Research suggests nearly half of the U.S. population makes a New Year’s resolution each year, but only 1 in 4 actually go on to keep it.
So how do you join those elite few that see their resolutions through? Let’s start by looking at what resolutions we’re making and determine if we’re setting ourselves up for failure before the New Year even begins.
Among the top resolutions we make are weight loss/healthy eating, exercise/getting in shape and tobaccocessation. When our resolutions are this generalized, it can make it much more difficult to focus on the end result, leaving us more inclined to dismiss our resolution altogether.
If your New Year’s resolution is to get in shape, establish or maintain an exercise routine, or lose weight, Penni Cartlidge, an advanced practice registered nurse and certified nurse practitioner, offers tips to help you stay motivated throughout the year.
Identify your barriers
For one reason or another, getting ourselves motivated to work out seems to be the biggest challenge. Identifying what barriers keep you from exercising will help you discover – and eventually avoid – specific obstacles that get in the way of a consistent exercise habit. The age-old “I’m too busy” excuse is a surefire way to fall off the wagon almost immediately. We’re all given the same 24 hours in a day, so we have to prioritize and make time for what is important to us. Given the benefits of regular physical activity, including it in your list of priorities is a no-brainer.
To avoid putting off exercise, schedule it! By scheduling exercise, you’re making it a priority. Honor that priority just as you would any other priority, such as picking up your kids from school. Would you let your kids wait for you because you decided you “just didn’t have time” to pick them up? No. Treat exercise the same way: it’s one of your priorities, so don’t skip it. If you can prepare ahead of time, you’ll be able to hurdle those obstacles and adhere to your resolution for the long run.
To pinpoint your roadblocks, complete a quick assessment endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine at myexerciseplan.com/assessment/barriers.php.
Establish your milestones
Take your resolution and divide it into measurable checkpoints throughout the year. Not only will this keep you on track, but it also will allow you to meet several smaller goals within your large goal. In addition, doing this allows you the chance to bounce back if you miss a few workouts (or eat a few pieces of cake), which can prevent some from completing their resolution.
Elevate your exercise routine to “ritual” status
Rituals are created by consistently choosing a given activity on a very regular basis. Choose a time each day or a few times each week that work for your schedule and stick to working out during those times. Just as you brush your teeth every morning and pick up the mail every night, you can make regular physical activity a ritual. Research suggests that, on average, it takes about two months to form a habit. Keep this barrier in mind as you progress and work toward establishing that ritual.
Do activities you like
Let’s be honest, walking on a treadmill isn’t the most riveting experience, nor are those tiny spin bikes the most comfortable thing to use. When you get ready to work out, choose a machine or activity you can tolerate, even – dare I say – enjoy. Look for machines with nearby televisions and try to exercise when a particular show is on that will keep your attention. Better yet, join an exercise class or two. Gym-offered classes are designed to accommodate people of all intensity levels so you don’t have to worry about falling behind. Instructors are there to keep you motivated for at least 30 minutes. Participating in activities you enjoy not only will benefit you physically, but also mentally.
Get social support
An exercise buddy can make a world of difference. You can lean on each other for support and encouragement when you feel like skipping your routine. Think of them as your motivational coach; someone who is willing to help you achieve your goals, cheer you on and hold you accountable. Not to mention, you’ll have someone to commiserate with after your workout.
Join an exercise group
Working out in a group is one way to hold yourself accountable. Aside from getting physical exercise, you’re also more likely form new friendships and, in turn, gain support from those with similar weight-loss goals. Find local exercise groups on social media. From postnatal mothers to new retirees, look for groups (formed on Facebook) that are gathering at local parks for cardio and fellowship.
The American Heart Association allows you to find or create a walking club at startwalkingnow.org. If committing to a group exercise isn’t your thing, look for a local charity walk. One-time events happen fairly frequently and typically don’t require much training to complete. Sign up for a “Couch to 5K.” Many people assume a 5K race only is for running, but walking a 5K has many benefits, as well.
Believe in yourself
Set realistic short- and long-term goals. When you meet a goal, reward yourself with a massage or a new pair of shoes. Follow up by giving yourself kudos and a pat on the back, and then set your sights on your next goal. Soon, you’ll be conquering the small goals that will add up to one awesome victory.
Have a mantra
Finally, when workouts get tough, mentally train yourself by repeating a mantra. It could be something as simple as “this too shall pass,” “breathe in, breathe out” or something more powerful, such as “I can. I will,” “I am strong” or “today I am fierce.”
If you’re taking the time to read these tips, you’re already showing a desire to reach your goals and maintain a regular physical activity program all year. By sticking to the tips and setting realistic resolutions, you’ll be on a path to overcome the barriers to exercise that have impeded progress in the past.