful. Jot down details of each workout, like what you did and how you felt during and after. If you have physical goals, keep a log of your progress: Are you seeing more definition in your calves? Did you lose inches off your waist? Do you have more energy? By writing down the positive results you are motivating yourself to keep going. However, according to Skitch, you also need to be prepared to handle negative entries. “Keeping track of your progress is very helpful as long as you don’t allow it to bring you down should you have a ‘bad’ day. As you go along, accept that you will fall off the wagon but commit to being kind to yourself and trying again.”
“I’m going to run a marathon”
Another resolution that comes up on the first of the year is running a marathon. One reason why this is problematic is—much like the “20 pounds” example—it is often totally out of reach. Frequently the people making this statement have never even gone for a jog, let alone run 42 km with hundreds, or thousands, of other people. Instead, make a more attainable plan, like joining a run club or signing up for a 5km race. These are small but substantial changes that are within reach for most of us.
To ensure even more success, plan to start running with a friend. Studies show that exercising with a pal significantly increases the likelihood that we’ll actually do it. (No one wants to be the “flaky friend.”) Research also suggests that we work harder and burn more calories when we have a partner to compete with.
“I’m going to get fit”
This is a great goal, but the problem with striving for something like better “fitness” or “health” is that there are many ways to define them. In order to be successful you have to identify what “fit” means to you. Do you want to get physically stronger? Do you hope to tone your arms? Do you want to improve your cardio capacity? If your sights are set on strength, then aiming to do a pushup (or 10) from your toes could be your resolution. If increasing cardio is what you’re after, you could strive to jog two kilometres without stopping or take 30 seconds off your existing time. Toning your arms comes down to body fat composition, so to see muscle definition you have to decrease fat and increase muscle. Taking measurements every other week is a great way to track this progress. Everyone’s version of getting “fit” is different—make sure you’re aiming for the one that suits you best.
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