If your list of New Year’s resolutions starts with something health-related, like “lose weight,” “quit smoking” or “start exercising,” you’re not alone. And if you find yourself slipping after a month (or a week) or two, and you find yourself making the same resolution every New Year, you’re not alone there, either.
Maybe you went a little overboard when you started your last exercise program and burned out. Maybe you put off starting for so long that you decided to give up and try another year. Maybe your resolution was too vague — it’s hard to take action on something you can’t quantify or feel accountable for. Or maybe exercise just wasn’t a high enough priority for you.
But just because you’ve tried and failed doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try again. This is a great time of year to start an exercise program — the excesses of the holiday season are past, and there’s lots of time to feel and see results before swimsuit weather. The key to success is to make a fitness resolution that you can keep all year long, and that you can simply continue to follow come next January.
With that in mind, here are five smart ways to make a resolution you can keep, from Canadian fitness experts:
1. Do something you enjoy and will want to keep doing
“You won't continue with something you don't like,” writes workplace wellness specialist Jordan Cieciwa in the Huffington Post. “You need to move and be active; that does not mean boot camps and gyms. It may not even be yoga or Pilates. Your thing is going to be your thing.”
2. Aim for the right goal
“Your health or ideal body image shouldn't be based on a number,” says Cieciwa. “The number on the scale is the afterthought. Get healthy, then look at the number. Once you are healthy, stay at that weight. Don't shoot for a number on the scale.”
3. Take small steps to reach your goals
“Break down your larger goal into manageable weekly milestones and write down how you are going to correct your course if you are not achieving your milestones,” says Erin Billowits of Vintage Fitness in Toronto. That way you won’t feel like you have to give up if you go a bit off track.
4. Find your motivation and visualize success
Focus on the benefits that sticking to your resolution will bring, says Billowits. For example, “think about an emotional, important goal that losing 10 pounds will help you do.” That could be taking part in a 5km charity walk with your colleagues at work, lowering your body mass index or getting your blood sugar level out of the pre-diabetic range and down to a healthy number.
Personal trainer Carina Wingerak of Northwest Wellness Centre in Grande Prairie, Alberta agrees. “Find your ‘why,’” she says. “Your ‘why’ is your motivation and your momentum to keep you going when life throws curveballs your way. It is not always going to be smooth sailing, but knowing your ‘why’ will help you sail through the rough seas and avoid sinking your ship.
5. Get a fitness buddy
If nobody knows what your resolution is, nobody will call you on it if you break it. “There’s nothing like being held accountable for your actions,” says Wingerak. “Hold yourself accountable to someone you trust and who will support you during this lifestyle change. This person can be a family member, friend or co-worker.”
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