In theory, a New Year’s resolution is a great idea. January is as good a time as any to reevaluate and prioritize and make changes.
In practice, many ambitious fitness goals made on Jan 1. dissolve into self-defeating thinking and disappointment. But that doesn’t mean that all New Year’s resolution (or, really, resolving to make changes at point in time throughout the year) need to end in frustration and failure. The trick is
making the right one.
Before you can even get that far, says Jessica Matthews, senior health and fitness expert for the American Council on Exercise and assistant professor of health and exercise science at Miramar College in San Diego, Calif., you need to take a long, hard look at where you currently stand on the fitness spectrum.
“Honestly acknowledge where you are currently in terms of your health and fitness level,” she tells HuffPost in an email. “While that spirit behind setting a New Year’s resolution is to make positive change to one’s health and fitness, so often people establish goals without being realistic about where they are starting from. Even if perhaps your current level of fitness is not where you want it to be, being honest with yourself about where you are presently and using that information as a baseline from which to work will help you to establish realistic, attainable goals for the new year.”
We asked a handful of fitness experts to share some ideas for realistic resolutions that will make a difference without feeling like a total overhaul. Here are a few of our favorite responses.
“A very manageable fitness resolution that most people can stick to is holding a plank every morning, first thing out of bed. If you can spend one minute brushing your teeth, you can definitely find one minute to hold a plank. Planks are truly one of the best exercises I know of: They work your core and your entire body. Start with 30 seconds and build up to one minute. By doing this first thing in the a.m., you remind yourself to stay active all day.”—Kristin McGee, celebrity yoga and Pilates instructor
“Set a SMART goal — specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. For instance, ‘I would like to take three CrossFit classes a week for 60 days.’ If at the end of that 60 days, you achieved your goal, reward yourself with something worthwhile, such as a vacation or massage. Just as you set your resolution in the beginning of the year, also plan your reward. That way, when you’re on week five and you want to throw in the towel, you can remember that sweet reward that is oh-so-close!”—Collette Stohler, fitness expert, author of The Intuitive Athlete and HuffPost blogger
“Shift [your] mindset from the very common ‘all or nothing’ mentality. For many people, the start of the new year entails going from zero to 60, so to speak, almost overnight … If you are currently not exercising or are exercising very sporadically, it’s not very realistic to expect that you’ll overnight commit to exercising for one or two hours per day, six days per week. Often when individuals establish these ‘all or nothing’ [goals], if they are not able to stick with the unrealistic expectations, they end up doing nothing at all.”
“Setting a performance goal may help you stay more motivated compared to a weight-loss goal. For example, a goal of 10 pull-ups, or touching your toes, can create a healthy shift from focusing purely on aesthetics to performance. Keep in mind that in order for your body to move fluidly and efficiently, your joints need sufficient range of motion, which is why flexibility is so important. As the body performs better, the aesthetics typically follow. Think of a performance goal that really motivates you, and a goal that you can enjoy the process as you strive for it.”—Marc Perry, CSCS, ACE-CPT, CEO of BuiltLean
“I’m actually a big fan of journaling. I wake up every morning, roll over in bed and open the journal I use. I read one inspiring quote for the day, then give three answers to the question, ‘What would make today great?’ Finally, I write my daily affirmation, which for me right now is ‘I am inspiring, a joy to be around and a patient teacher.’ Later, in the evening, I re-open the journal and answer the questions ‘What three amazing things happened today?’ and “How could you have made today better?’
It may sound silly, but this morning practice has kept me laser-focused on my goals and on what I want to accomplish each day. My only regret is not beginning a daily journaling practice earlier in life!”—Ben Greenfield, fitness and triathlon expert, Get-Fit Guy podcast host
“Working out with a friend allows for a little friendly competition and increased accountability. Choose goals together and get to work! It’s always a little easier when you know someone is rooting for up and waiting for you at the gym.”
“[One of] the most common New Year’s resolutions is weight loss or fat or body weight composition changes. It helps if people determine a very specific amount of weight that they want to lose. Weight is easy to measure, as it requires a scale. The weight loss goal should be realistic. Too often people have unrealistic expectations for how much weight it is that they want to lose. Finally, you need to give yourself a very specific time table in which you want to accomplish this goal.
From a physiology standpoint, there are a lot of factors that go into actually changing your body weight. We are not as simple as cars with a gas in/miles out function. People can get hung up on reducing calories by a very specific amount and not get the predicted weight-loss outcomes that they want. I encourage people to create goals that they can definitely accomplish, like: ‘Today I will go to the gym and I’ll try hard to do exercises appropriately and with effort’ or ‘The next meal I eat will be made up from healthy food choices and the portions will be appropriate.’ [Those are steps] toward reaching a goal of losing 5 pounds in 30 days. We have to be very clear about factors that we can control and factors that we can’t control.”
—Pat Davidson, Ph.D., former exercise science professor, director of training methodology at Peak Performance in New York City
“Move how it feels good for you to move every day. Don’t stress about it being an hour workout, but keep consistent. Five to 10 minutes of morning practice can set you up for feeling great so you make great choices all day long that [help you] continue cultivating a radiant you.”
“Many people can get easily discouraged and give up when there’s too much emphasis on weight loss. Focus on the joys of exercise and movement instead. Take pride in your body getting stronger. Think about the boost in energy you get after a workout. Do set goals, but make them about making fitness fun: Commit to joining a class three days a week or to signing up for a race. Just find something
you consider fun!”—Chris Freytag, fitness expert, author of
Get Started with Weight Loss and HuffPost blogger