For some people, walking 10,000 steps a day may be no big deal—but for the rest of us, getting active is a perfect way to kick off a 2018 fitness makeover.
As the New Year rolls in, with it comes millions of pledges to up the exercise ante. If you’re among the ranks of individuals looking to start the year with a fitness resolution, we’ve pulled together a few tips on how you can set a goal and stick with it.
1. Be SMART
Ask any health teacher how to formulate and stick to a new goal, and they’ll tell you to make it “S.M.A.R.T.” Whether your goal is to exercise, to quit a bad habit, or even to make more time in your schedule for a social life, a S.M.A.R.T. goal is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
In a recent article, The New York Times breaks down the basics for how to create a S.M.A.R.T. New Year’s Resolution: be specific by setting “concrete, clearly defined goals;” “find ways to measure your progress;” make sure that you “aim high, but within reason,” to ensure that your goal is achievable; choose something that’s relevant to your life so that “you’ll be motivated to stick with it;” and “set a reasonable timeline for your goal” so that the project is time-bound.
2. Give yourself an incentive
Making any lifestyle change can be extremely difficult, especially when it’s something as physical as hitting the gym, so don’t be shy about giving yourself a little incentive. Is there a pair of shoes that you’ve been eyeing at the store? Or experiences like a trip to the spa or camping with your best buds that you’d love? If so, use them for motivation.
By setting smaller goals within your resolution, you can break the overall experience into reasonable chunks and reward yourself when you complete them. And if you’re exercising purely for weight loss, you don’t need to make everything about the number on the scale. Don’t just focus on how many pounds you’ve lost; be proud of yourself for reaching milestones too—literally. If you just ran three miles straight for the first time since high school, you deserve a pat on the back!
3. Don’t let the scales fool you
Weighing yourself every morning is a proven way to keep your weight under control. However, even if your ultimate goal is to shed a few pounds, when you first get started with a new fitness routine, it’s possible to gain a little weight before you start losing it—so don’t let the scales scare you into backing out of your goal.
According to Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials, there are a few different culprits for weight gain at the beginning of a new exercise regimen: inflammation, increased storage of glycogen—which fuels your workouts—and even slight weight gain due to increased muscle mass. As your body becomes accustomed to your more active lifestyle, inflammation and glycogen storage will decrease—along with your body fat and weight.
4. Find a buddy
Building up the motivation to hit the gym—especially when you’re new to fitness—can be really difficult. Luckily, I live across the street from a friend who is happy to drag me to the gym in the morning—and without my gym buddy, I’m sure I wouldn’t show up nearly as often. The reason for this, according to the University of Aberdeen, is accountability and emotional support. If a friend is relying on you to pick them up and take them to the gym, you’re much less likely to back out than if you were only worrying about yourself. Additionally, having someone to cheer you on motivates you even further. According to the research, “people exercised more when their companion offered emotional support and encouragement rather than practical support like never missing a session.”
5. Don’t give up when you mess up
As soon as you slip up on your goal, it can be really tempting to quit all together. But when it comes to self-forgiveness, Tim Herrera of the New York Times urges resolution-setters to “be comfortable with the fact that you will probably have slip-ups, and just move on when it happens. Wake up the next morning and keep trying to improve.” Whether you’ve missed a day, a week, or even a month, it’s never too late to modify your goal and get back on the horse—or stationary bike.
As you set out to accomplish your New Year’s Resolution, remember to reward your victories, rebound from mistakes, and don’t be afraid to modify your goal. Slow progress, even with a few missteps, is always better than none at all.