Cover Photo by Marion Michele on Unsplash
With New Year’s just around the corner we suspect that you might have some goals in mind that you want to tackle. Failed New Year’s resolutions and regular everyday goals tend to fall victim to the same errors time and time again. Accomplishing your health related goals or any goal for that matter will require you to dig a little deeper. The four strategies below should get you going in the right direction in 2018!
Replace the word “exercise” with “physical activity”
Start with “WHY”
Discover what makes YOU accountable
Exercise Physical Activity.
Many of us have a love hate relationship with the word “exercise.” Most people admit that they feel great… when it is done! You feel accomplished for the day, and more often than not your brain rewards you with an endorphin release (self-made pain killers). Most people assume that exercise needs to be uncomfortable to make an impact. That just isn’t true. Sticking with your exercise routine this year may require you to look at exercise a little differently.
If you ask someone from somewhere outside of the United States what they do for exercise don’t be surprised if you get a confused look in return. The term physical activity tends to resonate more with individuals in other countries. Movement practices like martial arts, tai chi, running and walking may become a more common answer than spin class, weight lifting or CrossFit.
Running seems to be everyone’s go to for exercise. If you love running and lifting weights that is great! If not, so many other options exist. This year look for something you enjoy doing, and feel free to explore a variety of options. Maybe a Zumba class instead of running, or regular hiking and mountain bike riding instead of early morning elliptical sessions. The only thing I ask is that you find something that gets your heart rate up.
Working at 60-80% of your maximum heart rate for at least 20 minutes should be your initial goal. Fitbits and different apps on your phone can quickly tell you what your approximate heart rate is.
How to find your approximate maximum heart rate?
- 220-Age= Max HR
- Max HR x .6= 60% of your Max HR
Example [40 year old woman]: Finding 60-80% of Approximate Max HR
60% of her max HR: 220-40 = 180 x .6= 108 beats/minute
80% of her max HR: 220-40=180 x .8= 144 beats/minute
Try to keep your heart rate in this zone (between 60-80% of Max HR) when exercising.
Start with WHY
A common mistake when creating your New Year’s resolution or goal is not choosing a clear “WHY” that is super meaningful to you. It really needs to be SUPER! Looking better or feeling better may be enough to drive one person for months at a time. Unfortunately, that does not work for everyone, especially when the pounds do not seem to be dropping. Sometimes we need to search a little deeper.
Considering the cost of inaction may be just what you need. Loss can be more frightening to us than the thought of gain. This requires you to ask yourself an important question. If I don’t take my health more seriously what is my life going to look like in six months, a year or three years from now? What will my family dynamic be like? How will this impact how I perform in my job or my ability to take part in activities that I enjoy doing? Will I be happy with the person I see in the mirror or the person my spouse or children see? This question will help create your why. It will also help reinforce your why on a daily basis.
Accountability plays a huge role when it comes to creating habits. What we need to figure out is the thing or person that creates accountability in us.
Some people feel accountable to money.
“If I pay for a year membership I will keep this thing going.” That may be true for you, but how many people do we know that pay a $15/month membership to Planet Fitness that they never use? You’re welcome Planet Fitness!
Some people benefit from being affiliated with a group, workout partner or maybe even a trainer.
Knowing that someone else or even a group of people are aware of your goals or your involvement in a fitness endeavor may be the accountability you need. Regularly missing fitness classes or groups is challenging because the instructor and other members notice that absence. Without fail your absence always seems to be the first topic of discussion. Just make sure you figure out a worthy excuse for your absence before you show up. This helps reduce the discomfort of scrambling for words!
Signing up for a friendly 5K or sprint triathlon could be the boost you need.
Your competitive drive or desire not to pass out face first during a friendly charity run or more competitive race will give you a little extra drive each day. Sign up for something before the ball drops to get you motivated come January 1st.
You could use your family or even a friend to reinforce this new habit.
