Sunday, December 28, 2014

This new year, don't make a resolution, set a goal

We are approaching the two weeks of the year when fitness centers and gyms fill up. If you are someone who is planning to focus on your health and fitness this year, I'm here to suggest that you try thinking about a goal rather than a resolution to start your new year. It's a small change that can make some positive differences. Here's a few to consider, starting with the big one:

1. Set a goal for yourself not a resolution
A goal is something concrete that you'd like to achieve. Think about something today that would make you proud to say you accomplished a year from now. Make it something that, deep down, would even impress your quiet moments alone you would say "Wow. I DID that!" That's a worthy goal. Maybe it's riding your first century - 100 miles - on a bike? Maybe it's running your first 5k without walking? Maybe it's doing a sub 3:30 marathon and qualifying for Boston?

2. Connect your goal to the things that motivate you.
If performing in public is something that makes a difference to you - did you just feel your pulse quicken a little? - then you might consider setting a goal based on an upcoming event like a race or an organized ride. If you ride a bike and live in Michigan, for instance, maybe you decide this is the year that you do ODRAM, the One Day Ride Across Michigan. Or maybe DALMAC? Maybe you aren't the kind of person that needs a crowd to be motivated, though? Maybe it is all about testing your own limits? Maybe you ride the Pere Marquette Trail from end to end this year? Whatever it is, make it about your own personal milestone.

3. Write it down...then make it public
This is an important have to share your goal. I'm trying to keep this post short, so I'll save the literature review for another time, but there is good evidence to show that being accountable to yourself and others for your fitness goals actually helps keep you engaged over a longer period of time. To put that simply: if you say out loud and in front of people you care about that you'll run a 10k this year, you are more likely to follow through with it than if you keep that goal to yourself. Same goes for writing that goal down on a sticky note and sticking it to your bathroom mirror.

4. Make decisions, day-to-day, that get you closer (not further away) from the goal
Now you see why having a challenging goal is can be the driver for smaller, more consistent changes in your behavior throughout the year. Will you get up for a workout on Sunday morning before the rest of the family? You might if you consider that it allows you to get one step closer to completing the Detroit Marathon next Fall. Will you have a burrito or a grilled chicken salad for lunch? Maybe the salad helps you get over the hills to Lake Charlevoix that you know are waiting for you on DALMAC day 4.

5. Keep track of your progress toward the goal
This means factoring your larger goal down into smaller things that you can keep track of and even measure. Feeling good about your progress is a key benefit. And soon, you may be one of those folks repeating what sounds like a cliché: it's not the destination, it's the journey. Truly, for me, it's both...I definitely do better when I'm on a challenging path to a new and exciting place. But not far into the journey, I realize that I like getting there as much as I like getting to the end.

So...what's your goal for 2015?