Setting New Year’s resolutions seems like a good idea, and many an article will be written and goals will be set because, well, it is a new year. Setting goals is well-supported as a positive training tactic; goals can boost the effectiveness of your training by 6–8% (Kylio & Landers, 1995). These yearly aspirations are taken in good faith but too often fall short due to lack of passion for the pursuit.
Losing those last 10 pounds by beach season is certainly a results-based goal that can be supported by process goals such as a good diet, daily movement and better sleep; however, finding motivation to eat kale and get off the couch is difficult without some element of enjoyment and skill acquisition to keep us motivated each day.
It’s hard to achieve a “big” fitness goal when you do not participate in a sport or have a passion for a certain type of movement. The goal to “lose weight” or “get in shape” is so big that it’s hard to tell where to start. When consulting with clients who have not yet been struck by a passion for movement, I ask a few questions to help them find an activity they might enjoy and pursue regularly. This series of questions may also help you find the start point for your health and fitness goals this year:
1. What sports or activities have you done in the past?
Have you played other sports? Your movement history can often give you a head start to setting up your new routine, by hinting at activities you might enjoy or pick up quickly. I have found that those who have done gymnastics or other activities requiring a high body awareness may find technical sports less intimidating. If you did team sports in your youth, you may find that you enjoy and thrive in the individual pursuits of endurance sport. For example, former downhill skiers often find the range of conditions and fast declines of mountain biking addictive.
2. What do you not want to happen?
While it may seem negative to ask about things you want to avoid, sometimes that can help you find a positive goal. If you do not want to feel slow or inexperienced in a group, that can influence how you approach a sport or skill acquisition. Your fears and dislikes can help guide you toward an activity that’s ideal for you. As an example, if you were a runner in high school, you may find team sports enjoyable because of the social atmosphere.
3. Is weight loss your only goal?
Make achieving your weight-loss goal a probable consequence of your participation in something that you enjoy, rather than the primary intention. Set goals around getting stronger, completing a new-to-you route or acquiring a skill. An example might be doing 10 push-ups, riding your bike more regularly or walking a big loop around a local park three times a week. Weight loss can be something that results from your new activity versus something that you focus on completely—at the expense of your enjoyment of life.
4. Are you not interested in sports at all?
If sports are not for you, there are still plenty of health and fitness accomplishments and pursuits to consider. Start by walking more. Use walking to make your day harder. You might walk to the store to grocery shop for fresh veggies instead of driving your car. You could get off the train early and walk home, or park your car farther away from the door. Walking gets us moving and does great things for range of movement and posture. Very often, walking turns into hiking, or running for those who realize they want to go faster. Even cycling and other sports are easier to pick up once you have built a basic endurance capacity on two feet.
Set It—and Don’t Forget It
Once you have a few ideas for sports you would like to pursue, you can begin with an outcome goal that is challenging but very reachable, like eventually walking the 3 miles to work by July 1. With an outcome goal in place, select a few process goals to focus on daily. In this example, two daily process goals could be:
1. Walk for a minimum of five minutes.
2. Do five lunges to help you build hip strength and mobility.
These both require you to be moving and practicing skills daily. Each day, you should see some improvement and gain satisfaction from achieving these goals. Eventually, you will start looking to do more. These “easy” wins help you make better choices about diet, sleep and movement that will support whatever goals you aspire to once you start moving more.