It’s that time of year again: make 10 resolutions, start 3 of them seriously and then fail at meeting any of them by the end of February (March if you are lucky). According to statistics, only 8% of Americans are actually successful in achieving their intentions…womp womp. Why the annual ritual? If it were simply a matter of willpower and determination, more people would be able to make significant changes each January. As it turns out, you actually need a plan, one that works!

We can help you plan to stick to those fitness and health resolutions- like for real.

1) Know yourself

Know your limits (time, physical, emotional, etc), your likes, your dislikes and your preferences. Don’t pick workouts that you won’t enjoy, or are too difficult or too easy for you. Don’t try to commit to an hour of gym time a day if you know your job and your commute doesn’t allow for that. If you like challenges, pick something challenging. If you don’t, that’s ok too. It doesn’t matter what your preferences are. Just be honest with yourself, and you raise the likelihood of sticking with something.

Practice honesty in evaluating your starting point. If you haven’t worked out since last February, maybe signing up for advanced level boot camp isn’t the best idea. If you are shy working out in front of others, maybe you should steer clear of commercial gyms and try something smaller. If you know that you suck at basketball, and you’d rather not feel embarrassed than actually learn how to play, then don’t agree to play with your friends who have similar resolutions. Find what you are good at and do that. If you do like learning new things, try something you have never done before. If you are not the type to motivate yourself, workout with a buddy or sign up for a class. If you work better at your own pace, hire a personal trainer. Whatever plan you make, just make sure it starts where you do.

Finally, be aware of your patterns in the past. What made you give up last time? How can you make sure that you don’t run into the same issue? Don’t sign up for sessions 3 times a week if you know historically you can only handle one or two. Do you tend to go into things full throttle and then lose your steam quickly? Pace yourself. Do you tend to take it too easy on yourself? Ask someone else to kick your butt!

2) Make small goals and move one step at a time

Is one of your resolutions to lose weight? Great! Now what…Plan! OK, so you want to lose weight. What are you going to do about that this month? What are you going to do about it this week? What are you going to do about it today? WHAT ARE YOU DOING ABOUT IT RIGHT NOW?! Ah, now you see…Don’t reach for one ambiguous goal; split it up into manageable and specific steps! Not sure how to do that? Do some research or hire someone who does know. It IS worth the investment, because if you are unable to plan, failure is imminent! Construct a realistic timeline. Have an overall goal in mind, then break down that goal into monthly or weekly increments. Create an action plan for each day. This way you won’t bite off more than you can chew.

3) Be realistic

Make sure your goals are actually attainable and sustainable. Don’t sacrifice more than you are comfortable with. Don’t give up anything that you know you might regret (perhaps that absolutely-no-carbs diet is a bit extreme considering how much you love bread?), or make plans that involve things you hate (not a morning person? Yea those 6am workouts aren’t going to last). Health and fitness require constant commitment. You need to be able to sustain your efforts. Remember, if the goal is health related, make sure your workout plan isn’t making you more unhealthy by stressing you out ( i.e. making you lose sleep, making you adopt poor eating habits or sacrificing too much time from your family).

If you are working 80+ hours a week, perhaps training for a marathon is not the greatest idea; you might not get the sleep you need. If you want to bench over 300lbs by the end of the month and have a hard time getting up 85lbs today, you might be in for some disappointment. If having a six pack means that you have to eat food that you hate, then that six pack is probably not going to last for long. You either need to change your goal, or change your plan. Again, the outside perspective of a professional could be very valuable to help you understand this distinction.

4) Celebrate baby steps

So you did some investigation and created a realistic plan with micro goals that works for your personality. Now it’s important that you recognize the achievement of your smaller goals. If your goal is something that will take a lot of time and effort, and you do not acknowledge the smaller steps you have taken to get where you are, it can be hard to see progress and you may be discouraged. Plus, once you see the results, and you know the effort it took to get there, it can help you get back on track if you happen to slip. It’s ok to mess up every once in a while, in fact, unavoidable. A plan will orient you back to the right path.

In the next 2 blogs, part 2 and 3, we will talk more specifically about fitness resolutions and what contributes to success and failure. Good luck!