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Baby Steps: How To Actually Stick With Your Fitness Resolutions This Year

woman tying her shoes before working out
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Maybe the secret to keeping our fitness resolutions post-January is being honest about what goals are attainable.

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Unless you are already a self-proclaimed “gym rat,” there seem to be two opposing camps for getting fit after the New Year.

Camp One has made multiple New Year’s resolutions throughout the years. They are plastered on vision boards, scrawled in brand new vibrant planners, and proudly declared through social media posts.

These go-getters have big plans for their new and improved self. The pantry is cleared of chips, snacks, and remaining Christmas cookies. New gym memberships are purchased, along with fresh kicks, and trendy athletic wear, all with the intent to hit the gym at least five times a week and get that stomach tight and body fierce.

Camp Two spends an unnecessary amount of time scoffing at these declarations. If they ever were naive enough to make resolutions in the past, they certainly aren’t making such mistakes this year. January 1st is no different from December 1st — or March 22nd, for that matter. They’ve wasted money on at-home workout programs before.

To be honest, that baby weight “ain’t never” coming off, and what’s the point of depriving yourself anyway? After all, if the current state of the world has taught us anything, it is that we only have one life to live.

Whichever camp you find yourself in, come February 1, chances are you are in camp-right-back-where-you-started-from. Sadly but not too surprisingly, statistics show that it takes less than 32 days for most to abandon their resolutions, no matter how awesome that new planner was or how comfy and versatile that sports bra is. 

So, what if we looked for something in the middle? We could be brave and step outside of Camp One and Camp Two. Perhaps making a grandiose resolution that is nearly impossible for anyone to achieve, especially someone who already has a full-time job, family to care for, and a few bad habits to push through, is just a tad too much to take on right now. Instead, our resolutions (or goals) may get us a lot fewer likes on Facebook, but be much simpler to maintain in the real world.

Setting Realistic Goals

If the goal is to tighten your stomach, fit into a smaller size, or just plain feel and look better, there’s a number of ways to go about this. None of them, however, happen overnight or even in 30 days. Healthy and fit is a journey.

First, you need to start with an attainable goal. It’s super tempting to point to an influencer on Instagram or even a celebrity when selecting your ideal body. That, however, is their body; not yours.

Instead of comparing your body to others, focus on your body’s strengths. Think about what you like about your body and what you would like to improve, as well as the why. It’s completely fine to want a flat stomach because you want to look sexy in a bikini this summer. But, if that is your only goal, you may end up severely disappointed. Aside from abs being stubborn to make appear, you are missing out on a number of other benefits when dreaming up your perfect New Years’ body.

Maybe you realize you can barely walk your dog without getting out of breath. Perhaps it’s difficult to lift your toddler without pain. Although it would be awesome to look like a swimsuit model one day, focusing on building your endurance along with general strength might be closer to your real desire. Of course, dropping a dress size or two might just be a secondary goal.

Be Honest with Yourself

The next step is to be honest with yourself. This can sometimes be even harder than setting a realistic goal. You’ve considered your current body and state of health. You’ve set some realistic goals and are ready to conquer them! Time to set that alarm for 5 a.m. and start cranking out the work! Or is it?

As someone whose current idea of working out is taking your crazy but loveable rescue dog for a 5-10 minute stroll twice a day, suddenly expecting to bust out five days of work at the gym a week may be a bit of a stretch. Let’s start with two. When you make it through January, you can add one more day if you’re ready for it.

If you’re like me and the idea of waking up at 5 a.m. makes you want to curl up into the fetal position and cry, perhaps scratch that idea too. Now that you’re only going twice a week, it’s probably a lot easier to adjust your schedule and fit in that sweat session during a lunch break, after work, or maybe even on the weekend.

Small Changes Can Add Up

The same idea goes for how you handle your nutrition. What we put into our bodies plays a vital role in our health. But, before you swear off Starbucks, curse all carbs, and go on a rampage throwing out all the treats, sweets, and general junk food in your home, try some self-reflection again.

Going cold turkey can work for a short time. You may see some big changes very suddenly. However, generally, when we’ve restricted ourselves so hugely, we eventually find ourselves falling off the wagon, binging whatever we’ve missed so terribly, and ending up right back at the beginning of our journey, if not worse off. 

Self-reflection reveals that we purchase Starbucks every day before work. Not only does caffeine bring you to life, but you enjoy the daily chit-chat with your favorite barista, and you love treating a fellow coworker occasionally as well.

Instead of cutting out that morning joy, let’s instead simply try swapping out that venti caramel latte for a healthier option. I’m not suggesting you go straight for the black coffee alternative. Instead, simply ask the barista for one less pump of sugar, switch to almond milk (or another dairy alternative), and maybe leave off the whipped cream occasionally. Baby steps, my friends!

Finally, remember that this is your resolution, no one else’s. It’s your plan and it should be at your pace. It might be intimidating to watch the super-fit chick next to you run a 5k without breaking a sweat. However, your ten-minute mile on the treadmill is a million times better than when you were just sitting your butt on the couch last week.

No one wants to waste 30 days or so painfully trying to drastically change their entire body. Whether your New Year’s resolution is health and fitness-related or not, the only way it will survive will be if it is attainable and sustainable. It’s not a winning or losing camp. It’s a continual practice.