Here's how to avoid the six most common New Year's resolution mistakes and ensure that your fitness and fat-loss goals are successful.
Mistake #1: Not Quantifying
Vague goals are difficult to achieve. Examples of vague fitness goals include "run more," "lose weight," or "get stronger." Any of these could be made more specific (and more achievable) by quantifying them. For example, "run a total of 60 minutes each week," "lose one pound every two weeks until I've lost 20 pounds," and "bench press five extra pounds each week until I can bench press my own body weight" are all quantifiable goals in which you can track your progress. You'll notice that those last two examples have an end goal in mind, which leads to my next point ...
Mistake #2: Not Setting Dates or Benchmarks
If there is no start date, end date, or end goal (benchmark) for your resolution, it can be very hard to get started and very hard to complete. After all, imagine if you had to run a marathon with no idea where the starting line, ending line, or any of the middle points are? If you just had to run until someone said stop? Pretty tough. So when you set a resolution, you must set a start date (such as, "The first Monday in January, I weigh myself") and an end date or end goal (such as, "I lose a pound every two weeks until May 31st, or until I've lost 20 pounds").
Mistake #3: Setting Too Many Goals
Depending on your personality, it can be easy to go overboard with your resolution-making. If you woke up on January 1st determined to learn to play a piano concerto, run a marathon, lose 20 pounds, and become a black belt in karate, you're setting yourself up for disappointment. When you make too many ambitious resolutions, the likelihood of not achieving at least one of them, and doing a pretty subpar job at all of them, is pretty high. Despite the temptation to use New Year's as a motivation to get a lot done, it is better and more efficient to focus on just one big goal and not to become distracted (and overwhelmed) by other dreams.
Mistake #4: Not Tracking
If you're not tracking or logging your progress, you can easily lose motivation, forget your quantifiable goal, and rationalize your lack of progress. Whether it's stepping on the scale each day and writing down the number, taking a front and side photo at the end of each week, or timing how fast you can run a mile at the end of each week, you must have a way of checking in on your progress. If your goal involves swimming, cycling, or running, I recommend using an online tracking and logging software such as TrainingPeaks, which makes it easy to keep tabs on your activities and share your workouts with your friends. Speaking of which ...
Mistake #5: Not Sharing
Don't keep your New Year's resolution to yourself. Tell the world. You can increase your accountability, motivation, and potential to stick with your workout goals if you share your progress using Facebook, Twitter, or your own blog. You can also share your actual workouts by getting a workout buddy or even hiring a personal trainer.
Mistake #6: Not Expecting Setbacks
Let's face it: There will be periods of time when your progress toward achieving your resolution doesn't go exactly as planned. For example, I'm personally an all-or-nothing personality, and that means that if I've made a commitment to exercise for an hour a day, and I have a day in which I can only go 20 minutes, I can easily get discouraged and feel ready to give up on my goal. But this is silly! Every little bit of progress you make toward your goal really does count, no matter how small. So even when the going gets tough and you don't get as much accomplished as you think you should, just keep plugging away. It's all for the greater good.
Ben Greenfield is recognized as one of the top fitness, triathlon, and nutrition experts in the nation. He writes the "Get Fit Guy" column for QuickandDirtyTips.com.