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New Years resolutions are a chance to make bold statements and plan massive goals – they’re inspiring, motivating, a chance to dream…
And in the majority of cases, they just don’t work.
That New Years resolution that seems to be so motivating becomes a ball and chain attached to your ankle, reminding you of what you haven’t achieved.
Every time you look in the mirror, or head for the gym, or head out on a run, you remember that night when you promised yourself you become more consistent then more focused on your goals.
That’s not to say that new years resolutions never work, but if there was one night of the year that you shouldn’t be coming up with life changing plans, it’s probably New Years Eve.
So let’s go through your best alternative to a new years resolution and the best, most reliable way of achieving that annual goal.
The main reasons why New Years resolutions don’t last
Understanding why most New Year’s resolutions, specifically fitness resolutions, don’t last is the key to avoiding another New Years resolution implosion.
Here are our top 3 New Years resolution killers, in no particular order:
The goal doesn’t excite you
The classic resolutions – getting fitter, healthier, stronger – are great health goals. Who doesn’t want to be healthier, right?
Well, it turns out that plenty of us don’t get excited about the classics.
While it’s good to be healthier, is it really that exciting TO YOU? Does it get you out of bed in the morning and put a smile on your face?
If the answer isn’t a resounding “hell yes!”, then it’s hard to force the motivation for more than a few weeks.
Failing to plan is planning to fail
Waking up on New Year’s Day and being full of motivation is great (after the hangover wears off of course…)
Your enthusiasm to chase goals is boosted x10 after the uplifting group discussions about big goals for 2022.
Unfortunately your body’s capacity isn’t boosted x10 (after a big NYE party, it’s usually about 99% down for the next day or so…)
Once you fully recovered, your motivation and your brain get together to plan your training.
But the training plan is more aspirational then realistic given the inevitable constraints of a busy work/family life.
This means that you need to put in an excessive amount of effort to make the plan work, which often means you’ve compromised on your recovery time.
If you don’t feel mentally burnt out by the challenges of your new years resolution, then physical burnout is usually the thing to get you.
Niggles become injuries and injuries kill motivation. It’s a frustrating end to another promising New Years resolution.
You don’t acknowledge where you’re starting from
Aiming for the stars is awesome – the human body has amazing potential and can achieve phenomenal things.
But you need to acknowledge where you’re starting from to ensure a successful journey.
You want to run like an Olympian (who wouldn’t?)
But you need to start at the level you’re at now, rather than starting with an Olympic sized training load.
Too often we get our motivation from well-known athletes at the top of their game.
We try to mimic their plan for success – training twice a day, long runs of 40k, strength training.
That sounds like a winning plan until you compare it to your recent training volume – two 5k runs and one yoga class each week.
It’s just too much too soon, and no amount of motivation will save you from fatigue, injury and disappointment.
The best alternatives to a New Years resolution
Get your timing right
Why do we need to wait for the end of the year to set our goals for the next 12 months?
As I mentioned above, it’s probably the one day of the year where likely to make bad decisions.
So step one on the path to a successful New Years resolution is the take the “New Years” out of the mix.
It’s just a resolution – it’s still motivational goal, it just doesn’t have to be a “New Years resolution”.
Figure out what’s valuable to you
You can figure out the most important thing by asking yourself the “five whys“.
Credit for this idea belongs to Sakichi Toyoda, founder of Toyota, who came up with a simple yet effective strategy of asking the question “why?” 5 times in a row.
You want to be fitter.
Why? Because you’ve always wanted to take up running.
Why? Because your friends run, so you can join them.
Why? Because they seem to bond over common races.
Boom! There it is.
Don’t just aim to “get fitter” – that’s generic and doesn’t excite you.
What you really want is to join your friends and the fun they seem to have by chasing a common goal of a running race.
So your resolution is to sign up to a race with your friends to lock in the goal and your true motivation.
That way you’ll be getting out of bed in the morning because you want to join your friends and share a great experience, not because you wake up thinking “I’m going to be a little fitter today“.
Get a decent plan that fits you best
Making up at plan based on motivation and big dreams is destined to fail.
You need good input, a realistic starting point and the schedule that allows for some compromise when life gets in the way.
Bounce your training ideas off someone qualified (or at least someone more experienced) like a running coach or a personal trainer.
Tell help you ensure that you don’t try to take on unrealistic training loads, that you’ve got enough recovery planned in and that you’ll do the right kind of training for your goal.
Remember that gains are exponential
Part of the fun of setting yourself a big goal is pushing hard to achieve it.
This particular goal can be up to 12 months away and you need to remember that the most rapid improvements will come in the later stages.
This is because you are able to train harder once your body has begun to adapt.
However doing this in reverse and working hardest when your motivation is highest (ie. early in the period) can be a big danger.
It tends to lead to over reaching in your training volumes and eventually these volumes become unsustainable,
The antidote to overreaching is patience.
Still aim for the stars but add an incremental increase in volume each week in small manageable steps.
Celebrate the milestones, each little step forward, rather than setting big increments and getting impatient for faster improvements.
Remember that you’re trying to form a lasting health habit, not tick off a set goal and then retire.