You’ve likely heard that most New Year’s resolutions fail, fitness related, or not. There’s a LOT of truth to that, with roughly 80% of resolutions fizzling by early February. A little disheartening, but knowing what’s behind such a high failure rate, and some sound fitness resolution tips can set you up to succeed!
The Why Behind Failed Fitness Resolutions
Many assume it’s a lack of fitness motivation that derails resolutions. Yet, “counter-motivation” is often the culprit. Counter-motivation is something that conflicts with your fitness resolve. Some examples: spending more time with family, getting more done at work, and even avoiding discomfort associated with exercise. That means when determining your goal(s), identify the potential obstacles (your counter-motivations) that could prevent you from achieving your goal.
Change, even for good, can be stressful. Knowing how to deal with it, and understanding that it is part of the process is important. Essentially, a diet, joining a gym, and your resolve to change must be coupled with the capacity to handle the stress and discomfort of change. Meaning, if you don’t change your mind, it’ll be difficult to reach your goals.
More Tips on Maintaining Your Fitness Motivation
Yes, change can lead to stress (feeling anxious, overwhelmed, tired), and if not well managed, increases your odds of defeat. What to do? Counteract that stress with self-discipline, by enduring the discomfort of change that leads to a better version of you. Self-discipline improves with use, just like a muscle. Set yourself up for success by creating small challenges that develop your self-discipline muscle and willpower. With these challenges, recognize the need to endure the friction (stress) with change, versus trying to escape it.
Failure-Proof Fitness Resolution Tips
Plan, Schedule & Be S.M.A.R.T
- Plan Ahead. Avoid making resolution the day you intend to start (i.e.: on New Year’s Day! A resolution made on the fly, without some thought and planning is a BAD idea. A failure-proof resolution requires a few steps (contemplate, prepare, act, and maintain). That means if you intend to start on January 1st, you’ve already thought through your goals, prepared for them, and are ready to act. Bottomline, better to set a date where you have properly thought through and prepared, even if it’s after January 1st.
- Know your obstacles… then plan & schedule AROUND them. Attempt to make your fitness goals fit around your life/social/work commitments. But, make your fitness schedule a priority. Example: if your commitments allow you to work out three times per week, schedule that – not five days. If you have less time after work on a given day, exercise for the time you can vs. not at all (30 minutes is better than no exercise). Lastly, schedule it, just like you would a doctor’s appointment at a time when you are most likely to be committed/have more energy.
- Be S.M.A.R.T. about your goals. You know: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. “I want to lose weight,” “I want to work out more.” Avoid”general” resolution statements like this. Rather, “I want to exercise three times each week for 45 minutes for the next four weeks” is specific, measurable, and has a timeframe (whether it is achievable/relevant depends on the person).
Another tip to make your fitness resolutions stick: chunk down the goal into manageable steps/milestones. Set goals that are reasonable for a specific time period (i.e.: four weeks), then plan to revisit your goal when that time is up. If your goal was to be able to run two miles without stopping, have you achieved it? Can you increase, or how do you need to modify your milestone of two miles? Here’s some additional tips on being consistent with your fitness.
Enjoyment, Accountability & Outside the Gym Counts
- Do something you ENJOY. The best type of exercise is the exercise you’ll actually do. Don’t plan on running if you hate running. There are many options for you to choose, and if you enjoy it, you’re much more likely to follow through. Remember, activity that replaces a sedentary lifestyle is an improvement! As a benchmark, the U.S. government’s exercise guidelines call for 2.5-5 hours of moderate intensity exercise per week (or half of that for intense activity).
- Include exercise in your day (not just at the gym). Exercise at the gym is not the only exercise that counts. A brisk walk at lunch, taking the stairs, walking the dog after work, working in the yard are all means of increasing your heart rate, engaging your muscles, and burning calories. Every minute you’re not sitting or lying down is a step toward better overall fitness. (A fitness tracker that measures your active minutes/steps is helpful here.)
- Build accountability, and don’t keep your goals a secret. Some ideas: make a date to work out with a friend. Sign up for classes, and pay in advance. Build accountability by wearing a fit tracker (Apple Watch, Fitbit, etc.), or other community tracking options like Strava, Runkeeper, and Nike Run Club. Your odds of keeping your resolution improves if they’re not a well kept secret. Write down your goal/resolution and share them with others.
More Fitness Resolution Tips
Relapse, Variety, Fun, and Rewards
- Prepare for a relapse! A natural part of the goal process is some mis-steps along the way. A relapse will happen, so knowing how to deal with it is most important. Most goals/resolutions end with the first relapse; don’t let that be you. First, remember don’t start too severely, ease into the goal and increase the intensity with time and progress. In a relapse phase, look at the reasons for it versus throwing in the towel. Knowing why you relapsed is the key to progress and “starting again,” more intelligently. Step back, recalibrate, and continue!
- MIX it up. Mixing up your routine improves your odds of sticking with it (according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE)):
“Exercise scientists at the University of Florida observed that individuals who modified their workouts every two weeks over an eight-week period appeared to enjoy their workouts more and were more inclined to stick with their exercise programs when compared to individuals who followed the same workout regimens week after week.” Boredom leads to less interest – which leads to less motivation. So, mix it up!
- Inject FUN. Do what you can to make your exercise more fun. Listen to the music/podcasts you like, exercise with friends, buy and wear some workout gear that you love and want to wear. Or, watch your favorite TV show on the treadmill, get outside, and even book a fitness break. A fitness break is a mini fit holiday, a day trip for a beautiful hike, staying at a hotel with a luxury gym/spa.
- REWARD yourself. Once you’ve achieved a milestone (because you’ve broken up your goal into manageable milestones), treat yourself with a reward. Of course, stray from sabotaging your fitness efforts. A massage, some fitness swag you’ve been eyeing, a mani-pedi, a day at the beach/lake, to name a few great options.
Which of these fitness resolution tips will be most helpful to reach your health and fitness goals? Or, what fitness resolution tips have worked for you that I have not mentioned? I wish you much success on your journey to better fitness!