Your reason for getting healthy may be less about you and more about your relationships with others. We try desperately to instill discipline in our children, family and employees, but it is usually our actions not our words that make all the difference. Your kids will undoubtedly develop a subconscious level of discipline just by observing your actions day in and day out. Your relationship with your spouse may get a little spark when she or he sees you motivated to better yourself each day.
In the book “The 4 Disciplines of Execution,” the authors describe a high school football game in Texas that occurred shortly after a hurricane whipped out the school’s scoreboard. The lack of interaction during the game was bizarre! No one knew what the score was or how much time had passed. Engagement from the fans was at an all-time low.
We see the same challenges in achieving our goals when:
- We aren’t keeping score
- When our goals are vague
To quote former General Electric CEO, Jack Welch, “Goals can’t sound noble, but vague. Targets can’t be so blurry that they can’t be hit. Direction should be so vivid that you could answer if I woke you in the middle of the night.”
First things first, you need to understand what you can control and what you can’t. Stating that you want to lose 20 pounds by March 1st is a great goal. It is both weight and time specific. Unfortunately, you can’t press a magic button. The authors in “The 4 Disciplines of Execution” coined the word Lead Goals. These are the measures you can actually track each day. These are what you use to keep score, to keep you engaged.
Ultimate Goal (You CAN’T control this goal)
I will lose 20 pounds by March 1st to help fit in to those damn jeans I used to wear in 1989!
“This will not only make me look good, it will also help me feel my best. If I don’t lose the weight what will life look like in six months, one year, three years [enter your thoughts here].”
Lead Goals (These are the ones you CAN control)
Consistency will help you achieve your Ultimate Goal.
“I will perform some sort of physical activity for at least 20 minutes/day, keeping my heart rate above 130 beats per minute. “
“I will get at least 7 hours of sleep each night.”
“I will plan the location and time of my workouts for the week every Sunday night.”
“I will eat no more than 30 grams of carbohydrates from bread and pastas each day.”
“I will meditate for at least 10 minutes every morning.”
Not seeing immediate progress toward your goal can easily deter anyone from staying committed. Shifting focus to your Lead Goals can help you achieve small wins each day. We refer to this as The Aggregation of Marginal Gains. This is the concept that 1% improvements or declines each day may not be apparent over weeks or even months. However, with time these decisions will compound. This is often the difference between achieving your ultimate goal and falling short.
Inspiration for this image came from a graphic in The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson
New Year’s resolutions are something we should take advantage of. They provide us with a “fresh start” and optimism going into the New Year. Adopting these strategies will help you strengthen the commitments that you make toward your goals. The hope is that you will become exceptional at designing and executing goals in your journey toward accomplishing your 2018 resolutions.
Just a recap of the four principles we discussed.
- Experiment with different kinds of physical activity this year. Fitness should be enjoyable. Otherwise you are destined for failure.
- Don’t overlook the importance of finding a meaningful “why.” Considering the cost of inaction may be just as beneficial as imagining what you will gain.
- Figure out what actually makes YOU accountable to your goals and responsibilities. We are all different. What works for one person will not work for the next.
- Last but not least, keep score. Knowing that you are running up the scoreboard each day with your Lead Goals will motivate you to keep pushing for the Ultimate Goal.
- Scheduling a location, date and time to work out increased the likelihood that you would actually get it done from 20% to 91% (Carragee et. al, 2006).
That is a huge difference. This is why I highly recommend purchasing a workout program, being affiliated with a group based gym or getting a trainer. Having your workout scheduled and ready to go each day avoids will power battles that we all face.
- Along with scheduled physical activity, also schedule cheat meal days or days off from the gym.
In “The One Thing” by Gary Keller he talks about the importance of scheduling vacations or time off throughout the year. This encourages you to regularly give your best effort when it is time to work and to actually turn off when it is time to vacation or rest. Having scheduled cheat meals or days off from the gym may be the drive you need to show up to exercise even when you aren’t feeling 100%.
What is your #1 fitness goal this year & what is your “WHY”? Please let us know in the comment section below!
-Dr. Michael Infantino, DPT