It’s almost that time of year again when we all make big, audacious New Year's fitness resolutions. Whether our goal is to run a marathon for the first time, join a new gym and stay consistent with workouts, or start a daily stretching routine, we can all benefit from bettering ourselves and taking care of our bodies.
However, all the research shows that almost all of us will fall short in staying true to these goals in the new year. Various reports from CNN and the New York Times show that nearly 80% of people abandon their fitness goals by February, and then only about 9% of people make it through the end of the year.
So...what gives? Why is it so hard for us to form new habits and stick to goals that we were originally very passionate about? I’m going to share with you some easy strategies and tips to help make sticking to your goals more attainable and fun.
Tips to Help You Stick To Your Goals
1. Use SMART Goals
Most of us have heard of the term SMART goals when it comes to business and marketing professions. But we can also use them to make our fitness goals more attainable! SMART stands for :
The two most important factors that I want you to focus on are “achievable" and "realistic." I have worked as a personal trainer and physical therapist now for over 10 years, and the number one reason I see people fail to meet their fitness goals is that they are not realistic with themselves. It is very difficult to make it to the gym or go for a run 5 days per week; life gets hectic and it can be hard to stay consistent. If we were to revise this goal to instead shoot for only 3 days per week, now all of the sudden this becomes much easier and more realistic to maintain.
2. Build Habits
This tip blends directly into what we just reviewed above. On average, it takes a person about 2 months of performing a new behavior for that act to become automatic (i.e. a habit). If we set far too lofty and unrealistic goals for ourselves, more often than not we tend to “give up” after a few weeks, and these life changes do not become automatic. I often tell my patients who are struggling with consistency, to pick only 2-3 of their home exercises to do daily. If they are able to string a few successful weeks together, all of a sudden these quick but effective stretches have become part of their subconscious lifestyle. Prove to yourself first that you can achieve a few short-term SMART goals first, build a few habits, and then you can scaffold and build up to loftier pursuits from there!
3. Find a Workout Buddy
One of the easiest ways to build some accountability and consistency for yourself in the new year is to find a workout buddy or join a fitness-oriented group. Exercise is contagious, in a good way. People who work out with a partner or are part of a running group, for example, tend to have more consistent schedules, will work out for longer each session, and push themselves harder than they would normally solo. The more active people around you are, the more likely you will become active.
4. Have Fun
It may sound cheesy, but picking an activity that you actually enjoy and have fun doing will greatly increase your chances of sticking to your fitness goals. I often have patients who tell me they’ve stopped trying to do cardio simply because they “hate running." Not everyone has to enjoy running! There are so many other forms of cardiovascular activities to try such as cycling, swimming, hiking, Zumba, circuit training, martial arts, soccer, pickleball, etc. Make sure to choose an activity that you genuinely enjoy, with the goal of reaching the 120-150 minutes of moderate exercise each week that the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends.
Have any Aches or Pains While Exercising?
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Chris Cheek, PT, DPT, CSCS, is a physical therapist who received his Doctorate of Physical Therapy at the University of Florida. Chris is also well-versed in programming for high-level athletics and sport as he obtained his Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) certification through the NSCA.