How to Set SMART Fitness Goals for the New Year

The New Years is around the corner. Luckily, it's not too late to set new health and fitness goals that you'll actually achieve. Whether you want to drop a few pounds, get fitter, or start a training plan, you still have plenty of time to make it happen. Discipline is the key.

This may come as a surprise, but about 80 percent of New Year's resolutions fail by February. Even though millions of people set goals for the upcoming year, only a few actually achieve them. Most times, their goals are too big, too broad, or they just have too many.

So how can you make sure you'll actually lose weight or stick to your workouts in the New Year? What's the key to success? Here are some tips to set SMART goals and get in your best shape ever:

Be Realistic

The acronym SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-Oriented, and Time-Bound. This is what your goals should look like.

First of all, determine what you're trying to achieve. Be realistic and specific. Making a resolution to lose weight, for instance, is too broad. Instead of telling yourself "I want to lose weight in the following year," say "I will lose X pounds by March 1." Decide exactly how many pounds you want to drop and then set a deadline.

Apply the same strategy to other goals, such as running a marathon or competing in a fitness contest. Be honest with yourself and don’t try to shoot for the moon too quickly. Unrealistic goals are a recipe for failure.


Make a Plan


Next, come up with a plan to reach your health and fitness goals. Consider your schedule and lifestyle habits. If you're juggling two jobs and taking care of kids, it's unrealistic to believe that you'll be able to hit the gym six times a week.

However, you can work out at home on your busiest days. From burpees and step-ups to push-ups, plank jacks, and rope jumping, there are plenty of exercises that require no equipment. This allows you to train anytime, anywhere. Do it at home, at the office, or in your hotel room. Go to the gym as soon as you free up your schedule.

Bodyweight exercises, for instance, are very intense, causing your muscles to work hard. They also raise your metabolism and heart rate, which aids in fat loss. The best part is that you can work out while watching TV or whenever you have some free time. With bodyweight training, you'll get leaner, stronger, and fitter.


Prep Your Meals Ahead

Just like exercise, good nutrition requires proper planning. Start before the holiday season kicks in. The average American gains about five pounds during this time of the year. Some sources say that it's actually 10 pounds. The weight you put on can take more than five months to go away. Thus, it's important to have a plan for fighting temptations.

The first step is to clean up your diet. Steer clear of sugar, refined oils, deli meats, white flour, and frozen meals. Whole and minimally processed foods should come first on your list.

Fill your fridge and cupboard with nuts, seeds, fish, lean meat, fresh fruit, and vegetables. Swap white flour for almond, coconut, or rye flour. Flax meal is a good choice too as it is low in carbs and loaded with healthy fats.

When reading food labels, look beyond calories. Check out the first ingredients listed on the label. If you see the words high-fructose corn syrup, table sugar, glucose, dextrose, or palm oil, move on.

Look at the amount of protein, carbs, and fats in each food. If your goal is weight loss, choose low-carb, high-protein foods. Get your daily fats from salmon, tuna, sardines, walnuts, flaxseeds, avocado, and olive oil.

Apply these strategies during the holiday season as well as in your everyday life. Plan your meals ahead of time and keep healthy snacks at hand. When dining out, order light dressings or ask for sauces on the side. Stick to basic combos, such as beef and veggies or fish with sweet potatoes and salad. Sure, you can indulge in your favorite treats as long as you don’t go overboard.


Emphasize Hydration

Your daily water intake can make or break your progress. The human body is more than 70 percent water. Every cell and organ needs this fluid to function at its peak. Water keeps your metabolism up, regulates your body's core temperature, and aids in nutrient absorption. Moreover, it supports physical performance and brain health.

Even the slightest dehydration can affect your gains in the gym. In the worst case scenario, you may experience electrolyte imbalances, arrhythmia, migraines, lightheadedness, or fainting.

A proper water intake can rev up your metabolism, so you'll burn more calories at rest. On top of that, you'll perform better in the gym and lose weight more easily. Water helps flush out toxins and metabolic waste, which reduces your risk of chronic diseases.

Beware that caffeine and alcohol may cause dehydration because of their diuretic properties. If you can't give up alcohol during the holiday season, drink one glass of water for every glass of booze. Start the day with lemon water or green tea. Rich in vitamin C, lemon water scavenges oxidative stress and slows down aging. Pectin, a fiber in lemons, improves digestion and suppresses hunger. Polyphenols support liver and kidney function, aid in enzyme production, and dissolve calcium stones.

What if you don't like plain water? In this case, drink a big glass of water infused with fresh fruits or add a few drop of apple cider vinegar. It will quench your thirst instantly! Or you can prepare large batches of unsweetened herbal tea, add stevia if desired, and refrigerate it for a few hours. This healthful concoction has zero calories and packs a bunch of antioxidants.

As you see, nutrition and exercise are equally important. Consider both aspects when setting your goals. Commit to making lasting changes and remember why you’ve started in the first place.

Imagine how great you’ll look and feel once you lose those pesky pounds and embrace a healthy diet. Your energy will go up, your sleep will improve, and your skin will look younger. Make these changes today! Don’t wait until it’s too late!

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