The fitness New Year’s resolution mistakes everyone makes, and how to avoid them

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If you didn’t set a New Year’s resolution this year, who could blame you? Not only has it been a bumpy couple of years — there’s also plenty of research suggesting New Year’s resolutions aren’t so achievable. A 2020 survey found that most people give up on their resolutions by February. Depressing research conducted by fitness app Strava in 2019 found an even earlier date to quit: January 12.

If you’ve already given up your New Year’s resolution, or some other goal you set for yourself, keep reading for the reason… and the solution.

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READ MORE: 10 things only regular runners know to be true

Your goal went too hard, too fast

You promised yourself you’d get to that HIIT class every day, every week — or that you’d meal prep everything you eat and give up takeaway entirely. These kinds of extreme goals almost never work because (to use a cliché) old habits die hard. Our new diet and workout routines quickly become unsustainable, so we slip back into our comfortable old ones.

You’re better off starting with small goals, then gradually building on them — for example, getting to that HIIT class twice a week, or adding a serve of veggies to every dinner. It’s true that these kinds of goals take longer to achieve than extreme ones, but (another cliché) slow and steady wins the race.

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Your goal was inconvenient

Take the example of that HIIT class. Which one are you more likely to attend: the one you have to drive half an hour to get to, or the one that’s on the route from your home to your workplace?

Convenience is an incredibly underrated factor when it comes to health, because you’re just not going to stick to resolution if it doesn’t suit your schedule, or if you can’t afford it, or if it doesn’t leave you enough quality time with your family and friends. Be ambitious about your goals, but also realistic.

READ MORE: Nutritionist’s quick tips to cut down on mindless snacking when working from home

You didn’t set a goal at all!

On the one hand, you can’t fail a goal if you never set it in the first place. One the other hand, it’s hard to progress if you never have anything you want to progress to.

‘SMART’ goals have long been hailed as the gold standard — that is, goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound. For example: “I want to do a press with 15kg dumbbells by the end of March.” This type of goal can be very motivating.

But the all-or-nothing style of SMART goals can also be pretty demotivating if you don’t hit the target. So psychologists also recommend setting open goals, where you basically resolve to see how well you can do. For example: “How much more weight can I press if I train consistently?” Open goals help you appreciate how much you’re progressing from where you were — rather than always focusing on where you should be.

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