Updated: Jan 7, 2022
With the coming of every new year comes the resounding chorus of a familiar phrase 'New Year, New Me!' plastered all across our social media pages. "Easier said than done", we think as we snort into our morning coffee on 1st January, contemplating the fate of our own resolutions which most likely have been set and broken umpteenth times. An entry on Urban Dictionary aptly captures the irony of this phrase as one said by "people who don't realize that change happens when you make it happen... not when time passes".
A global survey conducted by Fitness app Strava on millions of users reinforces the difficulty of carrying through on our new year resolutions. Most people give up on their resolutions within weeks of setting goals to transform into their fittest selves in the upcoming year, with Strava even designating 19 January of each year as Quitter's Day.
Sick of joining in the millions of those who fail to carry through on their resolutions? How do you avoid the pitfalls of crafting goals that set you up for failure rather than success? Here are our top 5 tips to help you make new year resolutions that you can keep!
1. Set a specific and measurable goal
Attempting to get started on a goal without a specific blueprint for success in mind can be tough. Instead of creating goals that may be too vague and obscure, such as 'Get fit in 2022', having a clear end in mind and breaking down the goal into more digestible chunks will help you come up with the steps it takes to realize your goals. A helpful way to guide your goal-setting exercise would be to create goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound (SMART). Knowing what is needed to get you to your goal allows for greater focus and clarity. For someone seeking to practice for their first race, it could mean focusing on what it takes to run a marathon in 2022. Your new year resolution could then be reworked as 'Start training twice a week for 20 minutes initially, increasing frequency and duration every 4 weeks with the goal of running 5km by March 2022'. This also serves as a checkpoint throughout the year, with each milestone allowing you to refine your goal to become more precise and take stock of progress. Before you know it, you will be just a tiny hop away from your final goal!
2. Tag a new habit to an existing routine
Theoretically, wanting to start the new year with an overhaul of existing habits sounds like a fantastic idea. However, in practice, this often backfires as years of habitual thought and actions are unlikely to be willed away without consistent and conscious behavioral tweaks. For sustained changes, finetune existing habits by replacing it with another healthier habit that helps you take concrete steps towards achieving your goal.
Instead of eliminating sugar completely, consider swapping out artificial sweeteners with natural sources of sugar to satisfy your sweet tooth. This could mean consuming a piece of fruit with Greek yogurt as dessert once in awhile initially, instead of a candy bar every night.
3. Set prompts and eliminate distractions
Starting a new fitness routine might be a daunting and seemingly insurmountable battle, especially if the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in largely sedentary lifestyles. To make full use of opportunities for activity requires some pre-planning. This increases the likelihood of forming routines that can fit seamlessly into existing lifestyle habits.
For instance, knowing that you might choose to sleep in instead of heading out for an early morning jog before your first online meeting for the day, create routines that help you ease into this habit. Make it easy to reach for your pre-workout caffeine fix, place your running gear by your bedside, and create personal rules that you will abide by. One that I personally swear by while training in the wee hours of the morning for my first ever 10km run is this rule: Once my socks are on, the running shoes have to as well, and the run proceeds, come hell or high water. This has been something that is so ingrained in me that even if I am constrained by a hectic schedule on some mornings, I will still manage to squeeze in a quick run just to get my engines going for the rest of the day!
4. Celebrate small achievements
This brings us to the next point: with the erosion of work-life balance as most people are working from home, your goals might at times seem too far-flung and difficult to achieve. Carving out time to squeeze in more physical activity might seem impossible with the onslaught of online meetings called on at the very last minute, compounding deadlines and family commitments. Considering how the pandemic is now a 'new normal', readjust existing expectations of what it could mean to succeed at working towards your goal.
Instead of being quick to beat yourself up over failing to sustain your new habits, think of each day as an opportunity to start anew. Celebrate even the smallest achievements. A day with some activity, is better than none at all, so this could be something as small as taking one flight of stairs instead of the escalator, adding in 5 minutes of pacing around your room in between online meetings, or merely spending more time fidgeting while seated!
5. The 21/90 principle for sustained lifestyle changes
The 21/90 principle is a useful way to consider the need to work consistently at introducing new routines. Consistency is the key to success, so think long-term. It takes 21 days to break or make a habit, and 90 days to build a lifestyle. The last thing you would want is to attain your health and fitness goals and then revert to your usual habits, which might lead to a vicious cycle of (ironically) setting the same-old new year resolutions
Consider how you can incrementally optimize the various pillars that form the foundation of a healthy and active life; beyond exercise, sleep, stress management, nutrition and mindset are all part of the equation. Work on making small tweaks to existing habits, which will slowly gain momentum as time passes by.
For instance, if you enjoy fast food thrice a week, you could start by swapping one item from your fast food meal with a healthier alternative, while keeping the same frequency of dining. The next step could be to reduce the frequency to twice a week, while swapping out the sugary drinks in your meal with water. Thereafter, reduce the frequency even more, to just once a week, while having a side salad instead of fries... before you know it, this would taper fast food intake down to an occasional treat, without having you feel the pinch of abstinence.
This 21/90 principle also serves to underpin our signature 12-week AMFIT programmes, which are blueprints for success specifically tailored to suit your health and fitness needs. Contact us for a complimentary virtual consultation and let us help you craft a strength training routine that fits seamlessly into your existing lifestyle for sustained healthy habits!