OPINION: Making resolutions stick

3,2, 1…Happy New Year! As soon as the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1, 2019, I promised myself I would commit to my new year’s resolution of working out five  days per week in order to gain muscle and stay healthy.

I didn’t know how to work out, but I knew that working out keeps you “healthy,” so I wanted to try it.

But, what did I know about lifting weights, buying protein powder or hitting a personal record?

Absolutely nothing.

I feared the gym at the time, so I stuck with 15-20-minute High Intensity Interval Training workouts. I whimpered through the push-ups and burpees and quickly became discouraged and unmotivated by my own breathlessness and exhaustion, partly because I did not pair all of this exercise with nutrient-rich food.

By February, my determination waned, and one rest day became two, then three and then I lost my commitment altogether.

For the rest of the year, I would compare myself to bodybuilders, athletes and models on social media, remembering how I tried and wanted to be fit, but couldn’t manage it with my schedule and feared that I would fail again.

But that’s where my thinking went wrong. With New Year’s resolutions, there is a common misconception that we must maintain a streak of active, unwavering progress through to the end of the year. When in reality, resolutions are all about the failure and having the right mindset to keep going even when you don’t want to or don’t know exactly how.

In a 2012 interview with  NPR, John Norcross, professor of psychology at the University of Scranton, described two studies he conducted in 1989 to see how many people were actually reaching their goals for the new year.

“In two of our longitudinal studies, 40 to 46 percent of New Year’s resolvers will be successful at six months. So…it’s true, most people fail. But 40 to 46 percent is pretty impressive. Particularly when you compare it to the people who don’t try and therefore have, in our research, 0 to 4 percent chance.”

When the new year begins, often times we get this surge of energy and motivation to make some sort of lifestyle change—large or small. But, when we do want to make those changes, results are proven to be better when we go about it in a strategic and positive way.

Here are my six tips for working toward your fitness and health resolutions for 2020:

Write down your goal for the year…Make it set in stone.

The first step in trying to achieve a goal in the new year is to write down your end goal and the steps you plan to take to get there.

DePaul freshman Bridget Killian is looking to get back into her gym routine in 2020. She knows that she may not see results right away, but if she stays patient, it will be worth the wait.

“You want to set small goals for yourself along the way. Give yourself a definite goal that is smaller than your overall goal,” Killian said. “For example, add on more weight to the bar every two weeks. If I could only lift 45 pounds yesterday and then a week from now, I can lift 65, that’s a change. It’s not necessarily physical yet, but it’s there.”

Goals that are specific, measurable, attainable and realistic are your best bet in order to stay committed throughout the year. If you set small goals throughout the month, the week or even the day, your goal for the whole year will seem less daunting.

Find someone to hold you accountable…The buddy system works best.

Working toward a goal is difficult if you don’t have anybody in your corner to cheer you on.

DePaul Freshman Hector Merchan said that his high school track coach will be his primary support as he works toward becoming a better and more “serious” runner in 2020.

Without someone or something to remind you to get out and work toward your goals, it’s harder to achieve them. Find a partner or buddy to do it with you, or even just set a reminder on your phone.

Explore your options…It doesn’t hurt to ask.

When going about a new fitness or health goal, it’s important to get informed in order to avoid injury.

Before going straight to the treadmill at the gym, ask for a tour of the space and how to use the equipment available. You can protect your body from unnecessary harm by simply asking a few questions and explaining your goals to the gym staff.

According to Danielle Arens, the assistant director of Fitness and Wellness for DePaul University’s Campus Recreation, the Ray Meyer Fitness Center offers a number of free resources and programs to assist individuals seeking to improve their level of fitness.

“We actually just started a new program here called ‘Find Your Fit,’ and we have exercise assistants that can be contacted via email on our website under the ‘Find Your Fit’ tab,” Arens said. “So, anyone that is unsure how to use a piece of equipment, doesn’t know how to get started, how to put a circuit together, these are all exercise science students that are studying to become exercise and fitness professionals that can answer any questions you may have.”

Challenge yourself…Go for the gold.

DePaul freshman David Moir’s new year’s resolution is to go completely vegan, which he says is an attainable goal if you navigate the grocery store aisles and the Student Center’s dinner options strategically.

“I found that specifically with this resolution, once I stuck to it, I felt so much better,” he said. “I think if you stick with it and try it for a week and just really keep yourself in check for a week, you will notice a difference, and that will inspire you to keep going.”

Not all New Year’s resolutions have to be large lifestyle changes, but if you work toward something you really care about, it can help in being more successful.

Maintain a positive mindset…It’s okay to fail.

DePaul freshman Dylan Lawrence has 3 New Year’s resolutions this year, one of which is focusing on keeping up with his mental health.

He plans to meditate daily, exercise, read and seek out options for therapy all in an effort to better himself this year.

The thing about resolutions is that if you don’t believe in it, you really can’t achieve it. If you remind yourself that there will be ups and downs along the way, that will help you maintain a realistic approach to reaching your goals in the new year.

Do it for yourself…Have fun!

Your New Year’s resolution can function as a way to give appreciation and care back to yourself. In our fast-paced digital age, we often forget to stop and reflect upon our own wellbeing when we need it most.

Use the turn of the decade as an excuse to be kinder to yourself and enjoy the time you set aside to take care of your health and wellbeing.

We only get one body, so treat it with kindness in the new year. It will be worth all the effort.