By Lynn Bode, CFT
The New Year is quickly creeping up on us. Do you have a New Year's Resolution? Well, if you're like most Americans (88 percent in 2001 according to a GNC poll), you have at least one resolution. And, if you are like the majority of these promise-makers, your resolution is probably related to health and fitness. In 2001 (according to GNC), 55 percent promised to eat healthier, 50 percent resolved to exercise more, and 38 percent wanted to lose weight.
While resolutions are well-intentioned, unfortunately most people fail at keeping them. With all the hype surrounding these promises, it's easy to get caught up in it without really taking them seriously.
It's no wonder then, that more than 75 percent of Americans would prefer to never make a resolution again (according to the Whole Foods Market New Year's reSOLUTIONS survey).
We live in a throw-away society and even our resolutions are not immune. However, especially for promises that include improving our health, it's in our best interest not to take them lightly.
So, what's the secret to successful resolutions? One important component is help from others. Support from others is important for lasting change, according to the survey which found that 70 percent of the respondents would be more likely to make positive changes if they did so with someone else.
And while you can't wave a magic wand and make your resolution come true, there are some easy steps to take that will make it easier to fulfill your promise to yourself.
- Choose an obtainable goal. Resolving to look like a super model is not realistic for the majority of us, but promising to include daily physical activity in our lives is very possible.
- Avoid choosing a resolution that you've been unsuccessful at achieving year after year. This will only set you up for failure, frustration and disappointment. If you are still tempted to make a promise that you've made before, then try altering it. For example, instead of stating that you are going to lose 30 pounds, try promising to eat healthier and increase your weekly exercise.
- Create a game plan. At the beginning of January, write a comprehensive plan. All successful businesses start with a business plan that describes their mission and specifics on how they will achieve it. Write your own personal plan and you'll be more likely to succeed as well.
- Break it down and make it less intimidating. Rather than one BIG end goal, dissect it into smaller pieces. Set several smaller goals to achieve throughout the year that will help you to reach the ultimate goal. Then, even if you aren't able to reach your final goal, you will have many smaller, but still significant, achievements along the way. For example, if your goal is to complete a 10K race, your smaller goals could be running a 5K in less than 30 minutes, adding upper and lower body strength training to increase your muscular endurance, and running 2 miles with a personal best completion time.
- Make Contingency Options: Don't assume sticking to your plan will be smooth sailing. Plan on hitting bumps along the resolution road and be prepared with specific ways to overcome them. What will keep you from skipping your workout or stop you from having a cigarette? This may mean seeking help from family or a professional, writing in a journal, etc.
- Give It Time: Most experts agree that it takes about 21 days to create a habit and six months for it to actually become a part of your daily life.
- Reward yourself with each milestone. If you've stuck with your resolution for 2 months, treat yourself to something special. But, be careful of your reward type. If you've lost 5 pounds, don't give yourself a piece of cake as an award. Instead, treat yourself to something non-food related, like a professional massage.
- Ask friends and family members to help you so you have someone to be accountable to. Just be sure to set limits so that this doesn't backfire and become more irritating than helpful. For example, if you resolve to be more positive ask them to gently remind you when you start talking negatively.
- Don't go it alone! Get professional assistance. Everyone needs help and sometimes a friend just isn't enough. Sometimes you need the help of a trained professional. Don't feel that seeking help is a way of copping out. Especially when it comes to fitness, research studies have shown that assistance from a fitness professional greatly improves people's success rate.
- Limit your number of promises. You'll spread yourself too thin trying to make multiple changes in your life. This will just lead to failure of all of the resolutions.
- Test Your Flexibility: Realize that things change frequently. Your goals and needs may be very different in April then they were when you made your resolution in January. Embrace change, even if that means that your resolution is altered.
- Keep A Journal: A journal helps you recognize your positive steps and makes it harder to go back to the same old habits.
On average only about 20% of us keep our New Year's resolutions. Unfortunately, some of the biggest failures are found in fitness resolutions. But don't let the statistics get you down. By following the tips above you'll be better equipped to fall into the successful 20% category.
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