Happy freaking New Year!  Can you believe it’s 2020?!  Here we are, in a new decade ripe for the ass kicking.  Perhaps you’re more inclined to get your health in order since this is a magical year. A leap year, no less.  

No matter what your motivation may be, it’s important that you set yourself up for success.  You don’t want to be one of those people with a wasted gym membership, a kitchen full of dusty gadgets and prepaid apps you haven’t used by springtime.

So, where to begin?
I’m going to tap into one of the golden nuggets I picked up in my studies: SMART

What exactly do you want to accomplish?  Examples can include lowering your cholesterol ten points, increasing physical activity to twice per week, eating healthier by adding more vegetables to your diet or reorganizing your life to reduce stress?  The more specific you are with this first part, the better off you’ll be. Setting an ambiguous goal muddies the waters and reduces your likelihood of being successful.

You have to be able to measure and track your progress, otherwise you may never know if you’ve crushed your goal.  Let’s say you want to get in a cardio workout twice per week. You’ll need a calendar to track what days you worked out and a way to track your heart rate.  No wearable device? No problem! Take your pulse for ten seconds and multiply it by six. For example, 20 beats for 10 seconds = 120 beats per minute. For most folks, at least 100 beats per minute is ideal over the course of 30 minutes.  If you have targeted goals in mind, consult with your physician.

Perhaps you’re looking to eat more veggies. Track your servings in a food journal or app (there are a million free ones out there). Remember to track what type, how much and how you prepared them. Ideally, 5 servings per day is what you’re striving for, but starting small and working your way up is a great strategy. Sorry, but your pumpkin beer doesn’t count.

Do you have all the tools and resources to reach your goal?  Sticking with the cardio example, you should get a physical to make sure you’re healthy enough to start a cardio regimen.  Then, you can determine how you will organize your program: will a gym membership that gets you out of the house work best or would you rather use a free app?  Being prepared isn’t just a Doomsday motto, people! Goal setting is like going to war: plan, prepare and execute!

Onto the veggies – do your grocery and time budgets allow for purchasing and preparing fresh vegetables every week? Frozen vegetables often get a bad rap but trust me, these are just as good, if not better in some cases, because they are picked and frozen at their peak ripeness. Not to mention they are budget friendly.

This bears repeating over and over again and is perhaps the most crucial part. If you take anything from this posting, it’s this: CREATE YOUR GOALS IN REALITY.  If you’re thinking you will do cardio all day every day and look and feel amazing in two weeks time you are sorely (literally and figuratively) mistaken.  Two times per week using a plan you create is the most realistic (and healthy) way to go about it.

If you think you’ll be able to chow down on spinach eight times a day and turn into Popeye 2.0, you’ll be crying “That’s all I can stands, cuz I can’t stands n’more!” before you know it and you’ll be ready to throw all greens out the window. Variety is the spice of life. Avoid getting bored by switching it up and getting creative.

Giving yourself a deadline does several things: gets you motivated and keeps you accountable, even if it’s only to yourself.  If you set a goal to do cardio eight times per month and you get all of them done with ease, perhaps you can challenge yourself to ten workouts next month.  If you only get six in, it’s time to reassess your goal: Do you like your program? Has your schedule been crazy? Answering those questions can help you determine what changes you may need to make. 

When incorporating more veggies, it’s important to have shorter time frames and take it week by week. This way you can plan accordingly based on your budget, schedule and seasonal preferences.

And remember, beating yourself up IS NOT permitted here. Take that shit out with the trash, lace up your sneakers, fire up your steamer, and get at it!

The amazing thing about the SMART concept is that you can repeat it over and over and build upon your original goal, or take small steps towards a larger one.  It’s also flexible enough to allow for changes because sometimes life gets in the way. And you know what, that is okay! We are not made to be so regimented that we have no room to enjoy life and everything that comes with it, especially the beer… and cake. 

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