by Jacquelyn J. Core JD PhD

During January the YMCA is filled with hopeful people with fresh resolutions determined to reclaim their health, but around this time of year those resolutions sometimes fade as life gets in the way. In January, it’s New Year, new you. Around this time of year we tend to return to the same faces we know and love. But we love new people, and the Y is a welcoming place, so why don’t people stay, and if you are a person with wavering resolutions, what can you do to get back on track?

Most people blame a lack of time for not being able to work out, but we all know we make time to do many things, so what’s the real reason that people don’t prioritize health? The answer has to do with what motivates us to work out. Most of us are motivated by some combination of internal forces and external rewards. The people who have the most success are people who exercise for personal reasons. People who enjoy the act of working out… the way it makes them feel. But not everyone is wired to love working out.

So if you want to get back on track with your resolutions, or you didn’t make any and want to reclaim your health, then remember that every day is a new day. Recommit, (or commit) and move forward. But change your focus. Instead of trying for a number on the scale, a product goal, try a process goal like the number of workouts per week. Be sure to make your goal SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant/realistic, and timebound). A SMART process goal might look like this: I will go to the YMCA four days per week to workout for at least thirty minutes each trip.

While goals that require you to reach are great, you don’t want to set yourself up for failure. Be sure to consider whether you can actually do what you are asking of yourself. Be fair to yourself. Know you will never make it four days? Scale your goal back to three. Does thirty minutes of exercise seem daunting? Maybe starting with 15-20 is better. If you are crushing your goal every week, then you can revisit your goal and revise it to challenge yourself again. Make sure you celebrate your success before you do.

What if you fall short of your process goal? Remember that tomorrow is another day. You can still celebrate progress. If your goal was to workout at the YMCA four days per week and you only made it to the Y two days, then you went two days more than everyone who stayed home. Rather than giving up, make your goal for the next week to maintain that same level. Plan to go two days only. If you go three then you can begin to build to a higher goal again.

Make sure you are tracking your progress. Whether you use an app, a calendar, a post it note, or the back of the electric bill does not matter. Tracking your progress makes it seem real and provides a reminder of what you need to do to reach your goals. I admit it… sometimes when I forget to write something that I need to do on the list I write it down after I do it, just so that I can check it off. I also both check things off the list and cross them out. The feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment is powerful. As a result, consider tracking your progress through a to-do list. And you have my permission to both check things off the list and cross them out… after all, you deserve it.

Here’s to getting back on track with those resolutions, and here’s to your good health