Preparing for "New Year, New You:" Setting Goals and Making Habits

With 2018 fast approaching, now is as good a time as ever to start strategizing and planning for a self-health and wellness overhaul. Specifically, I’m talking about the quest to get fit in the new year, an often daunting but never impossible task. This post highlights the steps you can take to get started on the path towards a better you.

For our purposes, the Transtheoretical Model, or Stages of Change Model will do nicely in laying it all out for us. For those who are unfamiliar, the TTM is a set model of steps to changing almost any and every major behavioral pattern. In this instance, we will apply the Stages of Change Model to your goals of getting fit. Ultimately, we are looking to change behavioral patterns from sedentary to active.

One note before we begin - while the stages in this model are fixed, the amount of time you spend in each stage can vary. Everyone is different, and will go about the stages differently, though we can all agree that there are specific landmarks of each stage that will indicate that you are ready to move on to the next one.

A Change of Pace | Explaining TTM

PreContemplation: Those in the precontemplation stage have absolutely no intention of changing. In this instance, they are happy with being unfit and sedentary.

Contemplation: This is the stage that some of you may currently be in. In the contemplation stage, you are already thinking about becoming more active. You are weighing out the costs and benefits of engaging in more physical activity, but don’t necessarily have a set plan in place or strategy. This is where education (this article) comes into play, steering you in the right direction. As an aside, you can remain in this stage for a very short period of time (hopefully), or it can be years. The trick is to motivate yourself to get to the next step, which brings us to…

Preparation: This is the stage that I hope you are all in. In the preparation stage, you are actually (actively!) preparing yourself to get more fit, and soon. It is in preparation that you will set an action plan in motion. Here are some of the things you can do:

  1. Join a gym, if that will be your preferred mode of working out. If you are unsure of where to begin, invest in a personal trainer, or a guided training program.
  2. If at-home workouts are your thing, start shopping around for the tools and equipment you will need. For example, if you decide you are going with a pilates-style mode of working out, shop around for exercise bands, a floor mat, workout clothing, and perhaps an instructional DVD/Book, or two!
  3. If biking, running, or swimming will be your workout of choice, invest in the proper attire and equipment there, too! Especially with running, not fitting yourself with the right shoes for your foot can hurt you, so do your homework and go all in.
  4. Gather up your like-minded friends and start a running club, or decide to go the route of a group activity such as cycling, or yoga classes, and coordinate to do it with friends. Having friends to motivate you along the way can go a long way in helping you establish healthy habits that stick.   

Here are several things to keep in mind during this phase to set yourself up for success:

  • Set realistic goals and expectations, then move forward with a program that will help you reach your goals, in an enjoyable way.
  • Be mindful of your own limitations, and avoid exercise that could lead to discomfort or injury. Do what feels good to you.   
  • Think about previous successful experiences with exercise, and pursue similar modalities.       
  • Consider building a social support network, whether it’s local friends, an online forum, or even a team..   
  • Remind yourself constantly that exercise is important, and you are taking steps to becoming a better you.     

Action: The action stage is the spot where have regularly began engaging in your fitness modality of choice, whatever that may be. The trick to staying in this stage and not falling back into old habits is to keep yourself as motivated as possible. Whether you are rewarding yourself for meeting goals along the way, or enjoying visual and physical progress cues, celebrate each success, and use it as fuel to push you forward, and keep up your good work.  

Maintenance: Maintenance means you have successfully modified your behavior, and have kept it up for an extended period of time. Congratulations on getting to this stage. The longer you are in maintenance, the more likely it is that you have set yourself up for success, for life. If you have successfully tackled the goal of getting more fit, perhaps it’s time to change the next behavior (your diet, perhaps), or even set a corollary goal like pursuing a new form of fitness. The sky’s the limit!

If you find yourself getting discouraged, remember that it takes on average about 2 months to solidify a new habit. If you are just thinking of getting fit, you’re already on your way!

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