Almost half of Americans make New Year’s resolutions each year but less than 10 percent keep them, since good intentions alone don’t translate into success, and those who resolve to do better often fall short of objectives. If your plan is to get back to the gym, be strategic to increase your chance of success.
Be Tangible and Specific
While the end goal may be improved fitness, the numerous options available can leave you unsure of where to start. Rather than planning general gym time, choose a particular activity and time frame, such as treadmill use three times per week. Add this activity to your schedule and mark it on your calendar, or hang an exercise chart on your wall to remind yourself. Turn your vague goals into specific, achievable tasks.
Change One Behavior at a Time
Sticking to a big resolution can be taxing, so simplify by breaking down your goal into a series of smaller tasks and tackling each one individually. Larger goals attempted all at once are daunting and often abandoned. Try just treadmill running for a few weeks until you establish a routine, and then add strength training.
Notice Your Progress
Progress makes effort directly relevant and is highly motivating, so to track your improvement, create a record of your starting fitness level and note items such as measurements, weight, endurance, and strength. Include details about the general state of your wellness, like whether you can run up a flight of stairs without becoming winded. Reassess and record your progress on a regular basis; even if your leg strength isn’t increasing the way you envisioned, you’ll still be bolstered by the fact you’ve doubled your plank time.
Allow for Imperfection
Avoid giving up when life disrupts your routine: it takes just six weeks for as many as half of participants to abandon fitness goals. A 2010 study from the UK found that habit forming took on average 66 days, so make fitness one of your habits by resuming exercise after illness, a hectic work week or vacation time. Squeeze in a half-workout on busy days, rather than skipping it altogether, and forgive yourself for the low energy days when you can’t make your usual rep count. Fitness doesn’t have to follow your plan precisely, but it does need to happen to reach your health goals.
If fitness was easy, physical inactivity would not be a global health crisis that causes over 5 million premature deaths every year worldwide. Remember this as you struggle with your resolve: exercise does make a difference and will improve the quality of your life.