Happy 2010! It’s a new year, and maybe you’re hoping for a new you. Many of us make resolutions, especially about health and fitness. Vowing to improve your lifestyle is admirable. Yes, we’ll quit smoking! Yes, we’ll lose 100 pounds! Yes, we’ll run a marathon! But, no, we have absolutely no idea how we’ll manage to do it. And by February, we’re back to our old habits, wallowing in self-pity and presumed failure and telling ourselves this just wasn’t our year. While those are all admirable pursuits, making resolutions on such a grand scale leads to an all or nothing mentality that can be completely counterproductive. For many people, setting smaller, more obtainable goals is more effective. And realistic.
Break down your resolution into baby steps and you’ll see better results. Here’s an example. Say you want to quit smoking. Fabulous. You don’t need to read a list of reasons why smoking is bad for your health. We all know it is. And if you’re like most people, you’ve already tried to quit before, and one thing you know for sure is that quitting cold turkey is pretty challenging. So where do you start? First you need to figure out how many cigarettes you smoke per day. Can you decrease that by one or two each day? Or maybe you’d rather shoot for five or 10 percent? Can you do that every week or maybe every other week? Spend some time and calculate how many weeks it will take you to be smoke-free if you smoked just one cigarette less per day each week. Now that’s a realistic mini-goal, and that should help you stay on track.
Or let’s say you want to lose some weight. Step one is going to be getting on that scale. (Don’t be scared. The Boise Healthy Living Examiner did it this morning, too. Right there with ya.) Again, spend some time figuring out how much you want to lose, and how long it will take you to do it safely. In order to succeed, you need a reasonable, realistic plan that’s going to work for your lifestyle. We’ll save the complex world of diet and exercise plans, and looking at reasons why we’ve failed in the past, for future columns. However, there are plenty of great tools online like body mass index (BMI) calculators to help in your assessment. This calculator from MSN Health is a wonderful three-step process that details your BMI and metabolism and then shows you how long it will take you to get to your goal weight. We reach our goals one decision at a time. Maybe you have 50 pounds to shed. Rather than obsessing over the fact that it’ll take you nearly a year to lose it safely, concentrate on losing one to two pounds per week, and bask in the knowledge that you’re getting healthier every day.
Likewise, if you want to run that marathon, you need to give yourself a realistic assessment of what your capabilities are now and how much you’ll have to run in order to finish those 26.2 miles. Are you still willing to commit to that marathon once you fully understand how much time you need to devote to training? If not, set a different goal. Maybe a half-marathon is more realistic for you. There’s no shame in that! This calculator from Runner’s World will help you get started. Their site also has loads of information on workouts, information specific to beginners and women, race training plans and more. This is a great place to start if your goal for 2010 is to run a marathon.
Finally, don’t forget to factor in some “oops” time. We all have setbacks. Maybe you’ve got a big presentation coming up at work in a couple months. You know it’s going to be stressful. You’re not sure you’ll get through it without your old vices. Hopefully by then you will have found an alternative method for dealing with your stress. But just in case, give yourself some leeway. Don’t make your goals so strict that you set yourself up for failure. Things happen. We get sick or our children get sick and can’t get to the gym. It’s someone’s birthday and we’re confronted with a slice of red velvet cake. Life gets crazy and we have a hard time squeezing in that run. We want that cigarette. Again, don’t cave in to that all or nothing mentality. In each instance, ask yourself if it’s really worth it to veer off the path right now or if you can make a better choice. Don’t look at what you can’t do; instead, always look at what you can do. And focus on your progress. By concentrating on how far you’ve come, you’ll feel more confident about where you’re going. You’ll get there. One baby step at a time.
Talk it up:
Do you make resolutions?
Do you stick to them?
What are your goals for 2010?