Did you begin 2020 with high hopes that this would be the year you get serious about getting fit? It’s great to make plans for improving your health and losing weight, but the real challenge is to develop fitness and nutrition goals – and then stick to and achieve them. Good intentions will only get you so far, and reprimanding yourself will just make you feel terrible. Instead, try a New Year Fitness Challenge by deciding a set of fitness goals to help guide a year of steady progress. This way, by New Year’s Day 2021, you’ll be celebrating genuine improvements in how you look and feel.
The Importance Of Goal Setting When It Comes To Your Health And Wellness
Setting a fitness challenge for yourself can be fun and functional. Being well organized may help boost your chances of achieving your goals by focusing your attention on what’s important. Specific goals can help you break through those ‘plateau’ moments when progress feels slow.
One great aspect of setting goals is the satisfaction of checking them off, one by one. So, to begin your fitness challenge, decide the outcomes you want to see and be S.M.A.R.T. with your fitness goals. Creating S.M.A.R.T. fitness goals can go a long way in determining the success of meeting and exceeding your goals. So what does S.M.A.R.T. stand for and how do you use it to set goals?
“I want to lose weight” and, “I want to work out more” are both wonderful aims. The trouble is, they’re too general. “I want to lose ten pounds” and, “I want to reduce my waist by four inches” are better, because they’re specific.1
They’re also measurable, which is important. “I want to start going to the gym” is a nice aim, but you’ll need to set a goal that can be measured. Need some examples? Try “Go to the gym three times a week,” “Take one fitness class per month,” and “Finish 20 push-ups without a break.” Each of these is a small contribution toward achieving your overall fitness goals.
It’s great that your fitness goals are ambitious, but they should be attainable, too.2 If you’ve never finished a 5K, think about completing one before tackling a marathon. If you hardly ever lift weights, be careful not to ask too much of yourself.
Remember past experiences, and be honest about what’s achievable. Otherwise, you risk setting yourself up for failure and frustration. You are in charge of the processes – those daily steps you take along the way.3
Make sure your goals have a specific timeline for completion. This will help you determine whether or not you accomplished your goal and can also help motivate you. Here’s an example: “I want to lose 5 pounds in one month”.
Other Fitness Tips: Getting Organized With A Fitness Challenge Calendar
Your quest for wellness will be smoother and more enjoyable if it’s well organized. Consider making a three-month calendar to start. This way, you’ll be able to see and feel the changes over time. But you also need short-term goals to achieve after each week or two of your program.4
When constructing your fitness calendar, imagine how your future self will react to these new demands. Try to be compassionate by scheduling rest days and including a mix of exercises. Choose things you actually enjoy, too. For instance, you could do strength training one day and swim or play tennis on another day. Also, you can try varying your reps when you’re weight training for variety. Whatever routine you decide on, just make sure your doctor approves. They may also have some suggestions for you based on your unique situation and medical history.
Tip: Keep your fitness calendar in view, on paper or on your phone, so you’re often reminded of both short- and long-term goals with your workouts.
Using Your Calendar To Track Nutrition Goals
Exercise may help with your fitness and weight loss challenge, but good nutrition is also essential. Therefore, it’s equally, if not more important to include nutritional goals in your fitness calendar.
You might have general goals, like “Switch to organic foods whenever possible.” Make a note somewhere you’ll see it on the calendar about this (possibly at the start of each week, so you won’t forget). Specific goals, like “Add a green vegetable to three meals each week” or “Eat a piece of fruit every day,” can be added/noted on each individual day of your fitness calendar.
Your calendar can help you stick to healthy eating habits by reminding you of the goals you agreed to pursue. You could write down your daily calorie intake or keep more sophisticated measurements, like keeping track of your daily grams of carbohydrates and fats. You could track how you feel each day (sleep quality, energy levels, general happiness) and of course, if you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll want to record your weight at the end of each week.
But where’s the reward for all this hard work and persistence? You decide that, too. Your calendar will give you the straight facts, so you’ll know if you hit your goals for the week. If you did, it’s time to celebrate and congratulate yourself.
But don’t reach for the cookie jar. There are lots of rewards that don’t involve food.5 Book yourself some self-care rewards – a massage or pedicure – or take a bubble bath with all the trimmings. Enhance your workouts while treating yourself by buying some new gear – a foam roller, new yoga pants, upgraded running shoes, a new tennis racket, or a wearable fitness tracker to monitor your fitness level.6 Grab tickets to a concert, go to the beach, take a scenic drive, or arrange an evening with a friend. There are dozens of ways to pat yourself on the back without packing the pounds back on.
What’s Standing In Your Way? More Ways To Drive Progress
Joining a gym can be a simple but highly effective way of driving your progress. It puts you among people with the same aims, surrounds you with workout equipment designed to help achieve them, and it may also offer personal training sessions.
Your local community center might be a less expensive alternative, and you can always do your workouts at home as well. Choosing to walk rather than drive and taking the stairs instead of the elevator are simple but effective choices.
You’ll also want to identify potential obstacles and get creative with solutions. Here are some ideas.
Potential Obstacle: “I don’t have enough time to work out.”
Potential Solution: Resolve to get up a little earlier to exercise, and schedule your workouts as though they are appointments.
Potential Obstacle: “Exercise bores me.”
Potential Solution: If you find exercise boring, try adding variety or experimenting with a new activity. You might also consider enlisting a friend to participate with you, or using social media to find a group to join.7
Working out alongside others might help to enhance your accountability, and it gives you people to work, play and celebrate with.8 You’ll be able to share in successes with others, and you might get some great workout tips from them to boot. If you prefer to go it alone, choose times when the gym isn’t crowded.
Potential Obstacle: “I’m too tired to work out.”
Potential Solution: Worries about a lack of energy can be addressed by moving your workout to an earlier time, scheduling shorter sessions, and making sure your cardio workouts aren’t scheduled for when you’re tired. You can also use your lunch hour to hit the treadmill or just take a long walk outside to help stave off an afternoon energy slump.9
In fact, working out can bring a cascade of brain chemicals – norepinephrine and cortisol, among others – which may produce a surge of energy.10
A New You for 2020
Your desire to be fit and well is terrific. Now all you need is to make a reasonable plan and put it into action. Again, just be sure your doctor approves of any physical activity or dietary changes you plan to incorporate into your routine. They may be able to help design a fitness program that will be geared towards your goals.
Once you have your fitness goals in place, bring together the people, equipment, and schedule you need to achieve them. Build out your calendar11 and include goals both large and small. Then use it to track your progress as you start to reach your goals, support your health, and feel great in 2020.