Skip to main content

Setting realistic fitness goals for the new year

Every January we’re bombarded with ads for gyms, exercise equipment, and diet programs. But by February, gyms are a lot less crowded and that home exercise bike becomes an expensive clothes hanger. 

What if this year could be different? Is it possible to finally crack the code for success and reach your goals?  

Yes – if you have a strategy and mindset that works for you. 

You might have heard of setting SMART goals, which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. It’s a classic strategy for work-related projects.  

But it’s not always that simple when it comes to wellness goals that require behavioral and physical changes. This is especially true with the time-bound part. Change typically doesn’t happen in a linear fashion and in the timeframe we want. There are many factors that vary from person to person.  

For example, someone may have a goal to lose 5 pounds per week. For most of us, that’s not realistic – or even healthy – despite what checkout-line magazines would have us believe. When an expectation is unrealistic, it leads to discouragement, feelings of defeat, and abandoning the goal. 

This doesn’t mean setting goals is a lost cause. If you are struggling, it just means finding a different approach that works for you.  

6 strategies for success

If your goal is to get fit this year, following these steps can help. 

1. Start with your purpose

Write down your motivation. Keep it somewhere you will regularly see as a reminder. 

Determine why you want to exercise. Is the reason to: 

  • Feel less stiff and sore?  
  • Have more energy?  
  • Prevent or reverse type-2 diabetes?  
  • Be able to get down on the floor to play with kids? 

Next, imagine you have reached your goal. How will your life be different? 

2. Keep it simple

Choose 1 goal to focus on this year. If you have a single goal, rather than several, it will be easier to be dedicated and accomplish it. 

Be specific about what you will do. Instead of saying something vague like, “I’m going to get in shape this year,” say “I’m going to get up a half-hour earlier every day to exercise before work.” 

Start small with the changes you’d like to make. Be honest about what you are able – and willing – to do. Keep it simple, because simple gets done. 

3. Pick something you enjoy doing

There are so many ways to exercise and fit movement into your day. Find something that you are willing to do – and do it. You’re more likely to stick with something you enjoy. 

Look for ways to combine exercise with something else that you like to do. For example, watch your favorite TV show while you’re on the treadmill. That’s what I did in the first year of my fitness journey and it worked wonders. You could also listen to a podcast or an audio book while working out. 

Even if you can’t go to a gym, you can still get in shape. You could join an online class, hire a trainer, work out at home, or start a walking program. 

I’m leading 2 free online classes, Chair Fit and Wellness in Motion. They're sponsored by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) Raleigh location and open to all. 

4. Create a schedule you can stick with

It’s not about having time – it’s about making time. This might mean getting up earlier, using part of your lunch break, or exercising right after work.  

Set a specific time to exercise and be consistent. Schedule it on your calendar, like it’s an important meeting.  

If you are new to exercising, start with a small amount each day, even if it’s only a few minutes. The important thing is to make a daily habit. Then you can increase it over time. 

5. Be realistic with goals and expectations

Change takes time. Ignore the magazine covers and ads that falsely claim you can get fit or drop sizes quickly. In real life, it takes time to change long-held habits, to build muscle, or to burn body fat. 

Avoid an all-or-nothing mindset. Give more importance to what you are doing right than your missteps. Focus on developing the habits that will get you to your desired goals. Celebrate small wins. 

Remember that there are ways to measure progress that have nothing to do with pounds

6. Keep going

If you get off track, let it go and just get back on. I find that keeping a journal is incredibly helpful. Each day is a fresh page and a new start.  

A wellness journey can sometimes feel like you’re taking 2 steps forward and 1 back. Change can be messy in the middle, and that’s okay. Hang in there and don’t give up. 

Perfection isn’t required to succeed, but commitment is. Change tactics where needed, but stay committed. Consistency and persistence lead to success. 

And always come back to your purpose. Think about where you’ll be this time next year if you’ll just keep moving forward a little bit each day.  

Enjoy your life and move more. If you do that, get ready for a healthier, happier, more energetic you! 

authors photo
Michelle Rogers
Michelle Rogers

Certified Personal Trainer

Michelle Rogers is a certified personal trainer who specializes in healthy living for adults over 40. She leads classes and workshops online at Reachable Fitness, her virtual exercise studio. Find out more at www.michellerogers.fitness and connect on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at @MRhealthyliving.

Browse related articles

4 heart-healthy exercises

Our lifestyle is important to helping us stay healthy and feeling our best.

How to stay fit this winter

With the right approach, anyone can stay active all year long.

4 ways to keep healthy during the holidays

If you start small now, you’ll set yourself up for success in the new year and beyond.