The new year is getting nearer, which for many people means festive parties and time with loved ones. For some, it also means committing to New Year’s resolutions.
In 2018, the two most popular resolutions were to eat healthier and to exercise more. In January, people pulled on their sneakers and bought a new gym membership, determined that this year will be the one where they reached their goals.
But changing your lifestyle isn’t easy, and most people give up before achieving their resolutions. This coming year, it’s possible to stay motivated to get fit and stay fit — try implementing these simple tips to stick to your fitness resolution year-round.
1. Set SMART Goals
The first mistake people make is setting the wrong goals. Getting fit is a fantastic objective, but if you want to lose 30 pounds in one month, you are setting yourself up for failure. When you’re creating your New Year’s fitness resolutions, keep them SMART — specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.
S — Specific
Like we said above, getting fit is a wonderful goal. Most of us want to shed a few extra pounds. But “getting healthy” is a vague goal with endless interpretations — if you leave your resolution as just “get healthy,” it will be hard to focus your efforts or summon enough motivation.
Instead of setting your goal as “lose weight” or “get in shape,” make them more specific. Think of your overall goal — do you want to look thinner, or increase your strength or endurance? Once you know your particular overall goal, you can begin narrowing it down.
Start with something small and specific, like going down a couple of pant sizes or running three miles without stopping. A resolution to “run three miles” is much more specific than “get in shape,” and it gives you clear steps to success — you know that you can begin by running one mile three to four days a week and slowly increase your mileage.
M — Measurable
An unmeasurable goal is no help to anyone.
A measurable goal is just as important as a specific one. If you want to become a better runner, your resolution might be to run faster and longer. This seems like a specific goal, but ultimately, it isn’t quantifiable.
Instead, rearrange your goal so that it is something measurable. A better resolution would be to run for 5 miles at a nine-minute pace. Once you can attach some measurement to your goal, such as a time, weight or number, you know you’re on the right track.
A — Attainable
The drive behind your New Year’s fitness resolution may be to lose weight, get stronger or just feel more confident in your skin. These are all excellent objectives, but be careful that your motivation is an attainable goal.
If you want to lose weight, you might set a goal of losing 50 pounds in two months. This goal is specific and measurable, but probably unattainable — such an extreme goal will most likely damage your body and metabolism and set you up for long-term failure.
Another danger of unattainable goals is discouragement. For example, most of us would love to look like a fitness model. Who wouldn’t want the slim figure of a celebrity or the fierce performance of an international bodybuilder? But for the vast majority of the population, these extreme results and physiques aren’t attainable — most of us can’t afford to measure every meal or spend countless hours training every week. We want lives beyond the gym, and our fitness probably isn’t our career.
If your goal is rapid weight loss or the body of a fitness model, you are setting yourself up for disappointment and discouragement. When you don’t reach your unattainable goals, you might overlook the progress you’ve actually made — going down a few pant sizes or increasing your cardiovascular endurance. You might be tempted to give up altogether.
Instead, try to keep your fitness goals realistic. Start with wanting to lose 10 to 15 pounds in two months or increasing your squat by 20 pounds. Not only are these goals attainable, but they are also specific and measurable, setting you up for long-term success, encouragement and contentment.
R — Relevant
Once you’ve made your goal specific, measurable and attainable, take a step back and ask yourself why you’re committing to it.
What is your deeper motivation? If you feel like you should lose weight but can’t articulate why, you most likely won’t be able to sustain motivation. To increase your chances at success, think about why you want to improve your fitness.
Maybe you are tired of running out of steam in the middle of the afternoon. If so, you might be pursuing fitness to have more energy during everyday activities — a better goal might not be just weight loss, but increased cardiovascular endurance.
Once you can pinpoint why your goal matters, you know that you’re creating a resolution you care about and can keep.
T — Timely
To help yourself stick to your goal, set a deadline and make it strict.
If your deadline is too far in the future, you will lose motivation to begin immediately. For example, if you want to lose 10 pounds, avoid setting a year as your deadline — most likely, you will put off making any real shifts in your diet or exercise routine until the last few months of the year.
Alternately, it’s important not to commit to a deadline you can’t keep — if you dream of running a marathon but you’ve never been a runner, signing up for a big race in February isn’t realistic. Instead, try registering for a 5k race in a couple of months. The deadline will be close enough to keep your goals timely, without being so close that it’s unrealistic.
2. Track Your Progress
To keep yourself accountable and on track, log your progress. It’s easy to slowly give up on a goal if you aren’t keeping tabs on your performance. Additionally, if you don’t keep up with your progress, you might not notice subtle improvements along the way.
One of the best and easiest ways to keep track of your progress is to take pictures.
At first, progress photos might feel embarrassing or even painful. If you don’t like the way you look, having visual evidence can be discouraging. But you don’t have to share these selfies — keep them in a separate file on your computer or phone, and take them regularly. Determine how often you want to take pictures, like a three or four-week interval.
After the first couple of months of your new routine, you might not notice any real changes. You could easily get discouraged, wondering why you’re putting in all this effort if you’re not seeing results. But if you compare this week’s selfie to the first one, you could notice changes. Your stomach could look flatter, or your arms could have more definition.
