Chances are your New Year’s resolutions are going to fail. That is not my pessimistic outlook on 2017 but rather fact. Greater than 70% of New Year’s resolutions are broken, modified or forgotten by February 1st. In the health and fitness industry, we love broken resolutions. It is good for business. Our offices are busy with those who gave up on hard work in favour of finding a passive alternative or think a silver bullet exists. There are also those who really did give it a try, only to wind up on my table because they went into something they did not prepare for, plan for or take in small steps. No matter how many times I say you can’t run a marathon without training, someone always tries.
If I had entered the healthcare game solely to pad my wallet, I would be a happy, albeit, delusional, New Year’s camper. However, the real reason I do my job is because I love helping people find their way to optimal health and performance success. I don’t make resolutions myself, because through experience I know that those goals are only met by hard work, persistence and a consistent dose of self love. That being said, if your resolutions are more of the fresh start, clean slate variety, here are my tips for making them stick.
Use SMART goals
Back in physiotherapy school the concept of smart goals with drilled into our curriculum with every patient case. Something must have sunk in because to this day I set SMART goals for both my patients, myself and my business. They have proven to be the most effective way of goal setting and make you think enough about your future to discern whether or not the goal is something in your power to accomplish. If your New Year’s resolution is to improve your physical fitness, a SMART goal would be:
S: Specific – “I intend to become more physically fit by going to the gym for a 50 minute spin class three times a week.” Being specific gives you direction and a plan.
M: Measurable – “I will measure my success by decreasing my overall percentage of body fat by 3% as measured by calliper measurements.” If physically fit is an abstract ideal, it is easy to pass the buck when you don’t achieve the results you never defined.
A: Attainable – Here is where the research and science comes into the goal. You need to know what is reasonable for your physiology, mentality and lifestyle in order to achieve success. If there is no way your body can achieve an overly lofty goal, you are setting yourself up for failure before you start.
R: Realistic – Getting to the gym three times a week is only realistic if you can feasibly remove the barriers between your current status and your goal. If your gym is a significant commute away, or three times a week doesn’t fit your schedule you might be better to choose a home workout or a lunch time walk at your workplace to ensure success.
T: Timely – Timelines lead to action and to reasonable expectations. Your overall goal may be to lose 50 lbs however we know that reasonable and safe weight loss is about 1-2 lbs per week. Therefore you might alter your goal to lose 5 lbs in a month. Choosing a time frame that is both realistic and attainable will keep you on track as well as avoid disappointment.
Slow and steady wins the race
Time and time again the turtle and hare have proven to be true. When I talk to clients about returning to activity from injury, getting back to work or starting an exercise regime after being sedentary, we always talk about the 10% rule. Essentially any progression you make in duration, intensity, distance or difficulty should be done at a rate of approximately 10% per week. For example, if you ran for three kilometers on a first run, the next week you would not attempt to run ten, you would aim for something in the range of 3.3 – 3.5km.
You body takes time to adapt and change. On average, it takes 12 – 16 weeks to see significant body change. To expect real results any sooner is to put yourself at risk for injury by over training. To be successful you need to allow a slow progression that is safe and whereby you can continually see success.
Change is better with friends
I worked at McMaster University for the better part of my career in the Department of Athletics and recreation. The department runs a very successful cardiac rehabilitation program for clients recovering from cardiac illness lovingly named Mac Turtles and now known as Mac PACE (Physical Activity Centre of Excellence). One if it’s founding principles of success is the inclusion of a spouse or partner, healthy or otherwise, in the exercise sessions. The idea is that while you may give up on yourself, you are less likely to do so when someone else is involved. The result is that many of the members have been part of the program for decades.
Having a support system or buddy makes you more accountable to your goal. The positive reinforcement of a group can motivate, encourage and drive change more effectively than what you might accomplish alone. Lifestyle change is also easier when you surround yourself with like minded individuals who share your goals and create a culture of success. I personally do a program called Tribe Team training with a group of kick ass ladies three times a week who have dragged me through some pretty tough workouts on days when I would have preferred to stay in my sweatpants drinking a latte.
Let yourself slip a little
We are human. To expect ourselves to be otherwise is lunacy. I spent a lot of my life holding myself to impossibly high and unrealistic standards. The results were always impressive but never something that could be maintained. I have been a size ten and a size zero. In both cases I probably wasn’t truly happy.
Since having my daughter I have become kinder to myself, softer and less self punishing. I am also still ambitious, driven and a perfectionist but I don’t freak out when a perfect training schedule or gluten-free, grass-fed, organic diet is breached. Someone else is watching me now and I want her to be both comfortable and confident in her own skin. I also want to enjoy my hard work. I will eat a slice of pizza and piece of cake without guilt. Some might call it balance. I don’t believe in balance so much as a I do in self love and being good to yourself. Really what goal or resolution is worth it without those things?
You can get back up on your horse without giving up or failing. This is a long ride and my goals that have been most successful are the ones I’ve had my eye and thumb on for a long time.
Good luck my friends. May 2017 be good to you.