How to achieve your health and fitness goals in 2015
The New Year is a time of celebration but also self-reflection. Many of us treat the completion of yet another cycle around the sun as a chance to turn our lives around too. We think about the successes and stumbles of the last twelve months and brainstorm ways we can do better in the year ahead.
But are New Year's resolutions worth the crinkled Christmas wrapping paper they're written on? Jennifer Solitario, HBF Executive General Manager for Health and Wellness says it depends on what we mean by ‘resolution’. "There’s a world of difference between a vague promise to yourself to ‘do better’ and a commitment to a positive, tangible goal."
"January is as good a month as any to make positive lifestyle changes"
Earlier this month we surveyed 671 HBF members on the matter. More than half said they plan to make New Year's resolutions in 2015 with the majority aiming to do more exercise (69%); lose weight (59%); and eat healthier (47%). Of those not making resolutions, 86% revealed they would still be setting health and fitness goals.
Jennifer has this advice for members looking to improve their health and fitness in the New Year. "January is as good a month as any to make positive lifestyle changes - and the important word is ‘positive’. New Year's resolutions driven by fleeting negative emotions such as guilt from overindulging during the festive season can prompt us into crash diets and punishing exercise plans that aren’t likely to be healthy or sustainable" Jennifer says.
"As the emotion that prompted your resolution recedes so too will your motivation. That’s one reason why so many people forget about their resolutions by the time February swings in - they've lost their motivation.”
"Healthy habits are for life, not just for after Christmas"
Jennifer heads a number of health and wellness programs at HBF which have helped thousands of Western Australian members make positive lifestyle changes and improve their health. She iterates that healthy habits are for life, not just for after Christmas:
"The key to keeping motivated in 2015 and beyond is to focus on the positive and personal benefits of improving your health. These foundations are more likely to produce long term behaviour change."
"Maybe you want to have more energy to chase your kids or grandkids around. Perhaps you want to be fit enough to really enjoy that overseas holiday. Or maybe you just want to shed a few kilos and look and feel better about yourself. Whatever your reasons, focusing on positive, personal outcomes will outlast short-lived, negative emotions every time."
"Once you've established your motivation, write it down and put it somewhere you will see it every day. It might sound silly, but this is an important first step in successful goal setting."
"The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step"
After you jot down your ultimate goal, break it down into smaller, achievable steps (quotas). The Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu said: "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step". See your goal as several groups of steps, map out notable landmarks along the way and celebrate milestones as you reach them.
Health tip: If your treat of choice in the past was a block of chocolate or a Krispy Kreme doughnut it’s probably worth finding new ways to celebrate! Think more along the lines of some new exercise clothes, a massage or even a new book.
"The trick to setting goals is to be 'smart' about them"
The most cited reasons HBF members gave for failing to see their resolutions through in the past were a lack of commitment and lost motivation. HBF Fitness Coach Max Tamatoa says the trick to setting achievable goals is to be 'smart' about them - that is, set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.
"People who set definitive goals are more likely to achieve them" says Max. "Rather than decide you want to improve your fitness, define precisely what 'improved fitness' looks like. Maybe you want to be able to walk four kilometres, participate in a fun run or swim twenty laps without stopping."
Pick an event in the future like the HBF Run for a Reason or Rottnest Channel Swim and make plans to be ready for it. Having a specific date by which you need to achieve your goal will help motivate you and give your training focus. Be realistic about what's attainable in the time frame and with your current level of fitness, then put a plan in place to get you there.
Most importantly, start today! Book a health check, sign up for some fitness training, or download some healthy recipes. These are things you can do right now without leaving your computer. Once you have made an initial commitment, you are more likely to see things through.
"The support of friends and family will be integral to your success"
Here at HBF we like to add a final 'T' to the S.M.A.R.T.T. acronym, for 'Tell Somebody'.
Tell your best friend, your partner, a colleague, announce it on Facebook - whatever you have to do, just make sure you share your goal with somebody in the outside world, preferably as many people as possible.
The support of friends and family will be integral to your success. The act of telling people turns an idea that exists only in your head into something much more real. You will instantly feel a sense of commitment and accountability. You will also have a support network to keep you motivated in those weak moments when you feel like giving up.
And yes you will have times when motivation flags and you just have to ‘push through’. It can take time (research suggests on average 66 days) for new behaviours to become healthy habits. Behaviour change isn’t easy but persevere and you’ll find that with time it takes less and less effort to stay on course. In the meantime don’t give up – it may be about to become a whole lot easier and even fun!
What's your health and fitness goal for 2015?
Share it with us on Facebook and take the first step toward #makinghealthyhappen