How to Stick to Those New Year's Fitness Resolutions, According to an Expert

Make this year different and stick to those goals with a blueprint designed to mitigate any common resolution pitfalls.

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So, you kicked off your new year with a laundry list of goals and aspirations of achieving a healthier you. While motivation was high during those first few runs or trips to the gym, after two weeks or so, you start to have a little less motivation to continue that training schedule or diet regimen. Whether it's an absence of immediate results, an overambitious idea of what's attainable or life finding a way to compromise your schedule, by the time February rolls around, those aspiring resolutions may be left in the corner, gym bag and all.

Many people go through a similar life cycle with their fitness-related resolutions each year. A 2021 study found nearly two-thirds of people abandon their New Years resolutions within a month. But abandoning your goals doesn't need to be a yearly tradition. Understanding how to structure your New Years fitness resolutions is just as important as making them in the first place.

Joseph Sudimack, Physical Therapy Program Director at Carrington College and NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer, has more than 15 years in the health and fitness industry, and all that time doesn't come without maintaining momentum through proper goal setting. Below are a few tips from Sudimack to help you efficiently plan and stick to those fitness-related resolutions this year.

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Build toward your big training goals brick by brick.

One of the main problems athletes run into when setting fitness goals is that while they have a lofty aspiration in mind, they fail to create smaller benchmarks to measure their achievement progress. Vague resolutions like, "I want to exercise regularly," "I want to run a marathon this year" or, "I want to lose 50 pounds" can be excellent starting points, yet you need proper planning to set a course you can stick to. After all, most fitness resolutions will require ample dedication and regimented work, and if you aren't following a progressive guide, you're more likely to get lost along the way.

To help make those long-term goals more achievable, Sudimack recommends combining those big-ticket resolutions with a number of smaller, more achievable, more structured goals to fuel momentum and progress. "For example, if you want to lose 30 pounds by the end of the year, you should have a set weight loss goal for each month at 2.5 pounds," he says.

Having smaller goals that lead into larger aspirations can make the journey more approachable, thus keeping your interest beyond those first few weeks of the year. Plus, focusing on more achievable benchmarks can make it easier to get into a consistent rhythm, allowing for these aspirations to more seamlessly become actions of habit rather than desire.

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Make fitness a priority rather than a challenge.

"Everything you do in life is based on your priority system," Sudimack notes, and if you aren't putting your newfound fitness dreams at the top of your daily thoughts, odds are you'll be more inclined to forgo those activities for the sake of other responsibilities.

A good way to think of a fitness resolution is by imagining this growing habit as a new pet. To give it the best shot possible for life and prosperity, you need to feed and tend to it daily, i.e., take it on walks, make sure its diet is correct, give it some love and attention — even for just a few minutes a day. While it might (will) be a new challenge at the start, especially for people who aren't as used to regular exercise, these actions eventually turn into habits so intuitive that you can find it hard to imagine your life without these duties. And much like a pet, the attention you give to your fitness resolutions generally has a positive return on investment in the form of improved wellness and overall health.

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Hold yourself accountable with apps and journals.

Of course, not everyone has the willpower to make fitness a newfound priority at the drop of a hat. To help maintain that prioritization, it can be greatly beneficial to look at outside sources to keep yourself accountable. Sudimack recommends telling friends and family members of your training- or diet-related desires, inquiring them to routinely check in on your performance and occasionally offer notes and motivating feedback.

If you feel that reaching out for human accountability is more of a burden than a blessing, there are other tools you can use to keep yourself on track. Many fitness trackers and smartwatches can send daily notifications to remind you when you need to move or train. Top fitness apps can also provide routine check-ins through scheduled workouts and motivating messages with detailed logs and statistics from previous workouts. Lastly, if you're more of a pen and paper athlete, consider journaling your progress and make a habit of daily inclusions outlining what you worked on to accomplish your resolutions.

No matter which method you choose, it's important to understand that the check-ins and pinging notifications aren't there to shame you if you happen to miss a day or stumble during your routine. Rather, they're there to help you maintain focus on the goals at hand, because let's face it, everyone needs a nudge in the right direction from time to time, no matter how dedicated they are.

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Understand that life will sometimes get in the way.

We all have career and life responsibilities that fill up our schedule plenty, and on occasion, these tasks take longer to accomplish or require an immediate readjustment to our normal regimens, leaving tending to our fitness resolutions on the back burner for more time than we'd like. While it might sting to miss your evening run or nightly gym session because of an unforeseen circumstance, Sudimack states that you cannot let this disappointment get to your head. "There will be times in which you are unable to make it to the gym or unable to stick to your meal plan because of life. Don't let this get to you," he states.

You need to realize that fitness is a fluid journey and missing one workout won't completely deteriorate your progress. Rather than dwelling on the missed workout, instead think of your time away from training as a recovery day — which can be even more prosperous for your fitness goals in the long run. Above all else, don't let one schedule readjustment become the norm. You can let one or two days slide due to life, but make sure to keep your goals as top priorities and get back into the swing of things whenever you get the chance.

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Appreciate immediate progress to create a platform for long-term enjoyment.

As stated before, fitness goals can take a while to achieve. This means that while your small goals can be great for fueling your motivation and interest, the big enjoyment still gets cashed in when your long-term goal is met, and if that sense of accomplishment is the main motivation you rely on to progress further, your tank could begin to run low rather quickly.

Instead of waiting for that big payoff in the end, it can be a good habit to appreciate and acknowledge those more minute milestones in the meantime. These feats can be anything from shaving a second off of your run time, adding 5 pounds to your bench total, completing your step goals for a week's straight or just tracking your progress routinely. These small accomplishments — and acknowledging them — can be little sparks along the way to help sustain your overall enjoyment with your newfound discipline.

Think of them as another set of building blocks leading up to the grand crescendo of accomplishment with your long term goal. If you can get fired up over these miniature progress marks, imagine how happy and elated you'll be once the journey has reached its destination.

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Remember that journeys and goals are supposed to be fun.

Sudimack notes that the most important part of setting New Years fitness resolutions is to ensure you're having fun during the process. "Find something that you enjoy and stick with it. It takes approximately one month for a new habit to be created, thus you are more likely to stick with your new lifestyle after that timeframe," he says. After all, it makes little sense to completely alter your daily regimen and priorities for an activity that you don't enjoy in the first place.

Keeping the fun in fitness doesn't need to mean you need to develop a positive relationship with running, weightlifting, CrossFit or other traditional modality. You can maintain a healthy physique and well-being through a number of methods including organized sports, walking, dance and many others. Just make sure that your intended activities align with your goals, and don't be afraid to smile or laugh along the way.

Fitness resolutions can be a hefty task to take on, but with the proper planning and mindset, accomplishing these goals can be far more achievable than previously thought. Use these tips and make your year's aspirations as efficient and worthwhile as possible.

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