Fitness goals and New Year's go together. Instead of trying to climb Mount Everest on day one, start small. “Micro-goals are proving to be the more effective strategy for achieving continued progress and success with health and wellness," says Mike Clancy, fitness and nutrition expert and founder of MikeClancyTraining. “New Year's resolutions always push people to embark on a journey of radical change, which almost always fails. With micro-goals, targets are established in small, attainable increments. Small milestones are turned into daily habits where consistency is the measure of success."
Some of the following suggestions take only minutes a day, which will be a big relief for people who don't have the desire or motivation to commit to one more thing on their schedule. If you aren't used to making your well-being a priority, remember that fitness isn't always about changing your eating or exercise habits, but about shifting your mental habits.
1. Swap your snacks.
“Replace some of the sugary junk and processed foods with healthier alternatives," says Shantea Johnson, a certified personal trainer, nutritionist, and owner of DHW Nutrition & Fitness. Instead of reaching for a candy bar or a high-sugar energy drink, have fresh fruit or nuts available. “Focus on changing out unhealthy habits and implement new, healthier habits. Start slow so it doesn't seem so overwhelming," says Johnson, whose clients complete a food log to identify what they're eating and determine how to make small, gradual changes.
2. Move once a day.
You know that sitting all day is not doing you any good, so choose exercises that appeal to you and do at least one a day: a 60-second plank, jumping jacks for as long as you can stand them, a handful of squats every time you get up from your desk, a stretching routine before bed. Certified personal trainer and FlyWheel instructor Camila Ramon considers the burpee to be a challenging yet rewarding move for all fitness newbies. “This full-body exercise is one of the most efficient moves that challenge both your strength and aerobic ability and leaves you feeling accomplished. Start at a number that challenges you to about 80 percent – for many people this will only be five burpees – then up the number by two per day," says Ramon.
3. Don't be swayed by packaging.
You may reach for the low-fat or skim products, believing that they are better for your body, but sometimes they're not. “Skim milk lacks mouth feel, body, and taste, so you're more likely to drink more of it," says Brian Abercrombie, a movement and human performance specialist and developer of the Pilates Wheel. “Instead, stick to whole milk and enjoy the taste and feel fuller, longer, thanks mainly to the 'good' fat content." At the same time, you can rely on packaging for some valuable information. “Check the sugar content. I try to only eat things with less than 10g of sugar," says Susana, an editor and curator and mother of one.
4. Simplify your sipping.
“One micro-goal could be replacing the daily Starbucks latte with a flavored green tea," says Clancy. “Since most coffee drinkers require milk and/or sugar components in their beverage, a switch to a calorie-free, water-based stimulant could lead to an improved health profile, including weight loss and sustained energy throughout the day." Cheers to that!
5. Be good to yourself.
If you have a resolution to get fit, eat better, and work out more, you are probably lacking in other self-care areas too. To help yourself succeed, focus on restoration. “I meditate for at least five minutes a day," says Orietta, a freelance writer and mother of one. “I snack less because I'm not as stressed out. I'm more focused at work. And I manage my time better." Anything restorative and relaxing to help manage stress will be good for your body, whether that is reading, journaling, doing yoga, or saying no to all social obligations and focusing on yourself.
6. Prep thoughtfully.
Perhaps you have good intentions to eat well, but forgetfulness or lack of time has you going through the drive-through just to get something in your stomach. “Spend a couple of hours once per week prepping as much food as you can," says Esther Avant, a certified nutrition coach and personal trainer. “This doesn't have to be full meals using elaborate recipes. It can be as simple as washing and chopping vegetables, sticking some chicken in a crockpot, or defrosting freezer items." Prep your snacks for the week in easy-to-grab bags or containers too.
7. Reduce your alcohol intake.
If you enjoy a nice drink, you don't have to nix alcohol entirely. “Switch to alcohols that are much less likely to cause you to bloat and put on body fat," says Rui Li, president and CEO of New York Personal Training. “Look for spirits made without grains, such as tequila, mezcal, and grain-free vodka." The bottom line: Don't drink your calories.
8. Take baby steps.
Above all, go easy on yourself. “Trying to change everything all at once ultimately ends in failure. A better approach is picking one behavior that will take you closer to your goal. It could be as simple as having a vegetable with every meal to getting to the gym 12 times during January. Then track your progress and see how successful you are," says Chris Cooper of Active Movement & Performance. “The more successes and wins you see, the better you'll feel. Then it eventually snowballs into picking another good behavior."