New year resolutions are made to be broken… if you aim for the wrong kinds of goals. Here’s your guide to making and sticking with fitness resolutions for 12 months and beyond.
Ahh, January. A new year, new goals, new commitments and – for many – a return to the shame cycle that results from setting overly ambitious or restrictive goals which can’t be stuck to or met.
We’ve all been there. If you’ve ever embarked on a strict diet, you’ll know only too well how they tend to end: with you obsessing over what you can or can’t eat and inevitably succumbing to the foods you’ve banned and feeling guilty about it. Promising to go to the gym every day after years without stepping foot into a leisure centre, or vowing to run a half marathon when you’ve not even mastered a 5k is only going to end in failure.
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So, how can we make fitness resolutions that’ll genuinely benefit our health, fitness and wellbeing – and stick to them?
Avoid making weight-based goals
Possibly the biggest game-changer when it comes to making and meeting goals is taking weight out of the equation. By putting fat loss front and centre of your health and fitness resolutions, you put yourself at risk of failure. Think about it: once that fat has been lost, then what? You go back to normal or struggle with maintaining a restrictive diet.
Instead, think about why you want to lose weight. Do you, for example, want to feel fitter and stronger? If so, why not commit to two strength sessions a week, or running 50km a month? Your body will naturally change as a by-product of your new movement commitments. If it’s nutrition that needs changing, committing to something like eating 30 plants a week is a great place to start. It’s about adding stuff into our lives to make us healthier and happier, rather than taking things away.
You don’t have to go hard or go home. The most sustainable changes are often the smallest. How about simply starting with getting your 10,000 steps every day for a whole year? That’s pretty simple but for anyone working from home who isn’t already a runner or walker, it may still require willpower to get outside in the wind and rain. Apart from the light cardio, that kind of accessible goal will also have the added benefit of moving you to find nature wherever you are.
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Test where your fitness is at now
Forget the scales, calipers and tape measures: there are loads of fitness tests that you can do to see where you are in terms of cardio health, core strength and muscular endurance.Sharon Dosanjh, PT and founder of Your True Fitness, recommends trying an AMRAP test, in which you take five exercises, set a timer for 10 minutes and complete as many rounds of the circuit as you can in that time. “They’re a fun way to build variety into your workouts while allowing you to monitor overall fitness and recovery rates.”
Another test Dosanjh likes is the 60-second bodyweight challenge. Choose any bodyweight exercise and try to complete as many reps of it as you can within 60 seconds. We recommend trying something really simple like an air squat or reverse lunge.
And test again in a month
In four weeks time, repeat these tests to see how far you’ve progressed. You could test every month or less frequently, but however often you do them, it’s a good idea to see how far you’ve come as there’s nothing more motivating than seeing progress.
Keep a log of your successes
Once you notice progress, it’s time to log it. Perhaps you use Strava to record your runs (great for seeing how you’ve improved on certain routes or how many miles you’ve clocked up) or you just write your weights in a diary. Any time you’re low on mojo, you can open up your diary or app to see how you powered through before.
Remember, it takes eight weeks to feel different
We all have moments of doubt and no fitness journey is linear. You may feel like crap by week three and it’s then that it can be tempting to throw in the towel. However, it’s important to remember that it takes two months to feel different – whether that’s more energised from eight weeks of prioritising sleep or stronger from committing to a weekly strength schedule. Gains don’t happen overnight but they will happen.
And 12 weeks to notice physical changes
It takes three months to notice physical changes, whether that’s a stronger set of biceps, better posture or more defined core. By the time you notice those changes, the feel-good endorphins that come from finding a run easier or being able to lift heavier will have already kicked in, rendering those aesthetic adaptations less important.
Try habit-stacking to hit more goals
Finally, stacking one habit onto another is a great way of squeezing the most from your day. My resolution last year was to improve my balance and ankle mobility, for example. To do that, I vowed to brush my teeth standing on one leg for a year.
Actually carving out time to balance felt unrealistic but as I had to brush my teeth two or three times a day anyway, balancing while doing it seemed like a good way of killing two birds with one stone. By the end of the year, I’d spent four minutes every day balancing and now I can do it with my eyes closed. Yours might be to drink more water; before using the loo or eating anything, you could drink a small glass of water.
For lots of support with meeting fitness goals, join the Strong Women Training Club today.
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