Every January, many of us make a personal promise to be a fitter, stronger person in the coming year. We love the idea of a renewed start, giving thought to the new person we will be by December. But the reality for many of us is that the New Year’s resolutions we set ourselves are often too unrealistic. They are goals that we just do not stick to, and it sets us up for failure after putting a lot of pressure on ourselves.My approach is to create a fitness routine destined for success that will be relevant year-round. How can this be done? By breaking down why it is that our ideas never get off the ground, and really asking the questions about what fitness means. When consulting my clients, it is important to understand what makes them tick and how to get their mindset in that fitness-friendly zone.The following points are an effective way of getting to that positive place where you can create fitness goals taking you across the year and into the rest of your life.
1: Resolutions vs goals
Resolutions are intentions with no measurable outcome/goal in mind. “I will get in shape” is a common example of this. Resolutions also focus on the outcome without a solid plan: “I will be in shape” … but how? On the flipside, goals are created with an outcome and implementing a plan.
2: The meaning of goals
When creating your goals, figure out WHY you want to change. What will it help you achieve, how will it make you feel, and what will this goal allow you to do once you have achieved it? Why is it important for you? How will it impact your mental/physical wellbeing? Goals should have meaning and importance behind them to strengthen your chances of achieving them.
3: Create SMART goals
The SMART goals method applies to any goal setting, not just in the health world. It is the most effective way of breaking down why you want to pursue a goal, and how you will do it.
- Specific – focus on who, what, where, when, why and how. Goal: “I want to be stronger.”How: “I will attend the gym 3x/week in the mornings to increase my aerobic capacity.”
- Measurable – decide how you will know if you have reached your goal. This can be by measuring time or quantity.Example: “I will know I’ve reached my goal when I can jog for 10 minutes without being out of breath.”
- Attainable – this is often where goals are unrealistic. After deciding on your goal, utilise a confidence scale to evaluate how realistic your goal is (0 lowest confidence, 10 highest).
- Relevant – is this goal relevant to you? Consider the WHY behind your goal.Example: “Yes this goal is relevant to me, as I want to be able to play and spend time with my children.”
- Timely – consider when you want to achieve this goal – is it in 3 months or 5-6 months? You are allowed to take it slow!
4: Know your potential pitfalls
A good idea is to have a contingency plan in place – knowing what your barriers are and having strategies to overcome them will not only help achieve your goals, but also builds general resilience skills. If you have time restrictions, make your exercise sessions shorter. A lack of motivation might change if you join a class or work out with a friend.
Facilitators can also help – any physiological/psychological/socioeconomic conditions which positively affect an individual’s engagement with physical activity (Glowacki et. al 2017). For example, “I have more time in the morning” means you should plan exercise in the morning.
5: Avoid being too critical of yourself
Goal setting is about long-term behaviour change. It is perfectly OK if you do not achieve your goal at the set time or could not fit in as much exercise as you hoped. Goals can undergo re-evaluation and should be flexible in creating long-term, sustainable behaviour change.
Your fitness promises can come to life by following these simple steps. By following this guide, you will be on your way to making this year your best year yet. We can provide support in establishing your health and wellness goals. If you have questions or would like more support with your health and wellness goals, get in touch with the exercise physiologists at AHS.
Reference: Glowacki, K, Duncan, MJ, Gainforth, H, Faulkner, G 2017 ‘Barriers and facilitators to physical activity and exercise among adults with depression: A scoping review’, Mental Health and Physical Activity, vol. 13, pp. 108 – 119.