Create a SMART Fitness Plan

Wed. Jan. 10, 2018

by Dr. Melanie Gregg

New Year, New You! Or so one desires…it is mid-January, how are those New Year’s resolutions holding up? The first two weeks of the year are fraught with heartfelt pledges to do better and be better versions of ourselves, or at least our alter-egos. Holiday treats are banished from cupboards, the gin in your cabinet grows dusty and lonely, you arrive at the yoga studio and can’t get in because your regular class is full of irregulars, in a mad rush to grab hold of those endless days of Boxing “Day” sales there are no more organizing bins left on the shelves. At least that is my reality and likely some version of yours.

Research tells us 50% of exercisers will drop out of an exercise program in the first 6 months, many within the first few weeks, and some will not even get out of the starting blocks. This failure rate is not unique to New Year’s resolutions, but the sheer number of people setting resolutions, or goals, at precisely the same time is what makes the failure seem even more remarkable. How can you be more successful at these resolutions? Approach it the same way elite athletes tackle their goals, by being SMART!

1. Set SPECIFIC goals – want to get fitter? Too general! Instead aim to jog for 20 minutes without stopping, do 10 push-ups, walk 10 000 steps every day.

2. Make your goals MEASUREABLE. 20 minutes, 10 repetitions, and 10 000 steps can all be measured, keep yourself accountable by logging your accomplishments. Keeping track is easy these days with watches and phones that can do it for you.

3. Make your goals ADJUSTABLE. Did you set a goal of walking after dinner every day? The wind chill is -35C, you need a back-up plan. Get prepared with an exercise video you can do in your living room, walk some stairs during your lunch hour at work realizing you won’t want to go outside after dinner tonight, plan to go to a mall to get some steps in.

4. Make your goals REALISTIC. You should have to put in some effort to achieve your goals, but it shouldn’t be so difficult that it’s not realistic. Never been a runner? Start with a walk/jog routine that becomes a habit rather than a June marathon goal. Share your goals with someone you trust or who has expertise in the area you are setting your goal in. This person can help you determine if the goal is too tough or too easy, they can help you keep on track, and they may even be able to help you achieve your goals.

5. Set a TIME for achieving your goal. When do you want to be able to complete 10 push-ups? Then work backward from that date and set mini goals for yourself. Maybe week 1 involves doing 5 modified push-ups (from your knees) every second day. Week 2 add in a 20 second plank hold on the alternate days and on you go toward your buffest self.

Didn’t make a resolution that fits the SMART guidelines? Don’t panic, you have time to revamp. Besides, I bet the real you isn’t so bad anyway. Maybe the clutter on my desk will actually disappear one day…once those elves stick around a little longer.

Dr. Melanie Gregg

Dr. Melanie Gregg is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Kinesiology & Applied Health.