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Realistic goals help fitness resolutions stick

I’ve always loved the Christmas season. Mom always made at least a dozen types of cookies and it was the responsibility of the kids to deliver plates of homemade goodies to our neighbors.Obviously, we were able to sample the cookies as she made them. Our Christmas tree and our home were decorated with Christmas lights. And while our decorations may have been viewed by some as tacky, we loved them and hoped Santa would have no problem finding our house on Christmas Eve. My fondest Christmas memories are of the times we spent with mom and dad making cookies, decorating the tree and putting up lights on the outside of the house. My husband and I continue to enjoy some of these same Christmas traditions today.

As a child, it seemed people were always happier and more giving during this time of year. Church friends, relatives, and my father’s co-workers would bring fruit, a ham, a turkey, or boxes of candy to the house. There always seemed to be more food in the house from the middle of December until after New Year’s Day. During the holidays, we seemed to be eating something sweet or enjoying richer foods than we normally had access to during the rest of the year. As a result of all this food in the house, I can remember my mom saying, “I’ve got to go on a diet after New Year’s.”

Let’s now fast forward to Christmas 2011. Although it’s a different year and economic times are challenging, I can’t help but notice the spirit of Christmas is alive and well in Albany, Georgia. Everywhere you go, you hear “Merry Christmas”, and people in the community are giving and sharing with their neighbors. You also find people eating more and exercising less. I hear people saying, “I need to go on a diet and start exercising at the beginning of the year.” That’s a common refrain for this time of year. If you have made a similar comment, I have a question for you. What will be different for you in 2012? How will you ensure your New Year’s resolution is more than just words? How can you be successful in achieving your goal of becoming healthier?

The definition of resolve is to come to a definite or earnest decision about something. Resolutions are great, but how will you ensure you reach your resolve to lose weight, spend more time with family, exercise more, read an inspirational book, commit to spiritual growth, grow a small business, or do whatever you set your mind to do. Unfortunately, 90 percent of individuals who set New Year resolutions do not achieve them, and 40 percent give up on them by the end of January. Don’t be one of the 90 percent. Here are some tips to help you along the way.

Be clear and specific on the purpose. Do you want to lose weight or do you want to lose 25 pounds? It may sound like the same thing, but one is not specific and the other is. Setting a specific goal gives you a way to measure success — I’m a quarter of the way there, I’m halfway there, etc. — and inspires you not to give up.

Commit to your goal. Emotionally commit to not turning back or allowing yourself to feel okay about giving up like you did last year. Don’t say you’re going to “try” to lose weight. Say that you “are” going to lose weight.

Be accountable to others for your goals. Tell as many people as possible about your resolution. Enlist the help of others who will support you and hold you accountable.

Write your goal down on paper. There’s something about writing it down that makes it more real. However, don’t be vague. If your goal is to read an inspirational book, write down the steps you will take towards this goal. Maybe the goal is to read one page every night before you go to bed.

Write down your goal every day on something you see. It could be a schedule book, on a calendar, or on a piece of paper in your wallet. Taking time to write it down each day keeps you emotionally connected.

Map out a plan with the steps it will take you each week, each month or each year to achieve your goal. If your goal is to get in shape, you could say, “I will attend a Zumba class every Tuesday and Thursday.” Eventually, you could increase the expectations — “I will attend two Zumba classes a week and do weight training twice a week.”

If your goal is to start up a small business, list the date you want the business to be up and running and work backwards, listing what needs to be accomplished during each month to achieve having your own business. Always be realistic and surround yourself with people who can help you set realistic goals.

Do something every day that moves you toward your goal. If you goal is to get in better shape, get up every day and do twenty jumping jacks and twenty crunches. Or, cut back on portion sizes each day to ensure a gradual decrease in the number of calories you consume each day. How much time does that take? It gets you in the habit of doing something positive to reach your goal each day.

Use positive words of affirmation and don’t be too hard on yourself if you backslide a little bit. Review and recommit to your goals every day. Sometimes life changes happen and you may need to tweak your goal, but never let it die.

Celebrate every success along the way. Don’t wait until you build the business, lose the twenty-five pounds, read the entire book, or make a daddy daughter date night happen six months in a row before celebrating your accomplishments.

Whatever your resolution is for 2012, know that all things are possible with a little planning and a little help. Remember what is written in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” Thank you, baby Jesus, for being born and making all things possible.

Mary Ganzel works at the Albany Area YMCA as senior program director. She has a master’s degree in exercise physiology from the University of Kentucky and has worked in the fitness industry for more than 25 years. She’s been certified through multiple national organizations over the years as a personal trainer, exercise test technologist, health promotion director, group exercise instructor, Cycle Reebok instructor and Pilates instructor through Cooper Institute, American College of Sports Medicine, American Council on Exercise, Aerobic Fitness Association of America and the Young Mens Christian Association.