With NYE nearly upon us and most people’s resolutions either taking shape or showing tentative steps towards being realised, the big question is what it is that starts us off on the road to success and what keeps us going when times get tough.
I don’t profess to having all the answers. I’ve always been rather stubborn in nature (with my husband probably raising his eyebrows upon reading this – ‘Rather? Try extremely and you may get a hint of the true extent!’), so sticking with achieving a goal against all odds has always been a little easier for me than some other people, who may need more motivation than a simple case of ‘I said I would, so I will’. But there are some things that do help.
If you work in education, you will be sick of hearing this acronym. SMART is being brandied about a lot in my field, without many targets actually hitting every part of SMART once they’ve been set. However, the concept behind SMART still works well in the world of keeping up with resolutions.
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable/ Aspirational (the jury is out on that one, depending on who you ask), Realistic and Timely.
So let’s have a look at my most challenging resolution for the year of 2017/18. Say that, like me, you want to lose weight and tone up. You can make a resolution to lose weight and tone up and it won’t get you anywhere. You won’t know where to start, what to do and how to go about it all. The idea of SMART is to act as a guided timeline, forming little steps in your head as to how to achieve your target.
So let’s be more Specific. I want to lose 2st in weight through a healthy eating plan, combined with daily cardio and muscle-building exercises, with the aim of fitting into my 2012 clothes again. That’s specific. By having padded out my resolution with information on how I want to achieve it and what the actual end-game looks like (i.e. being able to fit into my average size 6 clothes I fit into in 2012) I have much more of an idea of where this journey is going to take me.
Next, let’s make it Measurable. Part of this is easy. I want to lose 2st. Having started out as a flabby, untoned 10st 2lbs (which, believe me, just doesn’t look right on my 5’3″ frame with a slightly curved spine, an apple-shape tendency and a very old scar, which makes my belly protrude even more than it would otherwise), that means I should end up weighing 8st 2lbs.
The toning-up-bit is slightly harder to measure (partly, because my target for that section was not specific as to what toned-up looks like, but also, because measuring muscle mass isn’t something I can easily and accurately do at home). However, I have made my aim more measurable by including a section on daily cardio and muscle-building exercises. I can make it more measurable by putting numbers on that. As you may remember, I aim to do 20mins of cardio, 5 times a week on my bike, use my dumbbells to tone up my arms (10-30 repeats, depending on the exercise) and have now added some core exercises (mainly press-ups at 20 repeats and sit-ups at 50 repeats) in, too.
The food bit is easier to measure. I am aiming for 1500-1800kcal/ day.
Now my target reads like this:
I want to lose 2st in weight through a 1500-1800kcal/ day healthy eating plan, combined with daily 20min cardio, 10-30rep dumbbell and 30-50rep core-strengthening exercises, with the aim of fitting into my 2012 clothes again.
Next, I need to check whether my target is Aspirational (the Achievable is covered under Realistic). Losing, say, 1lb in my situation is not going to help much. 1lb may make a difference in my face, but it won’t be enough for me or anyone else to notice. And given that my aim is to fit into my slim-girl clothes again and to avoid having to buy a whole new wardrobe this size, I think we can tick this one off as achieved under the above. Plus, daily exercise is quite a challenge to fit in as I found over the Christmas period, where my exercise was confined to muscle-building only, lacking equipment.
So, given the circumstances, is it Realistic to think I can cover all of this over the course of the year?
Give or take a few weeks (for holidays away from home , emergencies or illness, which requires bed rest), I think that once a routine has been established, exercise just forms part of my day-to-day life. It already does. It may have been hard dragging myself out of bed this morning, but once I had been on my bike for about 5min, the flood of happy hormones I got from seeing time pass, calories exercised off and distance covered made it all worth the early get-up.
The same goes for food. I am realistic enough to know that not every day will be a 1500kcal day. Some days I will be way over that, owing to take-aways, family meals out and special occasions. I have enough experience with disordered eating to know that religiously sticking to my daily calorie target, regardless, is a very slippery slope indeed. It’s a target, not the only option.
So, last but not least, let’s make it Timely. Timely refers to putting a time frame onto your targets in order to stop eternal procrastination. You know, living on Tomorrow Isle (‘Tomorrow Isle start to lose weight). Keeping it Realistic means that my time frame cannot be something that would be impossible to achieve. No matter what I’ll do, I won’t lose 2st by mid-January. But at the same time, the target needs to be Aspirational to keep me motivated, so making the time frame too long (say, into 2020) would give me too much of an excuse to never get started.
I want to lose 2st in weight through a 1500-1800kcal/ day healthy eating plan, combined with daily 20min cardio, 10-30rep dumbbell and 30-50rep core-strengthening exercises, with the aim of fitting into my 2012 clothes again by May 2018.
There we go. A total of 6 months to achieve my goals. Technically, I can do it in 3. I know that, because I have done it before. But it wasn’t a healthy path and far too restrictive, so doubling the time will give my body a chance to build up enough resilience and strength to harmoniously combine weight loss and toning up in a healthy way. It’s not just about my looks.
So here we are, 1 month into a 6-month target. I have yet to step on the scales again since Christmas, but I know that I have consciously improved what I eat and stuck to my daily exercise routine. This means progress towards my target, which can only be a good thing. SMART is the way to stay motivated.