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The Bullhorn, Issue #009 -- Monthly Motivator for December 2006
December 15, 2006

Just the right push to succeed!

Resolutions for a Happy New Year

The New Year is upon us, and with it will come millions of news year’s resolutions. For the next month, the gyms will be packed, infomercial products will sell like hot cakes, and the exercise videos will be flying off the shelves. And while most of us will start this process in some way, shape or form…why is it that so many of us carry-over the same goals from one year to the next??? Because our goals are mushy. That’s right…”mushy”. How can we possibly hold ourselves accountable for resolutions, such as: ”lose weight”….”exercise more”…”eat better”. Mushy goals like these can not be tracked or attained because there is no criteria to tell us if we have succeeded or failed.

Most of us want the same thing – we want to get into better shape…we want to have a healthier and happier lifestyle. Some may want smaller bellies or butts while others may want bigger biceps, but the foundation is still the same: better long-term habits. If the above examples of “mushy” New Year’s resolutions match your aspirations, here are some ways that you can refine your resolution and increase the chances that you’ll get to where you want to be:

  • Assess your current state of fitness & health:
    Many of us have a much different picture of our health than reality would dictate. An honest assessment will help you set-up a reasonable goal and timeline. Picking your high school weight and taking off like mad to reach it will likely end up in a pile of frustrations and a goal unmet. Use tools like the Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator, Ideal Weight Tables, and the Body Fat Tables to see where you are and where you’d like to be.
  • Write your goals down
    This may sound simple, but it’s a very powerful motivator. I write my running time goals in big highlighted numbers and tape them to the inside of my locker. Looking at this everyday gives me a spark and pulls me back on track when I find myself losing motivation. Put a note near the bathroom scale or a sign on the cookie jar. These reminders will remind you of your commitment and keep you focused on your goals.
  • Sign up for a race, walk-a-thon, or fitness event
    The times I struggle the most to maintain good habits are the times that I have no goal to focus on. I found that the most effective way to minimize these times is to sign up for a race. As soon as a race is on my calendar, it focuses my attention and effort on training to attain that goal. I’m less likely to pick up a doughnut or skip a workout, if I’m in-training. This may sound like masochism, but it’s an effective way for me to stay motivated. Sign up for a spring race or event, and that’ll be the best $15-$20 you can spend on your fitness routine. Check out the running races page to find a race in your area and get some great tips on how you can properly prepare yourself for it, too.
  • Set up some interim milestones with rewards:
    Training for a goal that is 3-4 months away can be a very tough task. You’ll have high and low days and it will be very tough to stay on track. Pick some points in the middle and celebrate your getting there. For example, if you’re a new runner and your goal is to run a 5k, go buy yourself a running shirt or gadget when you run 2 miles without walking or when you run 10 miles a week. The 5k race is the pinnacle of your achievement, but the real accomplishment will be the many months of preparation and training. Reward yourself in the middle and you’ll reinvigorate your goals when you need it the most.

As you polish off the last of the holiday goodies and you stand in front of the mirror telling yourself that next year will be different...make solid resolutions not mushy ones. Hold yourself accountable and you’ll find that your goals and their pursuit will become a source of energy in your life not stress.

Release the Beast!

Have you ever watched a sporting event or race, where one of the teams or competitors has a turning point and suddenly they take over the game? Why is it that some football teams are able to do more in the last 2 minutes than they were in the previous 58 minutes?? And why have some track runners had their best races after being knocked down or trampled in the beginning? As a running coach, I’ve marveled at some performances and can we provoke and harness this productive internal beast!?

My coach in high school would try all sorts of tactics to motivate us – from pinning us against our peers to posting individual time goals on his bulletin board. Each of us had a different touch-point, but there was one rather large common ground: competition improved us as a group and we all would strive to be recognized. Recognition could be something as simple as the timesheet highlighting our best time or as formal as an end-of-season award. Competition and the hunger for recognition are not childhood motivators only. Whether conscious of it or not, we are constantly comparing ourselves to others and hoping that others will notice or recognize our accomplishments.

Having others support us in our own personal goals provides a great source of recognition. Try sharing your aspirations with a friend or family member. This will help you strive to meet your goal so that you live up to your word, and it will also give you someone to celebrate with when you reach your goal. Who may even gain a workout partner or informal “coach” in the process. Sharing your aspirations, trials, and triumphs with others does not have to be boastful. You may even inspire those around you by your good habits which could, in turn, help them attain their goals. Recognition is a simple yet very powerful way of tapping that internal power source. Run a race and you’ll instantly see what I mean. When you run through a crowd of people or by supportive family members, your pace will subconsciously quicken, and yet seem effortless. Crowds have been successfully motivating athletes for centuries. Feed off the energy of others – it’s a great way to keep your routine going.

Competition, by its very nature, is another great motivator because no one wants to lose. In fact, it’s this fear of losing that causes most people to avoid competition all together. But competition does not have to be can be win-win. For example, if you are lucky enough to run with someone with similar ability, you’ll push each other as you train. And no matter who has the faster times, both of you will get much faster in the process! Running and walking clubs are great ways to find people with similar abilities and goals. Join a group and use positive peer pressure without having the fear of failure. Competition has gotten a negative connotation over the years, but don’t overlook its power. You define the rules of the competition and what defines your success or failure. Competition is healthy and it makes everyone do their best - see how you can fit it into your routine.

While competition and recognition are huge motivators, we all have those unique touch-points described above. We’re all passionate about different things and we each have something that makes us “tick”. I get frustrated when my weight wanders too far from what I think it should be. This usually prompts no snacks or treats for awhile, and I’m less likely to skip a workout. If a photograph of you with a few extra pounds makes you want to get on an exercise bike…post it in your closet. If the number on the bathroom scale gets you mad and hardens your determination…weigh yourself daily. Weighing yourself in the morning may just be all the motivation you need to start and maintain a morning exercise routine! Whatever your touch-point is, call upon the beast to get you through those tough workouts. Tap these internal energy sources and you’ll wonder how you ever got by without them!

Exercise of the Month:
Bicycle Crunches

This exercise is a very productive ab exercise, as it works both the rectus abdominals (“washboard” or “6-pack”), and the oblique abdominals (sides). While on your back, place your hands behind your head and lift your torso slightly off the ground. Bring your feet 6 inches off the ground to start. Begin by pulling your left knee towards your right elbow, then straighten out your left leg and bring your right knee towards your left elbow. That is one repetition. The movement of your legs should be similar to peddling a bicycle. The movement of your elbows should be done by pulling your back off the ground, not by bending or straining your neck. Try 10-25 repetitions to start off with, depending on your ability. You want to stress your muscles with this exercise, but don’t take them to the point of exhaustion. It’s better to gradually increase repetitions over time than it is to do the maximum amount possible…followed by down-time due to over-fatigue or injury.

Sound Off!

If you have any feedback (positive or negative), success stories to share, or suggestions for future articles, please feel free to drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you and we take all feedback, suggestions...and yes, even criticism very seriously. We’ll use this information to improve our newsletter and The Fitness Motivator site to help you and others like you attain your fitness goals.

May you and your family and friends have a happy and safe holiday season!

Keep up the great work & stay focused on your goals. Best of luck!

Encouragement to Succeed!

P.S. - Please feel free to forward this to a friend!

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