Living Well: Set realistic fitness resolutions for success
December 26, 2017
A part of welcoming the new year often involves setting resolutions for positive change. According to opinion polls, losing weight and getting in shape rank at the top, year after year. If you've set a fitness resolution in the past and failed, don't fret. Follow these tips to stick to your resolutions by going gently on yourself and taking one step at a time.
"The best way to stick to your goals is to set realistic goals from the start," said Danika Jost, physical therapist with Memorial Regional Health.
Start by considering your body type, your current fitness level and your stage in life. Ask yourself, "What am I realistically willing to do, each day, to meet my goal?" Then, get creative. Avoid setting blanket goals that don't have much substance, such as "get in shape," or "lose 10 pounds." Instead, set small goals that demand action every day.
"Set some short-term goals to meet your long-term goals. If you want to lose 10 pounds, start with an action-oriented goal that focuses on lifestyle changes, like eating three servings of vegetables five days a week, or drinking eight glasses of water a day for a month. You will lose weight, but you won't be so focused on the scale," Jost said.
She sees people set goals for the whole year for New Year's, but that's harder to stick to than having short-term goals along the way. For example, if you set a goal for a month, you are more likely to meet that goal than if you set it for a year. At the end of the month, you can reassess to see if it's actually doable to continue.
"It derails people to only have one big goal in mind that is not focused on daily lifestyle habits. If you start to lose traction on a long-term goal that seems out of reach, it's easy to let go, but holding on for just a bit longer when the end is near is achievable. It's all about building momentum. Once you go 30 days, you think, 'OK, I can do this for another 30 days," she added.
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Besides setting realistic, action-oriented goals, avoid the pitfall of starting too hard and too fast. Try to maintain your enthusiasm for the long run. Instead of setting five small goals at the start, set one or two. Once you master those for a month or two, add another. The focus should be on creating long-lasting changes.
"If you haven't jogged for 30 years, it's not realistic to say you will run 30 minutes, five days a week. But, a related, achievable short-term goal could be to do cardio exercises twice a week," Jost said.
Another tip to stick to your goals is to track your progress. You can do this in several ways—with a fitness tracker, through a supportive confidante or by recording your successes on a calendar.
"Accountability helps people stick to their goals. Consider getting an accountability buddy to check in with and share progress updates. Or, write down your successes on the calendar. Find a couple of things that motivate you," Jost said.
Also, mix up your exercise routines. Variety keeps you from getting bored, and it also is good for your body. Instead of always going to the gym or doing the same workout routine at home, mix in things you enjoy, such as walking, hiking, exercise classes, swimming laps, doing yoga or skiing.
Successful short-term goals over time add up to changes in your lifestyle habits. In the end, that's what it takes for continual success—by making something your new normal, it becomes an easy part of your daily routine.
If you have questions about starting an exercise program or losing weight, talk with your medical provider. To make an appointment at Memorial Regional Health's Medical Clinic, call 970-826-2400 or the Specialty Clinic at 970-824-3252.