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Health & Wellness: Strategies to Stick to Fitness Goals

In this special guest feature, Paige Johnson, a personal trainer and regular contributor at learnfit.org, shares tips to turn your fitness goals into habits.
At this point it may seem like eternities ago, but at the beginning of the year, you set a resolution to improve your health, whether your end goal was to lose weight, fight off a chronic condition like fatigue, improve a mental health condition like addiction, or simply feel more confident. Now that the year is progressing, you may have found that your resolution has fallen by the wayside. In order to stick to your goals, you must have strategies in place for sticking to them.
Set Up a Plan
Regardless of how big or small your goals are, making a positive change in your life requires planning to ensure follow-through. Consider using the acronym SMART:

  • Specific – Your goal needs to be clear and easy to understand. Rather than set a common goal, such as “get healthy,” take it a step further by getting specific, such as “lose weight” or “start exercising.” Avoid vague goals.
  • Measureable – Goals are useless without a way to measure and track your progress to determine when you have reached your goal. Making your goal measurable involves adding a number, such as losing 10 pounds or exercising three times a week.
  • Attainable – Adding a number makes your goal measurable, but before you add a number, you need to decide how high or low you want to go. Your goal shouldn’t be too easy, but making it too extreme won’t help you, either. For example, a 5 to 10 percent weight loss is achievable for most overweight people, so set your goal at 7 percent.
  • Relevant – Make sure your goal is relevant to you and what you want to accomplish. Don’t set a goal just because others want you to or everyone else is doing it. If losing weight is not a concern for you at the moment, set a goal that is.
  • Time-bound – The final piece in setting a goal is to have an end-point in order to motivate you to get started and keep pushing forward.

Using the SMART method to set a goal is a great way to get started, but keep in mind that your plan can, and should, change. For example, if your plan was to hit the gym three times a week but you have found that you are dreading going or coming up with excuses to skip it, re-evaluate your plan. Consider alternatives such as exercising outdoors or trying out a new class, like Zumba or kickboxing.
Get a Support System
Crushing your goals on your own is fantastic, but sometimes it helps to have a support system in place to push you forward during those days or weeks when you just feel like you aren’t getting anywhere. Finding a workout partner could be the push you need, helping the time to pass, keeping you accountable, and cheering you on. When you work out alone, you may find yourself constantly looking at the clock, and that sense of dread can make it hard for you to summon up the energy to work out. Having a workout partner can help the time to pass by having someone to chat with or engage in friendly competition. You may also find that in having someone counting on you for an exercise session, you are less likely to back out or cancel, and may find yourself working harder. According to one study, those who work out with a partner they perceived to be better increased their workout and intensity by 200 percent, and were fueled by the motivation to not let their partner down. Find a partner that pushes you, but also respects your limits.
Having a buddy also touts the benefit of having someone to remind and draw attention to your progress. You may not notice the progress you are making, such as the weight you’ve lost or the endurance you’ve built up, but a workout buddy can view you objectively, remind you of your progress, and give you the validation you need to keep pushing forward. An added benefit is having someone to celebrate your success with, such as a night out or a day at the spa.
Resolutions are hard to keep at times, but with an action plan and support system in place, you can set yourself up for success. Be smart about your plan, and find the support you need to keep you moving forward as you strive to reach your goals.
About the Author
Paige Johnson is a self-described fitness “nerd.” She possesses a love for strength training. In addition to weight-lifting, she is a yoga enthusiast and avid cyclist. She enjoys writing about fitness and health for Learn Fit.