How to Set a Better Fitness Resolution

Skip the "Lose Weight" Mumbo Jumbo

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Hierarchy of Exercise. Girls Gone Sporty/Laura Williams

Fitness resolutions are a dime a dozen, and within a few weeks of the New Year's ball drop, most fall by the wayside. The reasons for resolution demise are varied. Sometimes it's due to lack of motivation, an unexpected injury, or a "come to Jesus" moment when you realize how packed your schedule is and how much time it actually requires to train for a marathon.

Generally speaking, though, resolutions fail because people haven't realistically planned for them to succeed.

Real resolutions are really just goals. And goals are only beneficial if they're SMART and FOCUSed.

Set SMART Goals

SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time constrained. Essentially this means that you've taken the time to sit down and take a hard look at your life and your general desires, such as, "I'd like to lose weight," turning those desires into an actionable and measurable goals that realistically and healthfully  fit within your life. For instance, you might say instead, "I will lose 10 pounds and 1% body fat by the end of March by exercising three times a week and reducing the number of meals I eat out from five per week to two."

The SMART goal has a deadline, it details a goal that can actually be measured (10 pounds and 1% body fat), and it's set up in a realistic and attainable fashion - most people can find time for three workouts a week, and it's not unreasonable to cut back restaurant meals from five to two.

All of these factors add up to make it specific.

Set FOCUSed Goals

Another thing I always see at the start of a new year is resolution overload.

Suddenly all the bad habits formed over the course of a lifetime are set to be revamped at the drop of the New Year's ball. It's not just exercise that tops the list, but now you're going to eat Paleo, drink more water, sleep more, drink less alcohol, go to church, get on a budget, eliminate debt, spend more time with family, and travel the world.

Holy smokes! That's a lot to try and manage.

If you want to set a resolution that sticks, make it FOCUSed. In other words, Follow One Course Until Success. That means you should only set one big, meaningful, important goal - the goal that burns deep in your soul, then pursue it wholeheartedly. It may turn out that you end up altering more of your life in positive ways to help you meet your one goal, but it enables you to stay focused on the most important thing without experiencing resolution ADHD.

For instance, if you decide to incorporate exercise into your daily life, your overarching goal might be, "Meet the ACSM guidelines for healthy activity by accumulating at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week for six months." This SMART goal might then guide some of your other habits - you might find yourself drinking more water, sleeping better, and making healthier food choices as a byproduct of your new routine, but you always stay focused on your main goal.

Understand the Hierarchy of Exercise

The Hierarchy of Exercise is an important tool to help you decide how much exercise is realistic in your current life.

It also cuts out the noise of other people's goals because it enables you to see that you may be in one spot on the Hierarchy, while your friends and family might be on another spot. The whole point is to focus first on health-related exercise, then to work your way up the pyramid, as desired, based on specific fitness or sports-related goals.

Use a Goal-Setting Workbook

I developed a special goal-setting workbook for the subscribers at Girls Gone Sporty to help readers focus in on the goals that are most important, then determine a solid plan of action for completing them. I'd love to provide this workbook for free to all of the About.com readers as well. Simply click here to download a copy of your own.

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