Each year is the same. On New Year’s Eve, bloated from the holidays and buzzed on cheap champagne, we make grand resolutions. This is the year we’re running the Boston Marathon. By Spring we’ll drop 30 pounds and have ripped abs. This summer we’ll go from struggling to keep up with the pack on muffin rides to dominating the race circuit.
For a few inspired weeks, we pursue those resolutions. But by February reality begins to set in. After one month, you can almost run a 5k without stopping. Four weeks of dieting and working out has translated into losing five whole pounds. And after a few sessions on the computrainer, you’re stronger than you were, but nowhere near taking a spot atop the winner’s podium. Because there’s little chance of achieving your resolution, it feels pointless. So you give up and resolve that next year you won’t make any resolutions.
But the problem isn’t in making resolutions, it’s in the resolutions themselves and how you go about achieving them. One month into the new year, you may be struggling to achieve your goals. Or perhaps you’re just getting around to pursuing them. Either way, here are some tips on how to stick with it and get results.
Baby Steps - A big reason why we abandon resolutions is that we set unrealistic goals. Sometimes the goals are so difficult to achieve that they’re nearly unattainable. Other times they’re so large in scope that they feel overwhelming. There’s nothing wrong with having a lofty long-term goal to strive for. However, the best way to achieve it is by setting a series of small attainable goals that you can build upon.
Like Bill Murray’s character in What About Bob, embrace baby steps. If you’re trying to lose weight, don’t obsess over that one big number. Instead, focus on shedding 1-2 pounds a week. It’s healthy, manageable, and adds up quickly. If you’re goal is to become more active, don’t risk injury by overdoing it early on. Ease into it. Commit to giving your best effort at 2-3 classes per week. To improve performance, shoot for small but consistent increases in speed, power and endurance. Over the course of training, those continuous gains will amount to noticeable improvements.
Make It a Priority - Whether you resolved to be healthier, complete a race or improve performance, the fact that you set a goal means that it’s important to you. So make it a priority. Life is full of responsibilities and distractions, enough to take up every minute of your day. It might take some shuffling, but setting aside a few hours a week for yourself shouldn’t be too difficult. Also, don’t let money be an issue. To you and the people who love you, your health, happiness and wellbeing are invaluable. Invest in them and you won’t regret it.
Schedule It - Resolutions don’t achieve themselves and good intentions accomplish little. At some point, you actually have to put in the work. While it’d be great if we were all self-directed fitness freaks who will use any free minute to workout, the majority of us need structure. Set aside specific times. Make it a part of your weekly schedule. You’ll be less likely to blow off class if you book it ahead of time. At the beginning of each week, sign up, before excuses begin to pop up.
Talk About It - We have a tendency to keep our goals secret. That way, should we fail, there’s no shame or embarrassment. But by talking about your goal and being open about your progress, you’ll start to build a support system. You might even motivate a friend or two to join you. Workout partners are not only great company and provide encouragement, they help keep you accountable.
Reward Yourself - Rewards are great motivation. They get dogs to sit, make children behave, and can help you stick to your resolution. No matter how attainable your goals are, it's hard work meeting them week after week. So be sure to enjoy your successes and reward milestones. Tell yourself if you drop a size, you can buy a new outfit. Treat yourself to new workout gear for fulfilling your pledge to workout 3 times a week for the entire month. Maybe you increased your power threshold or climbed the rankings in the latest time trials. Go ahead and spring for a new kit.
No matter how you choose to reward yourself, take a moment to celebrate what you’ve accomplished. It took effort, persistence and commitment. Pat yourself on the back and then set your sights on the coming week and the next goal.