From Resolution to Results: Your 2021 Fitness Goals
By: Kamaljit "Sonya" Virdi, Ph.D. | January 22, 2021
It’s that time of year again when the holidays have concluded, New Year’s excitement has worn off, and we face our New Year’s resolutions, the most common one is resolving to exercise more regularly. While you might still be on track with your goal now, you may struggle with having the same energy levels you had on January 1st. Most people quit their New Year’s resolutions by February. The following 5 strategies may help you recommit to your exercise goals for 2021.
Forgive yourself for not having started sooner. Guilt can pose real barriers to progress and make us create unrealistically high goals to compensate. Instead, direct your energy into self-compassion for your situation and its context. If you need help getting started on this, check out Kristin Neff, Ph.D., who conducted some amazing research on self-compassion, has a TED Talk, and wrote books on the subject in which she sheds light on how to incorporate it into your life, and the positive impact that it can have on your health and well-being.
Let go of the idea that you should feel shame about your body and that weight loss is the most important aspect of exercise. Embrace yourself as you engage each stage of the process. Body positivity is the concept that all bodies, regardless of size or shape, are worthy of a positive body image. Consider one of the many books and podcasts that focus on body positivity or seek out a virtual fitness instructor who puts particular emphasis on the subject. Exercise should not feel like a punishment that you endure until you get to your weight goal. Recognize that other benefits accrue from exercise, such as improved mood and increased energy.
Commit to a goal only after you have assessed your lifestyle thoroughly. For instance, if you have a newborn or toddler, you may not realistically be able to work out on the same day and time weekly. Pick activities that you can do with your children or do yourself while they sleep. Ask for help with childcare if you need it. Something I consistently hear from moms is that they don’t want to burden their partners or friends. Ask them to test out your assumption.
For those with flexibility, pick a time of day that meshes with your energy level. For example, if you snooze frequently and barely make it to work on time, mornings may not work for you. With stay-at-home orders in place right now, call on your creativity to get your daily dose of exercise. Seize any opportunity to activate your day naturally (e.g., go for a walk during a work break, pace while you take phone calls, or use stairs instead of an elevator).
Reduce barriers to regular exercise by committing to the frequency, time, and type of activity that you wish to engage in weekly. If ‘sedentary’ describes your current activity level, make your initial goals small and manageable (e.g., 10 minutes on the treadmill, 3 times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays), and then work your way up. Assess what got in the way in the past including these common barriers, such as not having enough time, picking the wrong time of day, not planning for weather changes, setting initial goals too high, and feeling too sore from aggressive workouts. Come up with a plan to overcome your previous challenges. For instance, if weather got in your way in the past, plan an alternative indoor activity to have on hand.
Recognize that you will not be as good as you once were or as good as you wish to be if you haven’t done much activity recently. That’s okay! Be kind to yourself! If performing an activity well or losing weight are parts of your exercise goals, acknowledge that these take time. If exercise is a means to happiness for you, acknowledge that weight loss and exercise alone do not guarantee that happiness. Instead, consider other parts of your life, such as your current job satisfaction or your interpersonal relationships, to allow additional opportunities to grow.
I offer these strategies in the hopes that they will help you reach your 2021 exercise goals!