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A common theme at the start of the new year is to set resolutions for change, especially around fitness. While health-related goals are often a step in the right direction, it is easy to overextend ourselves and give up. Here are five things to factor in when it comes to setting a goal and sticking with it to the end.

Be Realistic

The first step in succeeding with a health resolution is to understand how one’s personal limitations (disabilities, past injuries, genetics, health issues, time constraints, etc.) impact the results one will get from training and diet. Not everyone will ever be able to fit into a size 2, rank in a 10k race, or attain a flat stomach. But that’s okay, because each of us possess a unique mix of strengths and weaknesses terms of our capacities and abilities, shaped by our genetics, personalities, and experiences.

Be Consistent

Half the battle of achieving goals is to stay consistent in your efforts to reach the goal. This means that bursts of short-term energy will most often fall short of regular, sustained efforts for achieving long-term goals. For example, being inconsistent with eating and exercise habits over time (ex. excusing a lot of cheat days or skipping workouts due to stress or tiredness) will not net the same results as sustaining a routine. This is because in order to lose weight or gain muscle mass, it requires disciplined and sustained effort to ensure that the body has what it needs to reach a specific goal. Being wishy-washy sabotages that process and the progress. To stay on track, it is crucial to stay realistic about one’s goals and time constraints.

Pace Yourself

The sibling to “being consistent” is to pace yourself when trying to reach goals. This is because trying to take too much on at once can put us at risk for injury and burnout. When you first start an exercise program, the emphasis should be on establishing and sustaining a healthy biomechanical foundation rather than starting out with a high-volume, high intensity training program which your body may not be capable of handling in its current state. Proper conditioning sets the stage for optimally functional bodies. It is much easier to gradually increase the weight, speed and/or intensity to your workout over time than it is to alleviate problems caused by putting too much physical stress on the body too fast. if there is a breakdown in one area in the body, it creates a chain reaction to the surrounding areas in the way of compensation patterns. This, then further exasperates the issues. So, being slow and steady with health goals is of the utmost importance.

Have Rest Periods

Along with sustained efforts, it is just as important to rest your body in between workouts, to get enough sleep (7 to 8 hours per night) and to drink enough water (at least half of your body weight in ounces, and even more so when engaging in intensive exercise) to help detox and restore your body.

And if you feel like your body is overly stressed or in pain (more than a 6-7 out of 10), listen!  This is the body’s way of telling us that there might be an issue and that we need to rest. When this occurs, it’s important to take a break from training or working out, because it prevents injuries.

Stay Open

It feels amazing when we reach our intended goals.  However, when our expectations aren’t met, it doesn’t have to indicate failure as long as we tried our best. Success, in itself, rarely comes in a one-shot deal. It most often comes from repeated attempts, adapting to the situation, and sometimes changing course from the original plan. So, if you have a setback, try to be kind to yourself and see what you can learn from the experience.

Setting a new health goal for the new year is often a step in the right direction. It just takes time, effort, perseverance and the right attitude to make it to the finish line. So, slow and steady is a way to go when it comes to achieving long-term goals, such as life-long health and fitness!