By Angie Chandler, NBC-HWC, NASM-CPT, FLT-vLE
As a health coach, I love the energy of a new year when my clients come to me excited to share that they’re ready to kick off January with so many great goals. It could be to exercise more, eat better, drink more water — or any way of committing to take better care of their bodies and minds.
But by February, especially in Michigan when the coldest days set in, sticking to those resolutions can be a challenge. Add in the extra stress 2021 brings with the ongoing pandemic and accomplishing these goals for the whole year can feel daunting. That’s when I turn to a favorite word to help stay grounded: FOCUS.
There are a ton of ads and information coming at us all day long right now about how to be healthier and shed those “pandemic pounds.” But I advise clients to turn off the noise and focus on yourself and what you need to make 2021 a healthier year for yourself. It doesn’t mean buying expensive equipment or staying on an extreme diet. Start by reflecting on what will work for you personally.
Take inventory of your strengths.
Without being modest, what are your best attributes? What are you exceptionally good at and you know it? What areas of your life’s accomplishments came naturally to you? Note why it was natural to you. What parts of your personality shine? This is the very list of personal strengths that will see you though this year’s resolutions, step-by-step.
For example: if you do your best work or get things done around the house when your favorite music is playing, then you know music should be integrated in your fitness time to keep you excited about your workouts. Are you great at planning ahead? Then a weekly workout chart you display somewhere easy to see (the fridge, online calendar or a white board) might be what you need to stay on track all year long. Are you a social butterfly with great friendships? Group fitness classes might be the key for you. Be sure to write these qualities in list form so you can see them on paper, and readily refer to when needed.
Get into a healthy mindset by letting go of what you know won’t work.
In my experience, all behavior change ultimately begins (and continues) with mindset. A healthy mindset is a positive mindset. When you feel ready, also take an objective look at your current beliefs, thought processes and actions taken regarding your fitness from before. This is a great way to weed out what does not serve you well anymore.
Did you try running and hate it? Then don’t make training for a virtual race a goal and explore other fitness options. Try walking instead. Did you love a workout, yoga or dance class you took with a friend? Find free options online and commit to a class per week to start—put it in your calendar the same way you would a work meeting or doctor’s appointment.
As Albert Einstein put it, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” With that in perspective, let’s look at ways to increase our physical activity, movement, and exercise consistency each day. Today — we move onward and upward. Simply start where you are.
Look to the experts for guidance to set goals.
The American College of Lifestyle Medicine reports broad evidence to support weekly exercise recommendations for adults. For 18-64 years old, the recommendation is at least 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity, or 75-150 minutes of vigorous activity weekly along with two or more days weekly of strength training. (Speaking of strength, did you know that strength training can actually make you feel better overall?)
Following these recommendations from experts, how can you realistically split your activity up each week? Maybe it’s 20 minutes per day of movement. Can you turn phone calls or meetings into walking conversations? Can you spend more time being active on weekends when work, school or kids’ schedules aren’t dominating your time? Be sure to build in a rest day or two, so you can refresh and recharge.
Don’t force change, own it.
Studies show that when we’re forced to change something about our behavior, it usually doesn’t last. Even when a doctor tells a patient to “lose weight or your life will be shorter,” it’s not always enough to make change happen. This “do or die” approach might be an eye-opener in the moment, but most likely will not last long-term if the person does not share the same goal. As humans, we change best when it’s our own idea. Write down your realistic fitness goals on paper and sign them with your actual signature. Hang this up someplace you’ll see it regularly to keep it top of mind. Owning the desire to change for ourselves and not for someone else makes all the difference.
Celebrate your strength and successes.
When we focus on what we are most proud of within the last week or smile when we remember how we overcame a barrier to living a fit and healthy lifestyle before — motivation stays high. Keep your list of strengths handy and keep adding notes to it. Reward yourself as the weeks go by for accomplishing your goals. Change is a process and by keeping track of what’s going well, you’re writing your own story of success!
As I often ask my clients during our sessions, keep this question top of mind each week: “What, if anything, would you be willing to do starting this week in honor of your goals?”
About the Author: Angela Chandler, NBHWC, NASM-CPT is a health coach in Priority Health’s Wellness Department. She holds the National board-certification for Health & Wellness Coaches and National Academy of Sports Medicine-certified personal trainer. Her professional experiences continue to fuel her passion for writing health and wellness content. Angie partners with people in a positive, respectful, yet playful way that brings out their best and generates inspiration to sustain healthy lifestyle habits!