As the temptation-filled holidays are coming to a close and the New Year is fast approaching, many of us are making diet plans and setting health goals with really wonderful intentions for 2017. To be completely honest, though, most of us will struggle with these diet and exercise routines and they will fall by the wayside. There are a lot of reasons for this but the one that I want to focus on here is that these diets and exercise schedules we find online and in books and magazines aren’t made for you. They weren’t put together with your goals, your motivations, your strengths, and your needs in mind. You are setting these goals and starting these changes to benefit YOUR health and improve YOUR life, so shouldn’t the things you do work with YOUR lifestyle?
I am right there with you on the healthy New Year’s resolution train. I have tried so many popular diets and exercised the way others told me and, every time, it went well for a few weeks and then fell off. What I eventually realized is that part of the reason why these things weren’t working is because they weren’t designed to accommodate the way I work.
We are all human and, as such, we all have our own motivations, limitations, and strengths. For any lifestyle change to really work, it needs to factor in what those motivations, limitations, and strengths are.
Questions to Ask Yourself When Planning Your Fitness Resolutions:
In order to figure out what will and will not likely work for you, you need to figure out how YOU work. I recommend that you start out by asking yourself these questions to help shape your plans.
- What motivates me?
For most people, a lofty, long-term goal is not motivation enough to stick with a plan because it is so far off and abstract. Maybe you are success-driven and need to set concrete milestones for yourself at regular intervals. Maybe you are reward-driven and need to figure out a way to reward yourself for your progress regularly in order to keep going. Figure out how you are motivated and figure out incentives for yourself based on your motivation.
2. How do I work?
Some people are great self-motivators and can put together a plan and push themselves to stick with it. Other people need more instruction and supervision so individual training or group classes are a better fit for them than a gym membership. For others, being accountable to a gym buddy is what keeps them going. Figure out what your work style is (looking at how yourwork in your job or in school can help with this) and try some different ways to accommodate it. If you’re a visual learner, having someone recite something to you over and over again isn’t going to help you learn. Likewise, trying to keep to a running schedule on your own when you really need someone to encourage you to keep your pace up isn’t going to get you where you want to be.
3. What obstacles threw me off last time?
“The definition of ‘insanity’ is repeating the same behavior over and over again expecting a different outcome.” I don’t remember what movie this was in and that’s definitely not the real definition, but this statement is perfectly applicable here. If you don’t take the time to examine the things that worked and did not work for you in your past health endeavors, how will you be able to develop a more effective plan this time? Spoiler alert: you won’t. Was finding the time to work out or meal prep a problem for you in the past? Were you bored by your workout routine? Did you feel like your diet was leaving you feeling deprived or dissatisfied? Try listing out on a piece of paper what worked in one column and what didn’t in the other. This will become a helpful roadmap when figuring out your plan this time around.
4. What is my goal?
Having a concrete, measurable, time-bound goal is the key to success in pretty much anything. So many people start out their resolution with “I want to lose weight.” Okay, how much weight? by when? If you can’t answer these questions, how will you know when you’ve succeeded? how will you track your progress? how will you stay motivated? You can’t.
It took me a long time of progress and set backs to figure out what truly worked to keep me on track with my workouts. Eating well was one thing, but, when I got home from work in the evening, a glass of wine and the couch was WAY more appealing than getting changed and going back out to the gym.
First, I figured out that if it’s up to me to get myself to the gym regularly, I’m not going to do it. Period. I need to have a set time to be somewhere and I need the added accountability of losing money if I am not there when I’m supposed to be. Knowing this, I figured out that fitness classes are key for keeping me on track. I book in advance, have it on my schedule, and, if I don’t go or cancel too late, I lose the $15 I paid for the class. Once I started going to these classes, I also figured out that I was working much harder and seeing better results than I was when I was actually making it to the gym. Having an instructor to regularly challenge me to work harder and to switch up the routine was what I needed to continue to improve. On top of that, I have fun in those classes! And that is some solid motivation, too.
We live busy lives and are surrounded by temptation and excuses every day. Why make it harder for ourselves by trying to force ourselves into a mold that doesn’t fit? If you want to live a healthier life, you absolutely can and you can find a way to do it that suits you.