As I sit down to write this, I’m smiling knowing that I need support in this area perhaps more than any of my readers! Every year, December is a month of gradually advancing gluttony that crescendos around the 25th with a full-blown sugar- and wine-fest. This is invariably followed by passionate resolve to make the next year all about getting fit and back into shape. Sound familiar?
Perhaps even more relatable is what ensues several weeks into January: a gradual unraveling of good intentions that bottoms out by February and gives way to the sluggish winter blues. Time Magazine lists “lose weight and get fit” as the number one most frequently broken New Year’s resolution. Why is it so hard to, as Nike says, “Just do it!”?
After performing some research, speaking to my favorite life coach (thanks Angie Wagner!), and doing some good old introspection, I’d like to offer you seven ways to stay the fitness path in 2017:
1) Examine your goals: Are they measurable, well-defined, and realistic?
Telling yourself that this is the year you’re going to “get fit” is definitely not enough to produce and sustain action. Think about what you’re doing this for and identify specific milestones you’d like to meet along the way. Are you attempting to lose weight? How much, and by when? Is your goal to get your blood pressure down? Define your numbers and make sure, by consulting with a health professional, that you’ve chosen a realistic goal and time frame. Would you love to increase your upper body strength? Work with a trainer to establish your baseline and create achievable monthly goals. Is increased flexibility number one on your list? Set a goal for how many days a week you’d like to practice yoga and make sure it’s a schedule that fits your lifestyle. Dying to be a size zero, despite a broader frame and great curves? Maybe it’s time to relate your number goal to your target heart rate versus dress size.
2) Make sure you choose the right means to the end.
Your method for meeting your goals should be a good fit for you in terms of lifestyle, personality, abilities, and accessibility. If your chosen means are a mismatch on any of these, chances are good that you’ll fall off the wagon quickly. I could give numerous personal examples of how I’ve missed the mark and consequently failed to stick with it. Telling myself that I’m going to get up five mornings per week to do an hour of yoga before the kids awaken has not worked out for me! I love my sleep and find it impossible to get out of bed at 5:00 am, don’t have the energy that early to get through an hour of vigorous vinyasa yoga, and the kids usually wake up before my hour is complete. My new goal is a little less lofty, but a lot more achievable: a half hour of yoga three nights per week, after the kids go to bed. Make sure, whatever your goals are, that you choose an activity (or activities) that you enjoy, that is close to home, that other responsibilities won’t consistently interfere with, and that your are physically capable of engaging in on a regular basis.
3) Create powerful incentives.
Motivators to sustain you along the way can range from a regular schedule of rewards to powerful images that reconnect you with your purpose. I was meditating on incentives just yesterday as I struggled through the last 5 minutes of an elliptical workout (my first in a year- lol!) What better time to glean insight into what it takes to keep yourself going, right as you’re so tired (and bored—we’ll get to that below!) that you’re about to throw the towel in? Incentives are a very individual thing. Only you can know what you need to stay inspired. For me, hearing my three children running around downstairs as I was huffing and puffing through my workout yesterday was inspiration enough. I want to improve my physical fitness so that I can be healthy and vibrant for as long as possible for my children. I want to set a great example for them. Those thoughts put a little extra spring in my last few steps. I’m not going to pretend that my new swimsuit and an upcoming beach vacation aren’t also motivating! My reward to myself, if I can stick with a regular workout schedule, will be an adorable new bra and legging duo (more on this below) from LYB!
4) Identify your potential saboteurs.
My downfall when it comes to keeping resolutions is my perfectionist personality. As a high achiever, I frequently set goals that are unattainable or unsustainable. Along with that high-achieving personality also comes a tendency towards black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking. Are you the type of person who, the minute you start falling short of your goals, decides to abandon them completely? Is your life philosophy “go big or go home?” If so, I relate! This is a major one that I’m working on in 2017: the ability to “lean into” change and set more moderate goals. (For more insight and inspiration on this, see Laura’s blog this week, “__________”.) Obstacles, just like incentives, are unique to each individual. Take some time to look within and think about what it is that gets you sidetracked. Do you commit to activities you don’t really enjoy? Is your chosen activity too far from home or at a time that doesn’t really work with your schedule? Are you hanging out and sharing your goals with unsupportive people? Know your potential pitfalls and devise a strategy for meeting your goals that helps you navigate them.
5) Think outside the box.
Are you someone who needs a constant infusion of inspiration to keep going? Does having new goals and trying new things excite you? Does the thought of “working out” make you cringe? Maybe this is the year to try something completely different! This, in fact, is probably the number one strategy that keeps me committed to my fitness goals. I have to be engaged in something that is so much fun that I forget about my fitness aspirations altogether. Ballroom dancing, tae kwon do and yoga are not exercise for me, they’re hobbies that I’m passionate about. Allow yourself to play and explore and you may find yourself closer to meeting your fitness goals than you’ve ever been!
6) Establish accountability.
Think of accountability as support system we give ourselves along the path. We all need someone—even if it’s just ourselves—to share our successes and struggles with. I find that journaling helps me immensely. It’s a way for me to take accurate stock of how much I’m actually accomplishing, as well as a space for me to air my thoughts and access my inner wisdom when it comes to trouble-shooting and overcoming obstacles. I also love sharing my intentions with my husband, mom and best friend. I know that these individuals will never judge me for any setbacks, and will cheer me on and celebrate my milestones as I move forward. Keeping my circle of support small is important to me so that, should I change direction halfway through (we all reserve the right to do that!), I don’t have the psychological weight of worrying what half the world is thinking. Maybe your greatest champion comes in the form of a “fitness buddy.” It can be extremely comforting and encouraging to take on your goals in partnership with someone else. This is especially fun and effective when it comes to new activities that you’re a little bit anxious about venturing into.
7) Curate a fabulous fitness wardrobe.
Last, but certainly not least, motivate yourself with gear that adds flavor and fun to the mission! I just treated myself to a colorful new outfit from one of my favorite active wear designers, Vimmia, and let me tell you… I can’t wait to get myself to a yoga class! I’m also completely digging my new Manduka EkoLite yoga mat and am excited to start practicing on it. And, to tell you the truth, my new Free People Margot Wrap Top is the thing that has me most excited about getting up early to go to the dance studio to practice with my husband. And, if you subscribe to LYB’s “down-dog-to-date-night” approach to dressing, you’ll find that your new active wear is a great investment that will take you far beyond your workout.
As with all life advice, the best insight comes from looking within ourselves and knowing our individual tastes, values, and challenges. Take these suggestions as a starting point, and feel free to share your own lessons right here. If you discover new activities that you love, let us know about your adventure.
Here’s to a healthy 2017!