woman running with sunset behind her

Exercising Into the New Year

New Year. New You. Pretty much every single person has set some sort of new year resolution centered around improving their health and fitness at some point in their life. So why do so many seem to get derailed only one month into the year?

Based on what I have seen, the following are the biggest causes for losing the battle against the resolutions:

1) Too much focus on result based goals – i.e. “lose 20 pounds”
2) Too big of a burden – i.e. Workout 7 days per week, 2 times per day
3) Too much too soon – i.e. Run 20 miles on day one after not running at all

While I am all for setting big goals, and sticking them out, studies show that when it comes to building new habits that actually stick, less is more at first. I like the phrase, “play the game you know you can win.”

Why Result Based Goals Aren’t the Best

You can wish that you lose 20 pounds as much as you want, and stare and yell at your scale until you are blue in the face…but that won’t make that number change.

Process goals are MUCH better to focus on, and in turn, will lead to the result goals that you seek.

So if your result goal is to lose X amount of pounds, think of what process goals – or habits – will get you there and focus on those.

Daily exercise, eating more vegetables, cutting back on sweets and alcohol are all good process goals that will lead to improved overall health.

Once you determine your process goals, then you can get more specific. Set timelines. Set daily goals. Set targets. But don’t set them too high at the start.

Don’t Let Exercise Become a Burden

Look, I’m all for more exercise, and if you enjoy it, and can do it, working out 7 days per week is awesome. But you don’t HAVE to do that. Also, if you currently don’t exercise on any sort of regular schedule, trying to go from zero to seven days is going to be a massive change.

If you already think you are too busy to workout, why do you think that you will magically find 7 hours per week to exercise? Look over your schedule, cut a couple things out that aren’t helping your health, and insert a few 30 minute windows for fitness – start there.

From a psychological point, failure hurts more than winning feels good. So, if you currently workout one day per week, make it your goal to workout twice per week – and prove to yourself and others that you can do it. Sidenote: having a workout partner or someone to keep you accountable increases your success chances exponentially.

From a physical standpoint, this can lead to serious injury. Your body needs time to adapt and adjust to new training stimulus and stress. While these are the very things that help BUILD your body stronger, they also can lead to acute injury and pain in the short run.

Don’t Do Too Much Too Soon

I think we could all agree that rolling off the couch one day and trying to run a marathon would not work out well for more people. Yet, so many try to do a similar feat with going from a sedentary life to training over the course of one week. Ease into it. Remember, play a game you KNOW you can win, and KEEP winning.

Did you do all your workouts this week? Great. Now do it again.

Did you eat a portion of lean protein with every meal? Great. Keep doing it.

We don’t need to always be adding more and more. Sometimes, instead of pushing down harder on the gas, we just need to take our foot off the brake.

Now, even with this approach, things happen. You might be getting into running or lifting and all of a sudden your knees start bugging you. It’s always best to start something new under the watchful eye of a good certified personal trainer first. In my experience, achy knees are the number one issue when people start their fitness journey – so get ahead of the pain by practicing good self-care and recovery, and also invest in some extra support with a soft but compressive knee brace like the Mueller Hybrid Wraparound Knee Support.

Create a Health Plan, and Dominate

Start your New Year right by creating process goals that will help improve your health. Increasing exercise, daily steps, more sleep, and more mindfulness time are all great options. Improving your diet by removing processed junk food, heavy restaurant meals and mindless snacks while replacing them with quality, delicious whole foods, mindful eating practice and more time cooking at home are all great starts for the nutrition side of things.

Then decide where you currently are, and go one step ahead of that. Prove to yourself that you can be consistent with that for at least 1 month before trying to do more.

Finally, ease into it, and give yourself some grace. Like anything else new, there will be challenges along the way. You will have days where you don’t want to complete your goals. You need to make it happen. If you don’t, move on. Tomorrow is a new day to succeed.

Keep repeating this throughout your year, and I guarantee that you will be in a much better place come next year.