By Joli Guenther, MSSW, NASM
Although investing in fitness equipment for your home certainly makes it easier to stick to your healthy lifestyle New Year's resolutions, it's not a guarantee that you'll stay with your plan. If you're thinking about making fitness the focus of your New Year's resolutions this year, here are a few ways to make sure you end up finishing the year stronger and fitter than you rang it in.
Like any fitness goal, your New Year's resolution needs to be more specific than simply "eating healthy" or "losing weight" (always big hits in January). Define your resolution according to your behavior, such as "work out three times each week," or small milestones you will reach along the way, such as losing half a pound each week (two pounds per month). Achieving those small steps is likely to keep you motivated towards reaching your bigger goals, such as lowering your blood sugar or ending the year 20 pounds lighter.
Create a Schedule
Once you've defined your home fitness goal, start putting your workouts in ink on your calendar. You're more likely to hit the treadmill (or elliptical or recumbent bike) if you make time for it upfront, rather than trying to find a place to squeeze your workout in each day. Think about the time that you're most likely to be motivated to stick to your plan when designing your schedule. For the long run, exercisers who fit in morning or lunch-time workouts tend to be the most regular about sticking to their plan since there are fewer conflicts during these times of day.
The trick to these workouts is efficiency. On busy days, 20 to 30 minutes of quality exercise is still better than no workout at all. Build your weekday plan around effective workouts, such as intervals on your home fitness equipment and body weight strength training, which can make a big difference in a short period of time. Use your weekends and less hectic days for longer endurance training or unwinding with a yoga class.
Whether you're finding a workout buddy, scheduling time with a personal trainer, or talking to your family about your workout schedule, get those around you to support you in your efforts. Talking about your plans increases your commitment and getting others in your life onboard helps to move your roadblocks out of the way before they prevent you from reaching your goals. If you're picking a training buddy, look for someone who is already committed to their fitness. This person is more likely to lead to you pushing yourself than a friend who is struggling with her own lifestyle battles.
Measure Your Progress
Making real changes to your fitness happens through small steps over time. It's easy to lose sight of this and be discouraged by an off day or week. Whether it's keeping track of the weight you lift or the number on your bathroom scale, find a way to measure your progress on a daily or weekly basis and evaluate yourself every four to six weeks. If you see progress over that time period, you're moving toward your goals. It's also a good idea to keep a few notes in your progress log. Record your victories, such as "felt great after my morning run" or "carried my three-year-old up the stairs," so you can see how the changes you're making are improving your life.
It's easy to lose motivation when you miss a workout (and this WILL happen) or when the numbers on the scale refuse to move. Keep in mind that the changes you're making in your life are about a lifestyle, not what happens on any given day. Try to reschedule your workouts if you can and recognize that small fluctuations in weight can happen in response to what you've eaten, swelling from a tough workout, or even carrying extra fluid from fighting a cold or flu. Build a plan B into your weekly schedule and work with your busy days.
Motivate Yourself with Technology
Whether you take advantage of measuring your progress and getting support through Nike+ on your Horizon Fitness products or download a calorie counting app onto your smartphone, technology can do incredible things for your motivation and helping you stick to your plan. Learning to use applications and becoming a part of online communities also increases your buy-in and commitment to your fitness program. As with choosing a workout buddy, look for forums and applications that are more likely to push you than excuse you.
Weigh In: Have you committed to a New Year's resolution for 2013? What strategies will you use to make sure it sticks?