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Angelo Poli Headshot

Make a Fitness Resolution That Sticks

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Co-authored by Andrew Heffernan, co-author of The Exercise Cure (Rodale, 2013).

About a zillion people make resolutions that relate to fitness around the New Year. And about three-quarters of a zillion of them don't stick to those resolutions past six weeks. I have a few theories as to why that might be -- and how you might be able to make a fitness resolution that sticks this time around.

You've probably seen the acronym SMART before. Originally coined in 1981 to describe the characteristics of the kind of goal you are most likely to stick to and achieve, SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound.

So saying you want to "run a marathon in June" is preferable to saying you want to "get in shape." The former is specific: You know when you've attained it, it's (presumably) realistic for you, you can break it into tiny daily actions. The latter is vague: Since you don't really know what you're chasing (getting a six-pack? bench pressing 300? weighing 140?) you can't really act on it.

Most articles on goal-setting stop right there. But there's another element to the equation without which no fitness resolution is worth the paper it's printed on. And that's passion.

I encounter people all the time who say they want to get in shape, improve their health, energy, and outlook. Maybe they've even gotten a you need to lose weight speech from a doctor. They've been hearing it for years -- and they don't do it.

But then the epiphany happens: They meet the right girl. They decide they want to get pregnant. They get divorced or fired or hired. They see a picture of how they used to look, and decide they're going to look that way again, no matter the cost. And a year later they're unrecognizable.

It doesn't matter what sparks that internal change -- but it's essential that it happens. None of my ravings about potential improvements in your metabolic rate or cardiovascular functioning or mitochondrial density are worth a hoot without it.

You can't force this kind of epiphany, of course. But you can sit yourself down and have a good, long think about what will fire you up to get it done -- not just NOW, when you have the time and energy, but in four months, when taxes are due and the kids are clamoring for attention and it's cold outside and staying in bed for an extra hour sounds way more appealing than getting up for a 6:30 run.

Only you know what that spark is. Maybe it's about attracting a mate or reigniting a spark in a relationship or getting a promotion or being a better parent or feeling like you did in high school or looking like a Greek statue. Maybe it involves the gym and a trainer or a fencing team or a cycling club or a rec-league basketball team. It doesn't matter what it is -- but a deep, personal, primal connection to your fitness goal is indispensable.

The rest is details.

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