We are entering the very last hours of 2015. The final retrospectives and “Best of” lists are being published and perused and it’s time to start looking forward to the year ahead. Which means that it’s time to start talking about what we hope to accomplish in 2016.
New Year’s resolutions are a strange quirk of the human condition. They’re a popular activity – according a recent survey conducted by the University of Scranton, 45% of Americans regularly make them, and another 17% have dabbled in the practice – and yet their success rate is notoriously low. In that same survey, only 8% of Americans were successful in achieving the benchmarks they set for themselves.
So why do we keep doing them? Well, the reality of the situation might not be quite as dire as that 8% figure suggests. While 24% of respondents claim to have never had success with a resolution, 49% at least reported “infrequent success.” The survey went on to say that “People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions.”
New Year’s resolutions can be a bit of a crap shoot, but if you take the time to carefully consider what you want to achieve – and how you want to achieve it – a little bit of annual reflection and speculation can help you (re)focus on your goals and make some meaningful steps toward them. With that in mind, let’s take a look at 7 tips that can help you set, effectively pursue, and achieve your fitness-related resolutions in 2016:
If you’ll forgive the cheesy but effective acronym, the best fitness-related resolutions are SMART ones: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. “I want to get fit this year,” is an admirable goal, but it’s also an abstract one. What does fitness mean to you? How and when will you know if you’ve reached it? Pick a goal that will have a meaningful impact on your life and training – or, if you prefer, something that sounds cool and at least semi-attainable – like doing a set number of push-ups, running a distance race, or training for and entering a tournament. Make sure that it’s challenging but not physically impossible or detrimental to your overall health. Then set a time period in which you’d like to meet this goal. It’s far easier to get and stay motivated about any task when you have a clear path ahead of you.
2. Break major goals up into a segments.
Most of us probably step onto the mats with the intent to become a black belt, but we all know that it takes years to master our martial arts of choice and that every stripe and belt promotion along the way is an important achievement in of itself. It’s similar with any big fitness goal. If you want to run a marathon, work on shorter distances runs and races first, and give yourself credit for every new distance you complete and every new personal best you hit along the way. If you want to do a hundred push-ups, follow a smart and responsible plan and celebrate each time you achieve a new maximum number of reps.
3. Make time for exercise.
Officially making room in your weekly schedule for exercise and lessons will help you establish your fitness as a routine part of your life. If you can’t plan that far ahead or you’re too busy to devote a large block of time to your workout, though, there’s no need to despair. As trainer Jessica Zapata recently told Global News: “I like the 10 minute rule. You have to do it for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes if you still don’t feel like it, quit. But most likely you’re going to get 10 minutes in and you’re going to be like, ‘I feel good, I’m going to keep going. We all have 24 hours in a day and everybody’s got stuff going on. But again, you don’t need an hour. It doesn’t have to become a big production. Maybe it’s just 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there. There’s lots of ways to sneak it in.”
4. Keep it fun!
Fitness isn’t necessarily supposed to be comfortable, but there’s no point in forcing yourself to repeatedly do anything that constantly makes you miserable, either. Get creative about your fitness options. Try a new discipline that you’ve always been curious about. Take lightsaber lessons. Check out some unique spins on the traditional gym format. Get some friends together and host a dance party. Consistency is a lot easier to develop and maintain when you don’t hate what you’re doing.
5. Be kind to yourself.
There is no one on this planet who is failing to achieve their fitness goals because they don’t hate themselves enough. That doesn’t mean that you should let yourself off the hook all of the time, but we could all stand to be a little kinder to ourselves. Take an honest assessment of your abilities and disabilities and exercise in a way that is healthy and helpful for you as an individual and grade yourself accordingly. Don’t compare your fitness journey to anyone else’s. When you slip up – and we all do because no one is perfect – don’t despair or beat yourself up about it. There’s always the next workout. The FIRM Master Instructor Team has a good blog post about the pitfalls of perfectionism at Gaim, and also some tips on how to overcome it.
Don’t forget to rest, either! Rest and active recovery have become increasingly hot topics in the fitness industry for a reason: your body (and your mind) will never be able to grow stronger and healthier if you never give it a chance to recover from your last workout or prepare for the next one.
6. Be accountable.
It’s easier to stay on track when you have someone or something to report to. If you’re individually motivated, that person can be yourself and you can log your progress in a notebook or fitness ap. If you need a little more external motivation, a fitness buddy, a good instructor, or a personal trainer can be just the thing you need to help you keep going.
7. Don’t give up!
Say you’re making great progress for the first couple of weeks of January, and then you get sick, injured, busy, or even just bored. For reasons that may or may not be in your control, your resolution suddenly seems overwhelming or out of reach.
That’s frustrating, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Reevaluate what you want out of your original resolution, and start a new one if you need to. Regroup and start again. Or take a breather and then keep going.
Resolutions can help you plan out your vision, hopes, and plans for the year, but they don’t have to be the final word for fitness. More and more health professionals are starting to believe that setting goals throughout the year might actually be more effective than one big group of resolutions at the beginning. The Happiness Project makes a good case for that theory here.
Have you made any new resolutions or goals for 2016? Let us know in the comments!
– Sarah Kurchak