(Originally posted January 1, 2012)
Any day is a good day to make a fresh start on your fitness plan but as covention has it, the first day of the new year is typically when most of us resolve to make a new beginning…and the first day of 2012 is here! For those of us that have fallen way off the healthy diet and exercise wagon, the temptation to make drastic changes to our lifestyle is strong. Unfortunately, old habits die hard and after a few weeks, earnest resolutions often end in frustration. Before you set your New Year’s fitness resolutions, know that there is a technique to being successful. I suggest making S.M.A.R.T goals as your first step.
S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym for the 5 steps of specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based goals. It’s a simple tool used by businesses to go beyond the realm of fuzzy goal-setting into an actionable plan for results and its equally applicable to our individual fitness goals. As with business plans, our fitness plan also needs to be flexible/a work in progress and we need to evaluate it periodically—to make sure we are on track or that the plan meets our lifestyle. A woman who becomes pregnant, for instance might need to re-write parts her plan to accommodate her new needs
Specific, focused goals are more likely to happen and can jump-start other exercise goals. Rather than saying things like, “I will work out 3 times a week”, plan it out. For instance, “I will l attend spin class on Tuesdays with Amanda, lift weights for
my upper body with a trainer Thursdays, and do yoga on Sunday.” Better yet, if you are relatively sedentary, start by signing up for that first personal training session or take a walk around the block or visit to the yoga studio just to check it out ..Yes, even that is a step in the right direction.
One of the most motivating things about fitness goals is that they are easy to measure. Get naked in front of a mirror and take a good long look. Make a mental note of what you like and what you don’t. Yes, also note what you do like! Take our your measuring tape. Measure your thighs, calves, biceps, forearms, waist, hips, bust and tush. You can take out your “skinny jeans” and use these as a sign of your progress. You can also use fat calipers to measure your percentages. You can also use the scale*. Write it down, re-check these numbers once a month. Things like blood pressure and cholesterol are affected by diet and exercise. These can be
measured by your physician, consult with him/her on when a good time for a re-check would be. Keep a journal to log your daily diet and exercise –studies show it helps you reach those goals faster!
*One note about the scale as a measure, is that our body weight fluctuates regularly depending on where we are in our menstrual cycle, how much salt we consume, water we drink etc. Also, muscle is more dense than fat so there will be times early on that your weight won’t change much but your body will. Therefore, weighing yourself daily becomes somewhat irrelevant. I recommend weighing yourself on the same scale at the same time of day wearing the same outfit/none only once a week.
High and unrealistic goal sets you up for failure. If you cannot run around the block, running a marathon in a month isn’t a realistic goal! Maybe running a 5K in 6 months would be a good plan. Deciding to cut all sugar or carbohydrates is likely to set you into binge mode. Take a moderate approach to sweets – indulge in a square of dark chocolate once a week, just don’t make a meal of it and don’t feel the need to cut it out entirely. Take it one day at a time. Instead of deciding on a huge long
-term goal like losing 40 lbs in 4 months, try to set short-term goals by the month or even the day such as “lose 4 lbs. by February, or “lose a pound a week,” or “cut 250 calories per day.” When you reach your mini-goals be sure to celebrate them! Reward yourself with a new pair of leggings or a bandana for instance. Then, continue to set new small goals to help you attain that big goal at the end of your weight-loss rainbow.
This is where you ask yourself. Why do I want to lose the weight? Why do I want to be stronger? Shut out all your negative thoughts, close your eyes and really focus on why you want to get moving. Is it because you are fed up with the aches and pains you suffer because of carrying around so much extra weight? Is it because you huff and puff when climbing a set of stairs? Has your yearly doctor checkup resulted in a prescription for cholesterol medication and a scary talk? High school reunion coming and you’re embarrassed to show up in the outfits you have in your closet? Nobody but you has to see these reasons though, so go ahead and purge it on paper.
Grab a piece of paper. Decide on your overall goal and write it in a place you will see it. Then, decide on smaller goals—something you can reach in one week from the start date. It could be as simple as losing a pound or swapping out 1% milk in your coffee for the full-fat or cream you have been using, or going for a walk each morning. Set a new goal for each week without losing the progress you made the first week. Keep those and build on your success. Then set a goal for one month from your start date and a year and so on until you reach your dream.
What are your fitness goals? Why are you starting to work out this year? Feel free to share them with other readers…