The New Year can be an exciting time to take a look at your fitness priorities and decide what changes you want to make. But we all know that most New Year’s resolutions just don’t get very far. One of the problems may be that people set too high a bar for themselves, then get overwhelmed or tired and abandon the entire plan. Establishing realistic resolutions can go a long way towards setting yourself up for success. Here’s how to make effective but manageable fitness and wellness goals:
Set Your Goals Around the Process, Not the Outcome
It’s tempting to set your sights on the outcome that you want, like wanting to lose 15 pounds or fit into a particular pair of jeans. However, these aren’t really actionable goals. It’s better to build your goals around the process, like exercising four times a week or eating one additional serving of vegetables each day.
Choose a Fitness Activity You’ll Actually Want to Do
Another temptation that people often fall to is to sign themselves up at the nearest gym and throw themselves into a regimen they think they should do, whether or not they actually enjoy it. A lot of people associate struggle with success, but you’ll be much more likely to stick with a fitness routine if you look forward to doing it. Don’t be afraid to try a few different things, like dance classes or martial arts.
Match Your Resolutions to Your Personal Confidence Levels
When setting your resolutions, think about this-on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being Not confident and 10 being Extremely confident, how confident do you feel that you can meet the resolution that you’ve set? Research indicates that if your confidence level is anything lower than 7 then it’s best to modify your goals until you get that number up- consider initially aiming for a 9 or a 10 for your first few changes so you can establish a pattern of success, which leads to feeling good and having more confidence, which can then lead to new goals and lasting changes.
Start From Where You Are
If you’re just starting to exercise for the first time in a long time (or ever), you don’t have to be a maniac about it! Don’t set a highly aggressive goal that again, you don’t feel extremely confident that you can maintain. Not only are you likely to hit a wall, but you’re opening yourself up to getting hurt or sick. In the beginning, try for an intensity level of about 5-7 out of 10, where 10 is maximal effort. Remember that you can always build on your progress by (gradually) increasing the frequency and duration of your workouts, and eventually the intensity.
Think About What You’re Adding to Your Diet, Rather Than What You’re Taking Away
Yes, you’ll have to cut back on those cookies and cocktails you indulged in over the holiday, but don’t make what you aren’t eating the center of your attention. Instead focus on the healthy things that you’re going to be eating instead, like vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains and you’ll find that the less healthy choices fall away on their own.
Jason Machowsky is a sports dietitian, certified strength and conditioning specialist, and certified personal trainer at the Tisch Performance Center. He has an undergraduate degree from Cornell University and a master’s degree from Columbia University. This post is adapted from a piece Jason wrote for his personal blog on fitness and nutrition.