How to make resolutions you’ll stick to this year

The top two new year’s resolutions must surely be to get fit and lose weight. I’ll also bet that the same people making these resolutions made the same last year, the year before that and probably many preceding that too.

So why do we make the same resolutions year after year and fail to stick to them?

Quite possibly because they’re unrealistic, unmeasurable and way too vague. So, how can we change our expectations to achieve our ultimate, longer term goal?

1. Be specific
What does ‘get fit’ mean? For one person it could be running a marathon, for another, simply running up the stairs without getting out of breath. By setting yourself a specific goal, you will have in your head from the very beginning exactly what you are aiming for.

If you want to lose weight, how much? Also, think about whether it is scales weight you’re interested in or the size and shape of your body. If you are trying to lose weight, you’ll need to be doing some kind of activity, preferably one which includes resistance training (to read why resistance training is so important for dropping inches, read my previous post). The chances are, by doing this, you’ll increase your muscle mass (which is a good thing). However, as muscle weighs more than fat, focusing on weight can be misleading. It’s better instead to focus on fat loss and set a size-related goal such as to get into a certain item of clothing you have lurking in the back of your wardrobe or to get down to a smaller clothes size.

2. Make it measurable
If you can’t measure your goal, how will you know when you’ve reached it? Fitness can be measured by miles run, lengths swimmed, distance walked, the list is endless. If your goal is more of a ‘feel better’ type one rather than a physical achievement, use a RPE (rate of percieved exertion) scale to measure how you feel when undertaking a certain activity (i.e. 1=Not out of breath/very easy up to 5 or 10=Max. effort/extremely hard to sustain). Rate your exertion now doing the activity then set yourself a goal of where you would like to be.

3. Make sure it’s achieveable and realistic
If you’ve never exercised before and are riddled with injury, you ain’t gonna do an ironman in the summer. If you’re a size 22, don’t expect to be in a size 8 bikini on your holiday. Don’t set unrealistic targets. You won’t reach them and you’ll run the risk of doing yourself damage in the process.

4. Make it time-specific
An important point here is that, as well as deciding exactly when you want to reach your target by, it’s just as important to break your big resolution into smaller, easier to achieve goals. This is probably the most important thing to do to avoid your resolution falling by the wayside.

Not only will this give you a regular boost as you make these small achievements, it’ll help you stick to your ultimate long term aim. One of my aims this year is to run a half marathon in March. Rather than thinking ‘eek! I’ve got to run 13 miles in 8 weeks time’ (although I will admit the thought does creep into my head sometimes after a particularly bad run) I’m breaking it down to running an extra mile during 2 of my runs each week. For me that’s an extra 20 minutes running a week. Suddenly it doen’t seem so bad.

Also, bear in mind the 6-week phase. The first 2 weeks, we are motivated and excited about our new activity. During weeks 3-5 we start to get bored and by week 6 we plateau, becoming tired and demotivated. If you set yourself 6-weekly goals, by achieving your target you’ll get a boost to start afresh with a new target for the next phase.

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