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Published June 28, 2013 in Healthy Living
Reaching The Finish Line
How to reach your fitness goalsBy Jill Armayor for DRS Health

The time for New Year’s resolutions is here. According to statistics, 40-45% of American adults make one or more New Year’s resolutions each year. The top items on the list are weight loss, fitness, smoking cessation and debt reduction. As time continues to march on, 75% of these resolutions are alive and kicking after the first week. Sixty-four percent are still in their animate state after the month of January is over. After the end of June, only 46% New Year’s resolutions still have a heart beat. These statistics are grim, to say the least. How can you ensure that the prognosis of your New Year’s resolution is positive? How can you keep it alive and growing long enough to experience the fruition of success?

Many people feel that it is enough to set a goal and fantasize about reaching it, with no plan of action on how to get from Point A to the finish line. Although the thought of it is motivating and electrifying, “I want to be in the best shape of my life by my fortieth birthday,” is not enough to carry you to your goal. In order to be successful, you need to set a realistic goal for yourself that is broken down into small, achievable steps. Other actions that lead to success are defining your baseline, developing a plan of action, recruiting a support system, keeping track of progress, focusing on the positives, implementing a reward system, and treating setbacks as they truly are- just temporary lapses.

Step #1: Develop a realistic goal and set small, achievable steps along the way.

Instead of setting your New Year’s resolutions by flying by the seat of your pants, take some time to think it through. Let’s pretend that your goal is to lose 25 pounds by your vacation at the end of August to Cabo San Lucas. This gives you approximately 34 weeks to lose 25 pounds, which averages about ¾ of a pound of weight loss per week; a very doable goal. A pound to two pounds of weight loss per week is considered within the range of healthy weight loss. This brings up one more point that often gets people in trouble. You may have even heard yourself say something like this in the past: “I have plenty of time, I don’t have to start right now.” If you don’t develop a plan and start working toward your goal immediately, you are increasing your chances of failure in the future.

Step #2: Define your baseline.

Before you know where you are going, you have to know exactly where you are starting. Developing a baseline is extremely important so that you know what changes need to be made to get you to your goal. If your goal is weight loss, then some measurements such as body weight, circumference and percentage of body fat can be helpful in establishing where you stand right now. Another important item to consider is what your lifestyle habits are now. Keep a food diary to document your present eating habits. Keep an exercise log to keep track of your exercise routine and any daily activity. This process will allow you to develop a true picture of your current habits, and give you some ideas about what changes to make in your lifestyle.

Step #3: Develop a plan of action.

Next, you need to develop a plan for how you are going to reach each milestone. A ¾ pound of weight loss per week is a calorie deficit of 2,625 calories, equivalent to 375 calories per day. Creating this caloric deficit can be achieved through cutting back the calories you eat and burning more calories with additional physical activity. An online tool such as My Pyramid Tracker can help you determine how many calories you are eating and burning through exercise (Click on this link to access My Pyramid Tracker: Your plan of action may be as simple as taking the dog for a half-hour walk three extra times per week and cutting down your portion sizes by 25%. The easier your plan of action fits into your current lifestyle, the greater the chances are that you will be successful in reaching your New Year’s resolution within your set time frame. You may also choose to build into your plan days to fudge on your diet or to take scheduled breaks from exercise. If so, you will need to calculate how much extra caloric deficit you need on your planned days to stay on track.

Step #4: Recruit a support system.

Build your support system from the list of people who care about you. Regardless of who you choose, you need people on your team that know what you have set out to accomplish and who are willing and able to hold you accountable. People that you live with can make sure that you are eating healthy and getting your weekly allotment of exercise. You can find a workout buddy that you can depend upon to go with you on walks or to the gym. If you have a gym membership, you can hire a personal trainer and get to know the group exercise instructors who will keep you encouraged and accountable.

Step #5: Track your progress.

Keep a journal that you use to record your measurements and your weekly successes. Record what you have been doing to reach your milestones each week. If you hit an unexpected plateau or if you find yourself having a difficult time sticking to your program, you can review your journal to see what you have been doing, and tweak your plan of action to get back on track. Your journal can also be a source of encouragement when you are feeling down and can motivate you to press on toward your goal.

Step #6: Focus on the positives.

During the process of achieving your New Year’s resolution, you are bound to see some setbacks along the way. Take these hindrances for what they are- temporary. Instead of focusing on your personal failure, focus on the week at hand- do you need to make some minor changes in your program to stay on task?

Step #7: Reward yourself for jobs well done.

If you have achieved your week-long or month-long goals, treat yourself for doing a great job. Weekly goals attained deserve a small treat like a massage or a new CD. Monthly goals deserve something bigger, like a new workout outfit or a new pair of walking shoes. Record these in your journal, right along with your goals and objectives. You can count your “gold stars” when you are feeling discouraged and you can look forward to the next one. When you finally reach your New Year’s resolution, treat yourself to something special, like a weekend getaway or a night on the town with your significant other.
Reaching a New Year’s resolution takes planning, focus, and discipline, just like any other accomplishment that you reach, like completing a project for work or school. Have faith in yourself and your abilities and you can go far. Good luck!
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