"New year ... new you ???"

So the first week of 2017 has passed. We all made it!!! This first week back after the holidays can be a tough one. Most of us know the hardships of this week. Feeling bloated from overindulging over the holidays, tired because it was a little hectic and sleep was scattered, kids are getting sick and are totally out of routine. And all of course worth it because who doesn’t love the time spent with loved ones over the holidays. And then New Year’s eve comes and goes, and we’re back to the normal routine. Except, what most people do around this time of year is make resolutions. Resolutions to lose weight, drink less coffee, eat less junk food, be more active and so on. Everyone, I know, makes resolutions with the intent to keep them. And most of these resolutions are in the best interest of your health. So today, I am here to talk about how to make realistic goals for yourself so that you can succeed with your health goals.  

Firstly, take a baseline measurement. Think of something easy that you can monitor regularly throughout your health journey. Weighing yourself may seem like the only plausible option, but that is not the case and sometimes can be discouraging. Weight is not the only measure of health. If you are going to weigh yourself, pick a day of the week and time of day and weigh yourself then and only then. Do not weigh yourself every morning and night. This will get frustrating and not be a true indicator of what is happening with your body weight. Another option is to take a waist measurement. Working out and eating healthy may help you build muscle and shed fat and so may not be reflective on the scale but will definitely be seen as you measure the inches around your waist. To properly measure your waist circumference, find the top of your hip bones. Wrap the tape measure around your waist so that it is in line with your belly button. Do not squeeze the tape measure tight and so not hold your breath when taking the measurement. If you are choosing to use waist circumference as a measurement, pick a day of the week and measure yourself every 3 -4 weeks. Waist circumference may take a little longer to show results, so measuring yourself too frequently will be frustrating.

If physical activity is one of your goals, you can use a specific activity to track your progress. For example, you can use how many burpees or jump squats you can do before you get fatigued and track the progress every month and see if you can do more. If you are going to the gym, measure your maximum weight for a given activity like a leg press or bicep curl. If decreasing your amount of coffee or junk food is your goal, or having more healthy meals throughout the week, keep a log of what you are eating. You can use a journal, or use your agenda and keep track of whatever goal or healthy life modification you are trying to change.  Free apps are available on your smart phone to help keep track of food and physical activity. Fitnesspal is one I have tried and still use whenever I feel myself needing to get back on track. It can be downloaded for Iphone and Android systems.

So now the two first steps of writing a health goal are done. You have picked a specific activity, like walking 30 minutes, 3 times a week, or limiting eating out to once a week and you have planned a way to measure it. Now when forming this goal, make sure you are picking something attainable. If you currently do not work out at all, writing a goal for yourself to run 10 km 5 times a week may be unrealistic for the short term. You want to make a goal that can be reasonably attained in about 4 to 6 weeks. It may not be the ultimate end goal, but if you succeed then you can change it. An attainable weight loss goal may be 1 – 2 lbs a week. An attainable cardio fitness goal may be to increase your running distance by 3 – 5 km. An attainable weight lifting goal may be to increase number of reps at a given weight by 6 or increase the weight itself by 10%. You also want to make these goals realistic. Do not pick an activity that you hate doing, because you will not stick to it. For example, if you hate running, do not pick increasing running distance as your fitness goal. There are other great forms of cardio that you may enjoy, for example HIIT workouts are fun cardio workouts that involve no running.

Lastly, when writing your resolution, give yourself a timeline to attain your short term goal. Keep your long term goal in mind, wanting to lose that 20 pounds or run that half marathon in the fall. But break it down into timely, short term goals. A good time line is 4 – 6 weeks. It takes about 30 days of consistent conscious behaviour to create a habit. Make this new healthy activity your habit.

So let’s review this resolution goal writing:

S-  pick a SPECEFIC activity / healthy behaviour / weight

M- figure out a way to MEASURE it; use  a journal, a fitness app on your phone or whatever works for you

A- pick something ATTAINABLE; an activity, weight loss amount or healthy behaviour that is not far fetched

R- make it something REALISTIC to you; choose a gym or fitness class that is close to your work or home, pick healthy foods your like, weight loss that is a healthy amount per week

T- make it a TIMELY goal; keeping a long term goal in mind, pick a short term timeline so you can have successes along the way, it takes about 30 days to create a habit, so aim to review your goal in about 4 – 6 weeks.

My goal for this year is to increase my running interval endurance to 3 minutes before needing to walk, for a 20 minute bout of exercise. I am going to measure it using the Nike training club app (downloaded for free from my google play store). I will review the success of my goal in 6 weeks.

If you need help with planning and attaining your fitness goals, booking an appointment with a physiotherapist is an option for you. Physiotherapists can help identify the barriers to your fitness goals, be it how to work out without aggravating that old knee injury or how to modify a program to a home exercise plan.

And remember to live balanced, live well and be you at your PRIME :)

Amanda Homen
Resident Physiotherapist