As personal trainers, too often we see people set themselves up for disappointment when they make New Year’s resolutions related to health and fitness. Most people aim high. They tell themselves they’ll quit sugar, give up carbs, go running every morning or quit drinking. Inevitably, just a few weeks later they’ve fallen off the wagon. So what does it take to stick to a New Year’s resolution?
Goal setting is powerful, partly because it provides focus. It gives us the ability to hone in on the exact actions we need to perform to achieve what we desire. Goals encourage us to stretch and grow in ways that we never have before. But a goal will likely remain out of our reach unless we have a PLAN to get there.
Results are Only as Good as Your PLAN
The biggest mistake we see, as trainers, are people trying to go cold turkey on their bad habits or taking on too much in one go. For example, quitting smoking suddenly, engaging in multiple new physical activities at once, or making drastic changes to their diet in a short space of time. Achieving your goal is not a race or a competition; it’s a journey, which, if planned well, can be very rewarding. It is a valuable time where you can create habits that are sustainable in the long-term and that can change your life forever.
Remember, your goals determine your direction but your plan determines your progress.
Here are some basic rules for creating your plan:
Decide exactly what it is you want to achieve (e.g. lose 8 kilos or run a 25km marathon), and most importantly, WHY you want to achieve it. Your WHY is what will keep you going during times of low motivation. For example, you might want to lose weight so you have the stamina to play for longer with your grandchildren.
Decide the date by which you want to achieve your goal. A goal isn’t much use unless it has a timeframe. ‘Someday’ never got anyone out of bed for a walk at 5.30am or made them say no to a second piece of cake.
Lastly, create realistic actions for how to reach your goal by starting with the end date in mind and working backwards. The key is to be specific about what you’re going to do and when, but also to be realistic about what you can achieve given your lifestyle. Without being realistic and specific, the goal may simply become an unattainable dream.
Now you’ve set up your plan, how can you ensure you stick to it?
Consistency is Key
Once you start enacting your plan, consistency in sticking to your new behaviours is what will see you through to the end. When you look at successful people you will almost always discover a plan behind their success. They knew what they wanted and why they wanted it. They then worked out a plan to help them get there and methodically and consistently work through that plan.
Contrary to what some people think, good health it not about being lucky or having good genes, it is a deliberate disciplined daily action. If you want to make improvements to your health it is up to you to create the circumstances that allow you to follow through with your plan so you can reach your goal.
Sticking with a New Exercise Program
So you’ve established some health goals and a new exercise program is part of your plan. As personal trainers we know it takes guts and discipline to stick with your new program, so here are some tips to help you stay on track:
Set achievable exercise goals. In the words of George Leonard, an American writer who wrote extensively about human potential:
“Resistance is proportionate to the size and speed of the change, not to whether the change is a favourable or unfavourable one.”
In other words, the faster you try to change, the more likely you are to backslide. If you plan to be running 5 kilometres in 15 minutes by the end of your first week of running training when you have never run before, you will most likely be disappointed. The unattained result will only serve to reinforce the thought that it’s too difficult for you to achieve your goal and you might just give up. Rather, decide on a more achievable and realistic goal. It might take slightly longer, but on the flipside, you’ll start to see success.
Measure your success and adapt your plan if needed. Measuring changes along the way is necessary to help you see success and keep you motivated. As you progress with your plan you may come across something that isn’t working or find that your improvement has stalled. That doesn’t mean you should give up. What it does mean is that you should re-evaluate what you are doing and change your approach slightly. In fact you may need to change your approach multiple times before you find what works for you, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s all part of the journey.
Plan ahead. Pencil exercise sessions into your diary like you would any other appointment. Consider it an investment in your health and give it the same significance as you do your work meetings. After all, the greatest wealth is your health!
Reward yourselfalong the way. It will help to reinforce the positive behaviour change as you work towards achieving you goal.
Vary your activities. Variety will help prevent boredom and is also a good way to challenge your body so it doesn’t get used to one type of exercise. For example, if you weight train and do a particular weights routine a few times a week, change that routine every 4-6 weeks.
Surround yourself with peoplewho are supportive of your goals. These people are positive, happy people that enrich your life. They can be family members, friends, co-workers or even just acquaintances that frequent the same coffee shop. They are people who will inspire you to be a better person, provide you with motivation to achieve your goals, empower you to make the changes you need to succeed and cheer on your success.
Put the scales away. The more you weigh yourself, the more you will react to the numbers on the scales rather than how you feel. You will notice significant changes by how your clothes fit and your energy levels so the scales are unnecessary.
Eat breakfast. Not only is this important to get the metabolism going, but it has been shown to significantly decrease the chances of overeating in the afternoon/evening.
Focus on what you’re putting in rather than taking out. If significant changes need to be made to your diet, start by focusing on putting in the nutrients, rather than having a negative fixation on the bad foods you are taking out.
Don’t deprive. Deprivation (either physical or psychological) leads to overeating. Give yourself permission to eat treat foods, but only when you really want them. A useful mantra is, “I can have this if I want it, but do I REALLY want it?” If you choose to eat it, you must eat it mindfully.
Eat mindfully. You need to stop what you’re doing and pay attention when you’re eating. Mindful eating involves eating slowly, using all the senses and leads to increased satisfaction from smaller portions. It also helps you to recognise when you have eaten enough.
In closing, keep it simple and don’t over complicate things. Start with small steps as every bit counts. Consistency is the key to staying on track. You need to have the right attitude and it’s important to know that you are in control. DESTROY EXCUSES AND JUST DO IT!