By O. R. Marv
It’s that time of year again, when gyms become more crowded than a Los Angeles freeway during Thanksgiving as floods of highly motivated New Year “Resolution-eers” come pouring into the gym.
Speaking for regular gym goers, I can tell you we dread this time of year.
But the good news is we all know that by the end of February things will be back to normal.
All of those once highly motivated people who spent too much time finding the perfectly matching gym outfit rather than actually figuring out HOW they were going to stick to their new goals will not darken the gym doorway for another 10 months.
So instead of thinking about getting fit as a resolution, let’s approach this like setting a goal….because we’ve all heard the depressing statistics of how many resolutions actually last for an entire year (less than 8%¹).
I personally find the connotations surrounding “this is my goal…” versus “this is my resolution…” to be far less skeptical; I really believe it’s because we as a society know how many resolutions we all set every year, yet never follow for longer than a month or two at best.
We are GOING to make this the LAST year you have to get IN shape – just like when we were in the depths of our addiction: it’s far easier to stay in shape (or sober) than get in shape (or sober).
Setting goals and then writing out a plan is something everyone talks about doing, but very few people actually do.
It’s the idea that simply talking about doing something amazing does something in our brains that immediately makes us feel better even though we are never going pursue these great things we give lip service to.
I for one, did this for years, regarding my addiction(s) and my fitness habits, hell even big time life decisions….
“Tomorrow I won’t drink or use….as much.” - never worked unless I physically ran out of my supply.
“Tomorrow I’ll start my perfect diet so I’ll binge tonight.” - I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this. Hell even to this day I can find myself slipping back to this old behavior.
“Tomorrow I HAVE to start stretching.” - didn’t happen and then I wonder why I re-injure my back at least once a year.
“Tomorrow I will start applying to better jobs.” - never happened and I chose to be miserable for years in regards to my work environment on multiple occasions.
You get the idea.
I always talked about setting goals, or what I was certain I was going to accomplish SOME DAY; but when it came time to put the work in I rarely followed through, let alone write it down as a goal.
Goal setting makes a huge difference with whatever it is you are trying to accomplish, yet 3% of all people actually set measurable goals.
So how do we go about doing this?
For one, we must WRITE THEM DOWN….sound familiar?
Simply writing your goals down increases the odds by 75% you are going to reach them.²
This is because the choices we make are subsequently governed by the goals we either do or don’t set – if you physically set a goal by writing it down and keep it in front you, you are far more likely to make the decisions that lead you to succeeding.
How to go about writing down your goals?
I personally break my goal down into 5 or 6 categories on a single piece of paper.
This paper should be prominently displayed in your household.
My favorite place?
The bathroom mirror.
This is the format I follow, although you can make adjustments to create your own…the key is to be specific and include plans of action.
1) THE GOAL
· “My goal is…”
· Be specific – if you want to lose weight, HOW MUCH do you want to lose? If you want to get stronger in a specific lift, HOW MUCH stronger? If you want to wear smaller clothes, HOW MANY SIZES less?
2) THE DATE
· The exact dates of both when you begin and when you hope to complete the goal.
· This can be adjusted in the future if necessary, but make every effort to be realistic and motivated to fulfill your goal in this time frame – unless you are using outside sources of extra motivation that I will talk about below.
3) THE OBSTACLES
· Keep this list short but accurate – no more than 3 – otherwise you will totally psych yourself out and start to feel helpless in achieving your goal.
· Examples: Old knee injury that can flare up if I’m not careful, my favorite fast food restaurant on my route home from work plus I really hate to cook after a long day of work, being worried about what other people may think of me in the gym
4) ACTION STEPS
· What are you going to do to make this a reality?
· The more specific the better – this is a time to outline your plan of attack.
· Example: instead of simply writing “exercise and eat better” write down “Lift weights for 45 minutes Monday, Wednesday, Friday with 20-30 minute walks on Saturday, Sunday. Keep fast food to no more than twice per week, and cut out all sodas and energy drinks. Cook 70% of everything I eat and bring my lunch to work every day instead of buying lunch down the street at Buffalo Wild Wings.”
· After your plan of attack should come your answer to those obstacles you wrote down above.
· Example: Knee -Make sure I properly warm up prior to work out, then stretch and ice each workout. Fast food & cooking - Take an alternate route home and spend 2 days per week cooking up larger amounts of food so I can quickly warm something up when I get home instead of cooking from scratch. Self-conscious - Keep reminding myself WHY I want to get in shape, and when I don’t know how to use a piece of equipment as for help from gym staff.
· Set an appropriate reward in advance for each accomplishment.
· “Appropriate” is the key word – if your goal is weight loss don’t celebrate a milestone by binge eating fast food while not exercising for a full 72 hours.
6) OUTSIDE SOURCES OF MOTIVATION (Optional but helpful!)
· Finding that real internal motivation to be disciplined in achieving your fitness goal from the get go can be a little tough, especially when it may be the first time ever you are attempting to do so. Many times with clients I tell them, “Let’s just get that tiny snowball rolling down the hill….eventually it will pick up speed, and before long we will be left with avalanche of motivation and enthusiasm for working out and eating smart.”
· My 3 favorite sources of outside motivation to get you started in ascending order of “extreme-ness” are:
1) Have a “fitness jar” similar to a swear jar that you must put $1-$5 in every time you fail to follow one of your actionable steps (i.e. if you miss a workout you put $5, if you drink a soda you put $1 in, if you can’t resist B-Dubs for lunch you put $5 in, etc.). At the end of your goal timeframe you count the jar then donate it to your favorite charity or organization.
2) Have a “fitness pool” of like-minded friends where every time you miss a workout you put $1-20 in (dependent on everyone’s financial situation - although it needs to make a big enough impact you really don’t want to have to give up money). If the honor system is not cutting it every member must take a picture of them by the gym clock that day at the beginning & end of their workout (dated newspaper is optional and if that’s having to be enforced everyone needs to look at their honesty issues). Once the fitness timeframe is up you all either vote on either who made the best progress to win the pool or give the pool to the individual who missed the least amount of workouts.
3) “Underwear Challenge” – yep you see where this is going…take unflattering pictures of you in your underwear from 3 angles (Front, side, back) and send them to a trustworthy friend. If you don’t accomplish your goal in the timeframe set, your friend gets the pleasure of posting those pictures on the internet. If that’s not scary enough make sure you post those pictures near your goal sheet to see your potential consequences every day.
Keeping an open log of reviewing your progress towards reaching this goal and performing this review at least once per week, is also VERY helpful towards helping you achieve your fitness goals.
If you “came off the rails” you can write about potential causes and help prevent the same traps moving forward.
If you had a “fantastic week” you can write about how that makes you feel and why you think that week went so well so you can replicate it moving forward.
Be sure to celebrate your successes not just your shortcomings.
Give yourself a break, but at same time don’t let yourself make excuse after excuse.
LET’S DO THIS THING!
Make this the year you took charge of your physical health and made a living amends to yourself.
A healthy life can make for a happy life….unless of course you’ve already made other plans.
That, like setting and reaching goals, is entirely up to you.
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE
MAY WE ALL FACE A FUTURE SO BRIGHT IN 2017 THAT WE ALL HAVE TO WEAR SUNGLASSES
MAY WE FACE THIS NEW YEAR CLEAN, SOBER, FREE, & FIT
I LOVE YOU ALL
¹Diamond, Dan. Just 8% of People Achieve Their New Year's Resolutions. Here's How They Do It. Forbes.com, 2013.
²Helmstetter, Shad. The Gift. Park Avenue Press, 2005.