Tuesday, January 13, 2009

New Year's: Resolution Time

This is the worst time of the year to be at the gym. The place is suddenly packed with all the people who bought their membership and didn't hardly use it during the year and now suddenly resolve to use it to lose some pounds or get those six pack abs or whatever.

Nothing wrong with that, but it does make you wonder where they were for the rest of the year. Or perhaps it's better to ask why they stop coming after a pretty short period of time. Rather than focus on why they stop, though, I'd like to share some advice on how to make permanent changes and achieve your resolutions.

Set a concrete, achievable goal: A New Year's resolution is a goal. In order for to reach a goal it must be measurable. Losing weight is an easy one. One of mine is that I want to get to 205 pounds from my current 240. I also want to run the spring race series here in Austin and a fall marathon.

Make a plan: A goal without a reasonable plan is just a wish and it will probably never happen. My plan is to net 1500 calories a day, to run 5-6 days per week, and to do some strength training at least once a week. Once I build up a base of about 25 miles a week I'll formulate more detailed training plans targeted at the spring races and the marathon that I choose.

Track your progress: A major reason that people fail to execute their plans is that they don't regularly track their progress. First they miss a day, then two, and before they know it they can't remember the last time they worked on their plan. Tracking requires some kind of tool. It could be a piece of paper or a notebook where you write down status each day. In my case, I'm a geek so I use computers to track my progress. I use the free training log on Nike's web site to track my workouts. Their log will also build customized training plans for races for you, track the mileage on your running shoes, and other cool stuff. I can just pop it up and quickly see if I've been missing runs. For weight loss I highly recommend Dietpower. You can track the calories you eat and the calories you burn and come up with a custom plan with daily tracking to help you manage your diet and exercise to meet your weight goal. It's the only way I've found to reliably lose weight and keep it off.

Team up: It's easier to tackle a difficult goal if you are on your own. Your support can be family, friends, a training group, or a hired hand such as a coach or trainer.

Look where you want to go: Put mistakes or shortcomings behind you and focus on what you need to do. If you are trying to lose weight, don't focus on how hungry you are. Instead create a list of healthy foods and snacks that you like and eat reasonable portions throughout the day to stave off the hunger pangs. If you focus on what you can't do you'll almost inevitably fail. If you focus on what you need to do and what you can control, then you will do it.

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