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Be a healthier, happier you this year!

Posted by Barbara DuBois | Jan 16, 2023 2:13:27 PM

Strategy and motivation are everything when it comes to keeping New Year’s health resolutions. I’d like to tell you that it is simple but change rarely is as we are battling a lifetime of habits. Health, sports, and psychology journals are replete with articles on motivation and the human psyche. Much to my surprise, when I was interviewing world class athletes for my doctoral dissertation, motivation was a frequent theme that came up. I always thought elite athletes were just driven people with no need of motivational techniques whatsoever. Au contraire. The methods that these successful athletes use are not just ones that are beneficial to world class sportsmen and women but are applicable to average-everyday-citizens also. Using the templet of Northwestern Medicine’s article’s suggestions in, “Successful Strategies to Meet Your Goals,” (and my own commentary,) the tools are clearly workable for anyone, elite athlete or average-everyday-citizen.

Write, Plan, Track.

Personally, my phone is my best friend when it comes to keeping track of anything I do. There’s a whole host of health tracker applications a person can download (and most phones just have them.) My phone tells me how many steps and miles I have done on any given day, how many calories I am burning, how many stairs I have climbed, and how all of that adds up with various activities I do each day, week, month and even retroactively to an entire year ago. My goal is to build up on miles hiked or walked per day and my phone lets me know if I am doing that. Or you can use the old-fashioned method and just write down what you are trying to accomplish and either keep a daily log or write it down on the calendar. Documenting what you do holds you accountable to yourself! Having a specific goal (or set of goals) is effective to holding yourself accountable as well. This can be based on what you actually do or what you want to achieve.

Be Small, Specific, and Realistic.

Let’s say you want to bench press 200 pounds by April, that’s a specific number that you can incrementally reach. Or you want to lose 10 pounds by May, that’s 2.5 pounds a month and a third of a pound a week. Those are adjustments that are doable, measurable and can be accomplished. You can make your goal based on behavior (I want to walk 6-8 miles a day,) or physical (losing X number of pounds by June.) It’s better to put a time frame on it and make it small, (which is doable,) specific (1/2 more mile per day) and realistic (no ridiculous amount of weight loss in a very short time, for example.) If your goals are too extreme, the likelihood of giving up is greater than staying the course. What you really want to accomplish is cultivating a pattern of behavior that is slow, progressive, and embedded in your lifestyle. Those are carefully cultivated habits that are so engrained that they become second nature and there’s no inner wrestling with yourself as to whether you will jog six miles, lift weights for 30 minutes or swim daily for 45 minutes. You just adhere to the pattern of behavior that you have learned and practiced over a period of weeks or months. You learn to take time off when you need it but stay by and large true to a general program of fitness. Routine is good. Focus on the behavior and the results will come.

Get Support

Athletes in general thrive on competition. Most of them have a view on how they measure up to other athletes. So, they compete to see what they need to do to improve, (and naturally, how they stand vis-à-vis their opponents.) They seek the council of coaches, personal trainers, experts in their fields or just the company of like-minded people to run with, lift weights with and enjoy the process. We’re social creatures and it always helps to have companionship to keep motivated and enjoy the sport. The Alaska Club also offers much in the way of group activities such as swimming, tennis, yoga, exercise classes but also personal trainers. Availing yourself of these opportunities will keep you going.

Give Yourself Time

Making time for yourself is probably the hardest part of change, especially when it comes to being a busy parent and/or professional and learning to balance the needs of yourself and your family. Remember the best parent gives their kids an example as to how to live a healthy lifestyle and does not forego taking care of their own physical activity needs.

Give Yourself a Break

Rest is critical. In fact, a good night’s sleep is the foundation of good health. Without it, the routines of physical activity are far less likely to happen. Also, working out hard everyday is not exactly ideal. Some days should be strenuous, some moderate and some days should be light. Learn to read what your body needs. Many athletes take a day off once a week.

Most importantly, enjoy your new healthy activities. You will stick to your new goals and accomplish them if you do. Here’s to a happier, healthier new year!

Written by Barbara DuBois

MA Health Ed. & Int'l Journalism; PhD Sports & Health History; Texas Tech Univ. & Wayland Baptist Univ. instructor; Health Ed. Program Manager Maniilaq Assoc.

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