The New Year is in full swing and so are those promising but pesky New Year's fitness resolutions. You know the ones I'm talking about—those declarative moments when you vow to do this, quit that, go here.
Resolutions that carry us through the winter months start to fade out in the spring and are all but forgotten by the time summer sunshine warms our lives. Yup, those resolutions. But have no fear! Below are 5 ways you can help yourself remain diligent all year to ensure that what you said you were going to do becomes what you did do.
1. Set short- and long-term goals
Short-term goals should be easily measured or tracked, such as monthly weight loss, strength gains, time gains, etc. Set reasonable and manageable timelines for each. For example, lose 8 pounds in four weeks, PR your Back Squat by 5 pounds within six weeks, cut out all processed foods for a week, or drop your mile time from 10:00 to 9:30 in seven weeks.
Don't plan your goals on a whim. Sit down and do some hard thinking about what you want to accomplish in the immediate future. Then put a plan together that outlines what your daily or weekly routines will be. If you are unsure of what "reasonable" and "manageable" mean for your targeted goals, do some research, ask a coach or personal trainer if you know one/work with one, or reach out to friends who have already experienced a similar journey.
As for long-term goals, this is where you need to think big. Working on your running this year? Sign up for that half marathon in the spring and decide what you want your targeted finish time to be. Trying to lose weight? Set a total-pounds-lost goal for the year (using your short-term goals to keep you on track).
Hint: Take pictures of yourself every month to monitor your progress. It's always easier to see the before/after when compared side-by side. Finally signed up for those rowing courses at the nearby boathouse? Get a team together for the regatta in the fall. The long-term New Year fitness resolution goal should be a significant mile-marker in your 365-day journey to a fitter, healthier you.
A note about rewards: A lot of people feel that rewarding themselves for hitting a milestone is a worthy treat for staying motivated and sticking with the plan, and it absolutely is; however, keep in mind that allowing yourself to do anything that doesn't align itself with your goals is not a reward. It's a trap. Go ahead and treat yourself, but be respectful of the hard work you have put in.
2. Be accountable
A lot of people post their resolutions to social media thinking that if they "put it out there," others will ask them how it's going, thereby pressuring them to stay on track. And while your mom or your best friend may "Like" or comment on your undoubtedly ever-declining training posts, that is not enough.
What you need is a sponsor. Enlist the help of a trusted friend or family member to set up regularly scheduled check-ins to review your plan and progress. Your sponsor should be someone to whom you can reach out on days when you're not feeling motivated or all you can think about are the doughnuts in the break room ("They're just sitting in there . . . beckoning me.") Over time, when it's easier to motivate yourself, you can slowly back off from frequent check-ins. Instead, call your sponsor to join you for a run in the park and some post-exercise coffee shop chitchat.
3. Join a group or find a workout buddy so you can motivate each other
Starting a new workout routine or a diet is much easier when you have others doing it alongside you. Search online for MeetUp groups in your area, join a CrossFit gym, start a social media group, or rally your coworkers, friends and/or family members.
Parents, you can even include your kids. What better way to teach your children about healthy life choices than modeling them yourself? The main idea is that you don't have to do this alone, so put your feelers out there and find your people.
4. Prep meals so you won't be tempted to stray from healthy choices
If you plan your weekly menu ahead of time, it will be much easier to stick to healthy eating habits. Schedule a time each weekend to sit down and plot out what you will eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks every day of the week. Draw up a grocery list based on this menu, and don't stray from it once you are at the store. Prep ahead of time whenever you can so as to make mealtime a quick, easy process, especially on long workdays.
For example, if you're making stir-fry for dinner on Monday (and leftovers for Tuesday), cut up all your veggies and meat on Sunday. Having oatmeal with fruit for breakfast? Make a large pot and portion it out into separate containers for easy reheating.
The more you get done ahead of time, the less mealtime will feel like a chore and the less tempted you will feel to skip the process entirely by choosing a more convenient and most likely less healthy alternative.
5. Keep a fitness journal
Whether it's handwritten or on a computer/phone/tablet, take note of all of your progress in a fitness journal. Each day, record how you feel physically and emotionally. Make notes of any achievements and missteps. Write down what exercises you did, what meals were a success, and so on. You can record pretty much any data you wish, but no matter what the information is, get it down.
Every Sunday night, scan your notes from the previous week and keep an eye out for developing patterns. Note where have you succeeded as well as areas you need to work on harder. Review your goals, set new ones, and then smash them!
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