Another year has flown by—we are heading into the new year and all the challenges it will bring. Making New Year’s resolutions can be very rewarding and actually lead to significant change—however, for 99 percent of us it is just a thought that lasts a day and then is forgotten as we go about our daily lives.
We can sometimes feel jealous of friends or colleagues who really stick to their resolutions and we just assume it must be easy for them to change; it feels like it’s just not something we can do, it’s so easy for us to justify failure to ourselves.
People who are successful in implementing change or in carrying out tasks that are important to them are not any more gifted than the rest of us; they have simply learned how to make sure they follow through.
This year we need to be thinking two things: which resolutions we want to make and, more importantly, how can we make that change happen.
Let’s look at some typical examples of resolutions we as athletes tend to make and how we can go about making sure we take steps towards achieving them.
The most common goal is always weight loss at this time of year. This is a very interesting area as we tend to know quite well what we need to do to lose weight, what to eat and when, but this knowledge alone does not take us very far. Maybe we will follow a plan for a few days but the adherence will soon drop off and we fall back into old habits.
Looking at the most successful weight-loss companies, we find that those who do group gatherings work the best, regardless of the specific diet used. This approach get the best results as you are not alone, others are going through the same thing and you are presenting yourself on a regular basis to others and want them to see progress.
I am not saying go out and join WeightWatchers, or a similar group, but we can learn from the system: public humiliation works very well as a motivational factor—tell your friends and colleagues about your goal and you can be sure they will pull you up if you start to stray.
We do not all need to shout our resolutions to the world. Some of us are more internally motivated and too shy to tell people about our goals: if you fall into this group then self-humiliation will likely work well. Using the weight-loss resolution again, then taking a picture of yourself in your race-/bathing suit right now, and putting it in a place where you will see it regularly will help keep you on track. A popular example, stick a picture of yourself at your worst on the inside of the fridge door!
In today’s world we have a great tool to help us stick more rigidly to our resolutions in the form of smartphones; they provide access to many apps that are related to fitness and goal setting. Picture apps let us compile daily albums of snap shots of everything we eat and drink, daily images of ourself to track progress with weight loss or body composition changes. It’s amazing how taking a picture of everything you eat can lead to consuming smaller portions, or a shock reality-check of how much we actually do eat compared with what we think we consume.
Smartphones allow us to set daily reminders to take a picture of the body or body measurements, or to weigh ourselves… The list is endless and can be whatever you need to achieve your goal. It’s the process of regular action that keeps us moving forward and progressing.
As a coach I see this every day: athletes who make short notes after every session and compile a weekly report for me are the ones who are more consistent with their training and more successful in their athletic development. On the iPhone, for example, the notes app can be used to compile a weekly update: title your note for the week, and every time you finish a session or happen to be sitting doing nothing (like in your commute), then write what you have done and how you felt. At the end of the week, do a written review and then send your notes to a coach or friend supporting you.
A great product recently launched is the Nike fuel band: this is not directed at athletes but at the average person, the idea being that you wear the band on your wrist from where it calculates daily activity based on your movements. You have to set a goal for daily activity and the system resets every night at midnight. The band can be synched with your smartphone and you get little rewards as you go and achieve target—all in all, a great motivational tool for ensuring we become more active in our daily lives.
The biggest changes always come from the simplest things. Making small but consistent efforts are what lead to the big results in life; we have to use tools and people around us to make sure we stick to our resolutions so that we can achieve great things.
I recently listened to a superb interview on Competitor radio with Gary Hall Jr, an Olympic champion swimmer from the USA. He talked about losing out on an Olympic title at one Games, then taking the thought that every session is a step towards gaining the small fraction of time needed to win at the next Games into each workout over the subsequent four years.
I have heard similar stories from many athletes and coaches over the years. Say you miss out on a Kona slot by 15 minutes, then going into the next year’s training you have to find that improvement. While 15 minutes might seem a lot, if we break it down into daily progress we only need 2 seconds. Split over three disciplines, that is less than a second per day! Taking that awareness into every day and every session gives amazing motivation.
Spend a few more minutes this year and write down your resolutions, consider what you need to do to achieve them and set the process in motion now.
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