CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As the new year began, we were surrounded by confetti, the clink of champagne glasses and warm kisses. Oh -- and lots of promises. That's right -- overflowing with motivation, we vowed to make the next 365 days different from all those that came before.
But history does have a way of repeating itself, so a few weeks later we find ourselves back at the same bad habits and no real lifestyle change. Our resolutions quietly fade into day-to-day obligations. Why is it that an astounding 88 percent of us fail in our attempt to live healthier? Lots of people have lots of reasons why most New Year's resolutions end by mid-January. I'll give you my take on it.
Goals are great
Problem is, they are too
great due to the fact that we typically make pledges in the midst of a celebration spurred on by liquid encouragement. We go overboard with lofty expectations because while in that superhero state of mind, we're capable of accomplishing anything we set our mind to -- right? Right! Well, that is until the confetti settles and our mind gets busy with half a dozen other priorities. Then we're filled with disappointment at our pathetic lack of follow-through.
Resolutions slip, habits stick
You'd think we'd learn after abandoning our goals so many times and yet we continue to set them higher each year. There are plenty of legitimate explanations as to why resolutions have such a short life expectancy. The most common is that they aren't smart -- specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. If they are smart, these resolutions stand a chance to become a habit.
Specific: Decide upon and state exactly what you want to accomplish. Vague aspirations go nowhere. For example, a goal to improve your fitness level is vague, but a goal to exercise after work for 30 minutes, four days a week, is specific.
Measurable: Establish a system to evaluate your progress -- there can be no doubt whether or not you achieved your goals. Count steps, keep a food log or attend a certain number of classes are a few ways to track efforts. This will not only make you accountable, it will also keep you motivated.
Attainable: Set appropriate goals. Here is where most of us fall down. If you have been sedentary for a long period, don't make a resolution to run a marathon. Goals should challenge you, not frustrate you or make you feel like a failure.
Relevant: Think what is realistic with your current habits, energy level and let this guide your goals. Take small steps, and don't forget to factor in your personality. If you hate competition, it probably isn't a good idea to join a tennis league or basketball team.
Time-bound: There has to be both short- and long-term timelines to help you stay engaged and focused. I guarantee I'd never get a column done if there wasn't a firm deadline. Set weekly ones and monthly ones to see real progress. Share these deadlines with a workout buddy and ask for support and accountability.
Does it have to hurt?
No. The No. 1 reason we fail to make our resolutions into habits is that we overreach and end up in a constant state of pain. Excessive muscle soreness results from doing too much, too soon. It is a misconception that great pain is an indicator of a great workout.
Minor soreness or stiffness that is felt a day or two after exercise is to be expected if you are challenging your body. However, if you are experiencing the type of soreness that lasts for days and makes daily activity such as coming down stairs or getting out of your car miserable, you are crossing the line and increasing the chance for detrimental effects in the long term.
Exercising at a high intensity is doable without excessive muscle soreness if reasonable progression is built into the program.
Simply take into account your current levels of fitness and strength and apply slight increases in intensities and volume over time. Fitness is built, not injected so build it according to your SMART plan.
Cindy Boggs is a wellness writer and healthy living expert. She is the author of the award-winning fitness advice book, "CindySays ... You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World." Send your questions about fitness, training and health to firstname.lastname@example.org.