If you’re starting an exercise program on New Year’s Day, you’re in good company. In this season of hope and renewal, getting fit is a popular pastime. Setting the right goal is key, but you also have to get your head and heart in the right place — and keep them there. Try these tips to set yourself up for lasting fitness success in the new year and for years to come:
Identify your core values.
Spend 30 minutes or more reflecting on what really matters to you; dig deep. Is it family, faith, love, service, or… other things? Identify up to five or so values that serve as your inner compass. Then, look for ways that physical activity supports each core value. If family is one, being fit lets you enjoy activities together that you couldn’t otherwise do; and it reduces health risks, boosting your odds of being around for loved ones longer.
Connecting these dots lays a solid foundation for making daily exercise a priority — because it’s not just about getting out for a run; it’s about making daily choices that align with what matters most to you.
Find a fitness friend — or two.
Exercising is a lot more fun when you make it social. You might prefer working out solo, and that’s fine; getting out on your own for a run or walk can be incredibly refreshing. But do your best to add a little mixing and mingling to your fitness plan several times a week; cultivating social support for exercise is a key factor in sticking with it.
Tune into a trend.
Turn up the heat by trying out popular workout formats. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, body weight training, high-intensity interval training, strength training, outdoor activities, and yoga are among the top trends for 2015. Be open to sampling new activities; you never know when you’ll stumble upon a new fave.
Zero in on immediate payoffs.
According to Dr. Michelle Segar, focusing on immediate payoffs of exercise — like more energy, increased happiness, or a better mood elevation — is more effective in keeping us motivated than focusing on longer-term benefits. It’s true — preventing heart disease, cancer, and other ills later in life isn’t super motivating in the moment. So think about how good exercise will make you feel — today, right now.
Leverage the “fresh-start effect” all year long.
Interestingly, scientists say that January isn’t the only time of year we’re inclined to take a new crack at getting fit. The start of a new week, new month, a birthday, or other big events serve as temporal landmarks — letting us put some distance between our past attempts at behavior change and the here and now. No need to wait for a new year to push the reset button; just pick a day and get started.
Making exercise a regular part of your everyday life is a fantastic target to aim for. Spend a little time this week personalizing your strategy, and get ready to shine in 2015!
What’s on your fitness agenda for the New Year? We’d love to hear from you.
Beth Shepard, MS, ACSM-RCEP, ACE-PT, has a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Arizona. Beth is an expert in fitness and health promotion and a certified wellness coach, helping people thrive by adopting sustainable lifestyle changes. She and her family love to hike, bicycle, and try new sports.