Chances are you, along with millions of other Americans, have grand plans for 2018: Lose weight, get fit, eat healthy, get adequate rest.
But unless you’ve planned and prepped carefully, you are about as likely to have success with these goals in the new year as you would be trying to bake a baguette without flour, water, salt and a working oven.
“You have to prepare properly. You have to have the right ingredients in place,” says Devin Maier, managing director of Balance Gym in the District.
So, seize today. If you plan to start being a healthier you in two weeks, start making sure now that you are positioned to reach your goals, Maier says. We asked him, along with two other local fitness and health experts, to share ideas on how to use these last days of 2017 to best prepare for fitness success in 2018.
Tip #1: Set the right goal.
If your goal is to “get healthy” in general, you need to start by defining your goal more narrowly to figure out exactly what actions you need to take, says Rebecca Scritchfield, a dietitian and life coach.
“It’s all about healthy habits, and people often have a hard time creating and sustaining healthy habits if the goal is too vague and too broad,” she says.
In other words, ask yourself: Does healthy mean weight loss? Sleeping more? Exercising more? Eating healthier?
Start with one narrow and specific goal, she says, and then later — maybe a couple of months down the road — you can branch out.
An easy way to set a goal is by using the S.M.A.R.T. goal criteria.
S= Specific: A specific goal will lead you to the right path of success. Ask yourself the “W” questions… i.e.: who, what, where, when, why. This will help you have a better understanding of where you want to be.
M= Measurable: How will you measure your progress towards this goal? Keep it simple and make it easy to follow. Be sure to ask yourself “How will I know that I have accomplished this goal?”
A= Attainable: When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them. You begin seeing previously overlooked opportunities to bring yourself
closer to the achievement of your goals. You can attain most any goal you set when you plan your steps wisely and establish a time frame that allows you to carry out those steps.
R= Realistic: Your goal must be an action that you are willing to take. If you are not willing, you will not succeed. Find a goal that is easy enough to achieve so that you will stay motivated as time goes on. Remember, you can always set a new goal after accomplishing the old one.
T= Timely: A goal should be grounded within a time frame. With no time frame tied to it there’s no sense of urgency. If you want to lose 10 lbs, when do you want to lose it by? “Someday” won’t work. But if you anchor it within a timeframe, “by May 1st”, then you’ve set your unconscious mind into motion to begin working on the goal.
Tip #2: Make time.
One very important action is to make time for exercise or eating healthy or whatever your goal might be, Maier says.
“Ask yourself, when can I fit this in? And then mark your calendar. Make it an appointment,” he says.
Find a time that works best for YOU! Some individuals prefer exercising in the morning, others during lunch, and the rest may enjoy a sweat session after a hard day of work. If you aren’t currently a morning person, exercise will probably not change that for you.
Fitness and wellness specialists who work in corporate settings have seen the time it takes for an office professional to make healthy changes in their lifestyle. They see a lot of people adjust their schedule for physical activity. Many individuals block off time on their calendars and post class schedules in their office. It’s all about adding it to your current routine. Once a healthy behavior becomes a part of your daily regimen, you will feel as though you need to stay consistent while working towards the path to success.
Tip #3: Give yourself motivation.
For a new habit to stick, you need to feel motivated, Scritchfield says.
This is a very individual thing. For some people, it helps to track their progress with fitness trackers; for others, it’s the community; some might be content with “I just feel better.”
Monitor your progress in ways that help you, as an individual, succeed. This could mean that you enjoy treating yourself extrinsically with your favorite cup of Starbucks on a Friday, or intrinsically by enjoying the feeling long shower after an intense gym session at the end of your day.
Tip #4: Always have a plan B.
Don’t wait until you stumble. Figure out your recovery plan now. What happens if your schedule gets in the way of home-cooked meals? How will you address missed workouts? What if your two-times-a-week limit for alcohol turns into four?
Don’t let a slip-up become an excuse for veering off your healthy path, says Scritchfield. Instead, maybe you can find a way to order in healthful food or make sure to reschedule a missed workout as soon as possible.
But a Plan B should also include self-compassion.
“Don’t get stuck in negative thinking or the compare-and-despair trap,” she says, referring to the tendency many people have to compare themselves with the “best and most fit” person at the gym. “Remember that it’s feelings of hope and confidence that make people change.”
Sources: The Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/5-things-to-do-now-for-new-years-resolution-success/2017/12/11/6293c480-da0b-11e7-a841-2066faf731ef_story.html?utm_term=.4c370daf6f5e Top Achievement, http://topachievement.com/smart.html