To "divide and conquer" is a strategy of which the premise is to overcome an entity by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable components. The key to successfully achieving your goals for the New Year lies in the utilization of this approach. Too often a good intention to improve overall health is abandoned because the initial goal was set too high.
When making a New Year's resolution to improve your fitness and health, break it down into both short- and long-term goals. Each goal should be challenging, yet attainable. Setting goals in this manner increases your chances of success and, therefore, leads to enhanced self-esteem. Achieving your smaller, short-term goals will motivate you to strive toward reaching your long-term goal.
Principles to follow when making a New Year's resolution to improve your fitness and health include:
- Be specific: Instead of saying "I want to become more active," say "I will add 10 minutes of exercise to each day of the week for the first week."
- Set goals that can be measured: Monitor your progress by writing down on your calendar the days on which you actually were able to exercise for 10 minutes. This will help you to troubleshoot if there are days that you consistently fall short of your goal. For instance, if you are always missing your workout on Tuesday's because of a weekly meeting, either designate that day as a day off or add an additional 5 minutes of exercise to Mondays and Wednesdays.
- Be realistic: Zeal and enthusiasm are important mentalities to have when it comes to compliance with exercise or, for that matter, any healthy habit. However, starting out too hard and too fast will lead to burnout, nipping in the bud any motivation you may have about enhancing your health and well-being. If weight loss is your long-term goal, then a good short-term goal may not be to lose weight initially, but rather, to adopt healthier eating habits. For instance, if 3 of your meals in a week are from a restaurant, set your short-term goal to be that you will only eat out once a week for the first month.
- Create definite deadlines: Achievement of your goals should be date-specific. For example, if your goal is to run 3 miles then say "I want to be able to run 3 miles by March 31, 2010." Then create a series of date-specific short-term goals to help you achieve this goal.
Other factors to keep in mind when creating a New Year's resolution to improve your fitness and overall health include:
- View a setback as a time of discovery. Figure out what went wrong and devise a strategy to overcome the problem.
- Set a date to reevaluate your short- and long-term goals. Instilling regular progress checks will help to either confirm that you are heading in the right direction, or give you an opportunity to make appropriate changes to your plan to avoid getting discouraged in the long run.
- Elicit support. Don't just limit this network to family and friends, seek the services of professionals whose expertise can help you stay on track, such as a personal trainer, exercise physiologist, nutritionist, physician, etc.
Maintaining your New Year's resolution will require daily effort. Following a healthy lifestyle is an endeavor that may not always be easy, but is one that is sure to bring benefits.
Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.
ACSM's Resource Manual for Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, Sixth Edition, p. 700.
Labels: goal setting principles, Health and Fitness Resolutions, Maintaining Healthy Habits, Maintaining Resolutions, New Year's Resolution