Each year millions of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, and improving our fitness levels often lands at the top of the list. Yet despite our good intentions, many of us end up falling short or losing sight of our goals. A University of Scranton Journal of Psychology research study found that while 40% of us make resolutions, only 8% achieve them. That doesn’t mean it’s hopeless; it just means you need a plan! Make a decision right now that in the New Year, you’re going to be one of the people who reach your goals. Here are the some tips to help set the foundation for your success:
- Set specific goals: Get really specific about your goals. Do you want to decrease body fat, increase lean body mass, increase muscular strength, increase cardiovascular endurance, or all of the above? It might help to establish your goals around an event, giving you something to work towards and look forward to, like signing up to run your first 10K or planning a trip to hike the Grand Canyon. When you are first establishing your goals, consider consulting with a certified fitness professional to help you develop a customized training program based on your specific goals and fitness level to ensure you get the best results possible.
- Get educated about your body: If you’re going to pursue a higher level of fitness, you’re going to need the best information possible to do it. Starting with the basics, take the time to learn proper lifting technique and exercise form to ensure your safety and optimal benefit. Don’t let the fancy equipment at the gym intimidate you – ask someone on staff to show you how to use it correctly. Find a fitness community, either online or at your local gym, which can provide you with consistent access to health and wellness information. Ask your friends if there are any fitness newsletters that they subscribe to, or books they would recommend. A few things to consider when you’re looking at an information source:
- Is the author a certified fitness professional?
- Do they seem to be keeping themselves up to date on the latest health and wellness information?
- Do they present their information in a balanced way, without pushing a particular service or product?
- And most importantly, do they make safety and good form their number one priority?
- Don’t forget about nutrition: Learning to eat in a new way to support your fitness goals may seem difficult at first, but it is actually a lot of fun! It’s amazing the way that good nutrition can support your body and increase your energy levels, both as you exercise and throughout your day. Choose one new, healthy recipe a week to try out. Consider consulting a registered dietician to give you some new ideas and get you started on the right foot.
- Keep yourself accountable: You’ve probably heard that having a friend or family member as your accountability partner can help keep you on track, which is true, but there are lots of other options. Find a fitness class that you enjoy and make a point of introducing yourself to the instructor, so that you have a community to come back to week after week. Join a local running or biking club, or start one. There are even apps that will donate to a charity when you exercise!
- Staying motivated: There is no doubt that positive reinforcement works! Surround yourself with people who will support you in your goals, and don’t be afraid to ask for a little extra encouragement when you need it. However, the most important positive reinforcement will come from you. Don’t waste your time and energy on criticizing yourself, shift your focus instead towards all the positive steps you’re taking and celebrate the successes along the way, big and small.
Jeanna LeClaire Hill is a doctor of physical therapy and certified athletic trainer at HSS Spine & Sport in Jupiter, Florida. Jeanna graduated Magna Cum Laude from Towson University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Athletic Training, going on to earn her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Maryland, School of Medicine.