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PERRY BUCHANAN: Forget setbacks, and stick to your goals

HEALTH AND FITNESS: Remember those resolutions, even if you occasionally break them

Perry Buchanan

Perry Buchanan

Two months have almost passed in this New Year, and you started 2014 strong with your resolution to get back in shape, and were doing great. Of course, you were doing great in 2013 too, when you went to the gym every morning for almost a month! Now, you’ve gone from running, lifting, and stretching back to your old routine of lounging on the couch and channel surfing. The most activity you’ve been performing involves a spoon and fork and requires very few calories. So why do you keep quitting? You may be able to make your fitness program stick this time by following some of these strategies.

Include accountability and support in your action plan. You have to start planning exercise, just like with meetings, and every other task in your life. Put it on the calendar, because later always turns into never. Get an accountability partner. Find a friend, mentor or coach to keep you honest. You can either exercise with your partner, or simply check in with him or her to report your progress.

Understand the limits of your willpower. Willpower is inherently limited, but doesn’t mean you’re doomed to self-control failure. Because willpower is limited, it’s important to set reasonable goals and priorities. Conserve your willpower for what really matters. Recognize that willpower is not “all in the mind,” and supply your mind and body with the fuel it needs to face life’s challenges. This fuel includes rest, a healthy diet and a steady supply of positive experiences.

Forgive temporary setbacks. A single mistake doesn’t mean you are weak. It may just mean you’ve already succeeded to the limits of your current ability, and now you deserve a rest or reward to restore your strength. Anticipate hurdles and road blocks. Understand how the demands of your job, family and other relationships may interfere with your ability to stick with a health or fitness program. Fitness barriers can be beaten once they’ve been identified.

Strive for the 4 Cs. Just like buying the perfect diamond, “the four Cs” will lead to a successful fitness program. The 4 Cs of fitness are commitment, challenge, convenience, and consistency.

First, exercise takes commitment. People are motivated by different things. It’s important to first discover what your individual goals are, whether it’s losing weight, strengthening and toning, or preparing for an event. But goals aren’t enough to get you there; you have to be motivated by the day-to-day workouts. So choose something you’ll enjoy doing and you will be likely to stay motivated, whether it’s walking with a friend, working with a trainer, or taking part in an exercise class.

Creating a challenge for yourself will motivate you, as will encouragement and accountability. You want to know when you’re doing a good job, and when you’re not. Remember too, that anything worth having takes work. It helps to stay challenged by assessing and evaluating your performance and progress. Set a goal, such as increasing the speed, frequency or duration of your activity. Maybe it’s time to train for an event or simply show progress in certain areas of your training. Your trainer can help you determine appropriate goals.

Convenience and fun should be considered. A gym that’s close by, or an activity you can do at home, or a time when you’re not likely to be interrupted will help you stick to your program. Even if you are introverted, the presence of others in your exercise environment can be motivating. We pick up on other people’s energy. Choose places and times to exercise where there will be other people who are actively involved in exercise.

Finally, there’s consistency. I’d rather see a client work out for 10 minutes a day rather than one hour every month. Give it time to work. It takes about four weeks for the body to adapt to lifestyle changes. That’s why people who give up on their fitness programs tend to do so within the first 30 days. So, when the alarm goes off in the morning and it’s dark and cold, don’t roll over and hit the snooze button. Try to stick with a program for a month. After a month, behavior patterns will have adapted and it will be much easier to stick with it after that.

Perry Buchanan, owner of PT Gym, is certified as a Health Fitness Specialist through the American College of Sports Medicine, and Fitness Nutrition Specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine.