10 Ways to Make Your Resolutions Stick
If you’re looking to shape up in 2021, you’re in good company: “Lose weight” is consistently one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions.
But here’s the kicker, which is probably no surprise: Only seven percent of people felt they were successful in achieving their resolution last year.
You can, however, increase your odds of success by following these 10 simple tips for staying motivated. They come from a handful of the country’s top fitness minds, and they’ll help you stick to those resolutions and actually achieve them.
1. Establish Realistic Goals
Don’t sign up for a marathon if you’ve never finished a 5K. By setting smaller, do-able goals, you’re more likely to actually achieve them.
“People often set their expectations too high, especially at the start of the year,” says Aaron Guy, CPT, a Los Angeles-based trainer. “When they set unrealistic goals and don’t reach them, they get frustrated — and that’s when you start to see people fall off the wagon.”
If your goal is to work out five days a week, start with three days a week for the first month. “What I always say is: ‘On a scale of 1 to 10, what’s the likelihood that you can do this goal?'” Guy says. “If they say an 8, a 9, or 10, I say ‘go for it.'”
2. Know Your “Why”
Just as important as setting attainable goals is choosing them for the right reasons. “Sit down and think about why and for whom you want to start working out,” says Karin Weman Josefsson, PhD, a lecturer in psychology at Halmstad University in Sweden.
Is it just because you don’t like the way your jeans fit — or do you want to feel stronger and healthier overall? By thinking of the bigger picture, you’ll be more likely to stick with it and keep moving forward.
In a Canadian study, subjects who exercised the most were motivated by the benefits of exercise — such as better health, more energy, and strength — rather than external motivations, like pant size or peer pressure.
3. Make Exercise Convenient
Whether it’s trying to find time or shelling out money for equipment, exercising can be a hassle. And even minor obstacles can be damaging in the early stages of habit forming, says Sandra Aamodt, PhD, a neuroscientist and author of Why Diets Make Us Fat.
A few simple actions can reinforce your commitment and help you stay motivated. Aamodt recommends keeping your workout clothes by the door, or investing in some versatile and functional fitness equipment. And if your schedule is crazy, consider a streaming workout program that you can do anytime, anywhere.
4. Become a Morning Person
If you knock out your workout first thing in the morning, you won’t have to worry about finding time in your busy schedule later in the day.
Research suggests healthy habits become second nature sooner when you do them in the morning. Starting your day with an intense sweat session may also improve your quality of sleep, so it’s a win-win proposition.
But remember: The best time of day to exercise is whenever you have the time and energy. And exercise at any time of day is better than no exercise at all. So if you hit the snooze button too many times one morning, you can always take a trivia walk after work or squeeze in a Pilates workout during your lunch break.
5. Find Your Community
Everyone knows that exercising with a friend increases the chances that your workout will actually happen. And it doesn’t have to be an in-person workout buddy — in a Michigan State University study, participants who exercised with a virtual workout partner performed an exercise 24 percent longer than those who didn’t.
Social media can be a great resource for finding an online fitness community — or just connecting with a friend who will push you when you need extra motivation. The Openfit Teammates Facebook group is filled with over 10,000 people who are ready to motivate you, cheer you on, and offer support whenever you need it.
“Social media can help if you fall off the wagon,” says Daniel Czech, PhD, a professor of sport psychology at Georgia Southern University. “Reaching out to like-minded people in your social network can be very productive for adherence.”
Instead of fearing the judgment of others, try tweeting something like: Tried to work out, but I didn’t make it today — any suggestions?
6. Set Sustainable Nutrition Goals
Small dietary tweaks — like ordering a burger with salad instead of fries — often lead to better long-term results than sweeping changes, like eliminating burgers entirely.
“If you always forgo your favorite foods for those that seem healthier, you may end up disappointed, which can sabotage your success,” says Albert Matheny, MS, RD, CSCS, USAW.
That one change alone may help you drop up to 2.5 percent of your bodyweight in six months, according to a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Eating more fruits and non-starchy veggies may also help. In a Harvard study, people who consumed more of these foods lost more weight over four years than those who did not.
7. Make It Fun
Your workout doesn’t have to be a grueling experience you dread — it should be something you actually enjoy doing.
The important thing is to find a workout that works for your lifestyle and your interests. Try different workouts of varying intensity and formats to see what gets you motivated — whether that’s a fast and effective HIIT workout or a high-energy barre workout.
Another smart strategy: Pair exercise with something else you love doing, like listening to a podcast. This technique is called “temptation bundling,” and research suggests it can have a powerful effect on willpower.
8. Think Positive
A positive mindset can help you stay on track with your fitness goals. Simply recalling a positive memory about exercise — like your first 5K or a favorite yoga class — can inspire you to keep exercising, according to a study in the journal Memory.
And research suggests that exercise produces feel-good hormones, so take a minute to appreciate the mood boost you get after a good sweat session.
“Paying attention to how great you feel right after a workout can be just as powerful,” says Michelle Segar, PhD, RD, director at the University of Michigan’s Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy.
9. Avoid Overtraining
Nothing can derail your progress like a bum knee or a sore back. To stay off the sidelines, avoid stressing the same joints and muscle groups the same way every day. “In short, don’t do the same workout every time you sweat,” Matheny says. “Mix things up for optimal results.”
And there’s a bonus benefit to adding more variety to your workouts: “It also makes exercising less boring, which is key to maintaining motivation,” Matheny adds.
10. Keep Learning
It’s important to keep up with the latest developments in nutrition and fitness. Things are always evolving, whether it’s a study that challenges a long-held belief or research that discovers something completely new. “People who are knowledgeable about health and fitness are also more likely to keep pursuing their goals,” Czech says.
As you can see, there’s no magic or huge life changes required to achieve your health and fitness resolutions. Just incorporate these small, common-sense tactics and you’ll be well on your way to crushing the New Year.
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