Number One Secret to Keeping Fitness Resolutions

This is just a short post today, because we also have a giveaway going on over at our product page. The folks from the website Sparkpeople have a new book out, called The Spark, and we've got 5 copies to give away! So if you're a U.S. resident you want to pop over and check out "The Spark" book giveaway.

But since it's just about time for Official New Years Resolution season, I'd thought I'd kick off our "back to basics" thing here at Cranky Fitness with one of the simplest, most straight-forward, and incredibly effective motivational secrets for achieving your health and fitness goals. The reason I'm writing about something so obvious? It's because it's probably the most frequently forgotten principle of success, and nearly everyone spaces out and blows it off now and then.

So what is this incredible and crucial motivational tool?

Photo: bbaltimore

Yep, that's right:

Break things down into Baby Steps.

Well, gosh, bet you never thought of that before!

But people always say "yeah of course" and then they forget to do it.

I know I do.

Here's what happens. I'll start with a good idea, like: I should drink more water. Or: I'd like to stop slumping so much and sit up straight.

And I like the picture in my head of the end result: a poised and well-hydrated crab, that's great! So I turn it into a goal: "More water and less slumping for Crabby, starting right now!"

Then, perhaps I'll even drink a glass of water and sit up straight for 30 seconds. And that will pretty much be the end of it.

But what I often forget to do is actually break the goal down into baby steps and turn it into a realistic, achievable plan. A plan with specifics and time-frames and accountability and rewards. Like: I will fill up my water bottle and finish it x number of times before lunch and x more times before dinner. And every day I do I'll mark off on the calendar and when I get enough days I get a pretty shiny new water bottle! Or: I will set a reminder on my computer to check my posture every 2 minutes until I start remembering, then every five minutes, etc, until I finally just do it naturally and can have a massage or something similarly wonderful as a reward!

And those are just little goals--I've seen people forget the baby steps with really hard goals, too. They'll say things like "I'm going to run a marathon" or "I'm going to go on a diet and lose 100 pounds," but they never figure out how to plan and prepare and break those months or years of slogging and sacrifice into smaller achievable steps. They try to run 10 miles their first day and end up injured and out of commission for months and they never try running again. Or they try to subsist on nothing but kale and asparagus and non-fat salad dressing, and after 2 days they end up sneaking off for 15,000 calorie potato skin and onion ring binge at TGIFridays.

Our pal Merry was just blogging about this exact same phenomenon over at Sheesh. But unlike many folks, she's actually doing things differently this time, and breaking her running plan down into steps. And the good news: she seems to be well on her way from the couch to a 5K.

Similarly, Kate over at Fabulous at 50, who's already accomplished amazing things, recently wrote a post assessing where she was with her exercise goals, and then figured out where she'd like get to from there. She pondered the various options and was realistic about which exercises she liked and which one she didn't, and even calculated what the chances of success were with each option. Then she put everything together and came up with a Fitness Plan for the New Year.

That kind of thinking is very different from saying "I'm going to lose a bunch of weight and get in shape," with vague pictures in your mind of suddenly eating lots of salads and being magically skinny and running half-marathons before breakfast and never eating sweets again.

The reality? If you never liked to eat tons of salads before, and you haven't been running in years, and you LOVE Oreo cookies and can't go a day without eating half a dozen... it's probably going to take a lot of small, incremental baby steps to get you where you're going.

Also, as Big Girl Bombshell points out, it's going to take patience.

Lots of patience.

Because getting fit and leading a healthy lifestyle is a long-term investment, with long-term rewards. It's totally worth it! But you're probably going to have to get in the habit of thinking in baby-steps and celebrating each victory along the way, no matter how small.

So do you folks generally break big goals into smaller steps, and acknowledge incremental achievements? Or do you think big and just dive right in?

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