On your fitness journey, results will come slowly and steadily. It’s easy not to notice gradual changes. By taking regular selfies, you give yourself a visual way to track your progress, and you can keep yourself motivated and encouraged by looking at how far you’ve come.
Another way to track your progress is to work towards mini-goals.
If you want to lose some weight and slim down your physique, make a list of little “steps” along the way. For example, one mini-goal could be going down one pant size. Once you have to buy a new pair of pants, cross the goal off your list — you’re making visible progress. This is also a great way to keep your overall resolution attainable. Once you have created a SMART resolution, begin breaking it down into smaller steps.
Mini-goals are extremely specific — for example, going to the gym four times a week for at least 40 minutes each session. Besides keeping track of your progress, mini-goals are also perfect opportunity to include incentives in your resolution. Every time you meet one of your small steps, give yourself some reward. Since your goal is fitness-oriented, be careful not to let yourself have “rewards” that sabotage your progress, like extravagant meals or a week out of the gym.
3. Accountability Partner or Group
While selfies and mini-goals are a way to keep yourself accountable, nothing matches the power of an accountability partner or group.
The psychological reasoning is simple — according to the Hawthorne Effect, humans are much more likely to perform well when we know we’re being observed. Consider the effect of competition on performance — in one study, cyclists were asked to complete two trial runs down the same track. In one, they raced alone. In the other, they competed against a virtual opponent.
Unsurprisingly, the cyclists raced faster when competing. When we are competing or being observed, we can push ourselves harder and longer. Accountability partners — whether as a group class or a workout buddy — know your goals and ask about your progress. They help keep you motivated, dedicated and constantly pushing for your best performance, which is hard to achieve on our own.
One way to find an accountability group is to join a group fitness class.
Half the battle of getting fit is actually going to the gym. Group classes increase the chance that you’ll stick to a new fitness routine. Many fitness classes require you to sign up ahead of time, which means there is less of a chance you’ll decide not to go at the last minute. When you commit to a program and sign up for a class, it’s harder to skip days or drop off after week two.
If you have other goals attached to your fitness resolution, such as waking up earlier, a group class can help you stay committed to an overall healthier lifestyle — if you sign up for an early morning class, you will force yourself to start waking up earlier each morning.
A group setting is also helpful if you’re just beginning your fitness journey. In a group setting, an instructor is telling you what to do and when to switch to the next exercise or circuit. This allows you to focus fully on your performance without worrying about what’s coming next. A group class also creates a sense of competition — you are more likely to perform your best when surrounded by other people who are doing the same thing.
If you don’t like the idea of a group fitness class, consider finding a workout friend to keep you on track and accountable.
When you start to work out with a friend, you invite another person into your routine. Share your resolution with them, so they can touch base with you regularly to see how you’re progressing. A workout buddy adds another layer of commitment to your resolution — if you commit to going to the gym with them at a certain time during the day, you’re less likely to back out at the last minute.
During a workout, a partner can encourage you to push yourself to your limits. A good workout friend will encourage you to stay consistent, and can also make your exercise sessions more fun and enjoyable.
Workout partners also help you overcome gym intimidation. Especially if you feel out of shape, going to a gym can be daunting. Having a friend to work out with helps make a new gym a safe space for you to begin your fitness journey.
4. Switch It Up
Our bodies get used to routine.
Few things are as frustrating as hitting the dreaded fitness plateau, the stage of training where progress seems to stop. The cause of a plateau is simple — if you have been doing the same exercises and the same routines, your body has adapted to the demands. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to avoid plateaus in your fitness journey — switch up your routine and include the occasional extreme workout.
Don’t Always Do the Same Thing
One of the easiest ways to keep your progress consistent is to switch up your routine.
If you follow a rigid workout regimen, your body can adjust to the demands you’re placing on it. Once you’ve adapted, progress will drop off. Every two to five weeks, swap out your regular exercise routine with a new circuit or training method. New movements and exercises push your muscles in new ways, leading to new results.
Depending on your favorite style of training, “switching it up” will look different for everyone. If you prefer to lift weights for the majority of your gym sessions, try changing up your reps, sets, weight or the type of exercise you’re doing. If cardio is more your style, try changing the intensity — if you love biking, try incorporating more interval-training into your weekly routine for a change of pace.
Periodically changing your exercise routine can also help you avoid gym boredom. If you do the same thing every day, you’re likely to get tired and unmotivated. By including a little variety in your routine, you can keep yourself enjoying fitness for the long-term.
Try an Extreme Workout Every Once in a While
If you love your current version of training, you don’t have to change everything to continue seeing results.
Instead, throw in one or two extreme workouts into your weekly routine. The sudden change will shock your body, keeping progress consistent and forcing you to grow and improve.
An extreme workout is also a great way to try new styles of training. If you love lifting but have never tried high-intensity interval training, signing up for a class workout every couple of weeks could push you to your limit and improve your overall performance.
Incorporating a few extreme workouts into your routine allows you to stick with your favorite style of training for the majority of the week and still see consistent results.
Try Roark Gyms
Are you ready to keep your New Year’s fitness resolution? At Roark Gyms, we provide an integrated workout method combining interval, strength and high-intensity training. With intense, full-body workouts designed to increase your fitness and streamline your physique, we are committed to helping you reach your goals.