Whether you're aiming to lose weight, increase your fitness or even if you have a goal that’s completely unrelated, you can’t just make the decision that you’re going to change and expect it to happen overnight. You need a plan of action. To find out exactly what needs to be done to set and achieve a fitness-related New Year’s resolution, I talked with experts Jana Sanford and Shannon Fable. Sanford is the founder of CoreFitnessByJana, a certified personal trainer and Pilates instructor and an Orthopedic Exercise Specialist. Fable is a 17-year fitness veteran and the founder of SFR, a consulting firm for aspiring fitness educators,manufacturers and managers. They laid out the following 10 steps you’ll need to take if you’re reallyready to get fit in 2015.
Sanford says that general goals like ‘I’m going to lose weight’ or ‘I'm going to work
out more’ are too open ended. “Instead set goals like, ‘Im going to do at least 150 minutes of cardio per week’ or ‘I’m going to lose 10 pounds over the next four months’, and make sure there are interim milestones to gauge progress along the way,” she explains. “A single goal set far in the future is harder to get motivated for. Most of us are more likely to succeed when we get positive reinforcement during the process of achieving a larger goal.”
“With each goal, establish specific actions to achieve that goal,” Sanford says. “If your goal is losing weight by doing more cardio, list out the ways you'll achieve that each week.” Some examples she shared include scheduling two 45-minute spin classes and two 30-minute running workouts per week. In other words, be sure to set a plan in place. One that details the things you need to do each day, week and month in order to reach the ultimate desired outcome.
Once you’ve determined your overall, long-term goal and have come up with a plan of action, it’s important to set smaller short-term goals. Achieving little successes along the way will help to reinforce your aspirations in the long run. “Weekly or bi-weekly goals provide a check-in to help correct yourself if you’re off pace or off course,” says Fable. “As well as an opportunity for congratulations, which breeds confidence.”
This advice relates directly to the previous tip. Basically, when you reach a short-term milestone, give yourself a pat on the back. “Small victories celebrated over the long term lead to better retention,” says Fable. “If you can set small goals that are more along the lines of under-promising and over-delivering, and you choose goals that you have complete control over, like your number of visits to the gym or increasing weight on a chest press, you’ll string together more victories.”
According to Sanford, moving forward with your plan and sticking to what you said you would do starts here. “Put workouts on your calendar,” she said. “Block off the time like you do for meetings and other appointments. It will keep you accountable.” She also suggests scheduling workouts with friends. “It will help you stick to your plan and increase your commitment.”
Right from the start remind yourself that no matter what, there will be obstacles you’ll have to face. “We all have weeks where work, weather and life get in the way of our normal routines,” Sanford explains. “So, you didn’t have time to do that five-mile run this morning. Instead of getting thrown off track, maybe you can take a walk at lunch and do 20 minutes on the elliptical tonight instead. Be open to changing your routine and forgive yourself when life gets in the way”
“Keep a log of your workouts and physiologic progress,” says Sanford. “Tracking what you do will show the progress you're making toward your larger goal and provide motivation. In addition, monitoring gives you feedback on cause and effect.” She provides the following example: 'This week I did 120 minutes of difficult, high-intensity cardio and didn’t eat dessert and lost 1 pound, whereas last week when I did 180 minutes of leisurely biking I only lost half of a pound.'
While your resolution may be to lose weight, Fable suggests taking some of your focus away from the scale. “Focus on other physical feats that will help you [lose weight] and celebrate your milestones,” she said. “For example, do a Fit Test at the beginning of the year and aim to improve your score each week for the next month. You can only improve your score by stringing solid workouts together, and when you do that the number in the test will go up and the number on the scale will likely go down.”
“Choose your resolutions for you,” says Fable. “Is it important to you to run the marathon? Is it important to you to work out four days a week? Is it important to you to drop 10 pounds? If the goal is not something that you find significant joy in trying to achieve or if it’s not something that you can attach great value or substantial reward to, it’s very easy to trade the short term benefit of not doing what it will take for the long term benefit of what might happen if you achieve your goal.” Fable admits that this may be a tough concept to understand, but she explained that an important key to sticking to your goals involves understanding the benefit versus the risk. “If 20 pounds seems far away and you’ve only loosely attached things like feeling better, moving better or feeling happier to the goal, the brownie sitting in front of you will likely win the contest,” she said.