How are your New Year’s resolutions coming along? If your answer is “Great,” then kudos to you! If your answer is “What resolutions?” then you’re not alone; in fact, you’re one of the majority. Millions of people set New Year’s resolutions every January 1st and forget them by the third week of the year.
Why are goals so hard to accomplish? You want to lose weight and get fit. The desire is there; that should be enough, right? The simple answer is no, it’s not enough to just want something. You can’t think your way to those Instagram-worthy washboard abs. Losing weight and improving your fitness are huge goals that require lifestyle changes, and to create changes, you need the right tools. If you’re FINALLY serious about creating drastic changes in your life, you need to keep a fitness journal.
Write Down Your Goals
The first step in the journey towards achieving your goals is so simple that most people don’t do it: Write your goals down. Seriously, get a journal and a pen, and on the inside of the cover or on the first page, write down your goals. To ensure your goals are clear and achievable, experts recommend using the SMART system:
- Specific: Just writing down “lose weight” is not a specific goal. Ask yourself: How much weight do you want to lose? How fast do you want to run the mile? How much weight do you want to lift?
- Measurable: Your progress should be quantifiable. Do you want to do 20 pull-ups? Do you want to be able to do 50 push-ups in 1 minute? Whatever it is, write it down so you’ll know when you’ve achieved it.
- Attainable: It’s nice to have a big picture in your mind, but it can also be overwhelming. That’s why most people fail at achieving their goals. Start off with smaller goals, like going to the gym 3 times this week, so that you’ll have small, quick wins in the beginning.
- Relevant: Think about why you want to lose weight or achieve that fitness goal. What is your motivation? It can be a wedding you need to attend or wanting to look good when you go to the beach.
- Timely: Pick a target date so that you can create a sense of urgency. Don’t pick one that’s 8 months away; set smaller goals that you can achieve in a couple of weeks or a month. You can work your way up afterwards.
People who write down their goals are 42% more likely to achieve them because it enables them to create a plan. Writing improves the encoding process in the hippocampus, the region of your brain that is responsible for long-term memory.
Need more statistics? One Harvard study found that the 3% of their graduates who had written down their goals earned 10 times as much as the other 97% combined. Just like you wouldn’t drive a car in a foreign country without a GPS, don’t rely on hope and luck to lose weight. A fitness journal is an easily accessible tool that you can review daily at any time.
Track Your Progress
After writing down your goals, you need to track your progress to stay focused. Weight loss goals are particularly hard to achieve because they tend to be such huge goals; people are usually looking to lose double-digit pounds, not just 3 or 4 pounds. Tracking your progress in a journal will help you not get overwhelmed because it will become a regular reminder of your progress with a focus on your small accomplishments, not failures.
The best method to accomplishing any big goal is to create actionable habits that help you reach small goals first. Think of the snowball effect: A snowball starts off small at first, but once it gets rolling down a hill covered by snow, it will become bigger and bigger until it is unstoppable. You should think of yourself as the snowball; you are the sum of your habits. So get in the habit of tracking your progress. Think about the measures you want to track — calories, food you ate, how much weight you lifted, your mile time — it could be anything, but whatever you decide to track needs to stay consistent.
As you track your progress in your fitness journal, look back through your journal regularly to see which activities gave you the best results.
Most people fail at achieving their goals because they don’t have accountability partners; they don’t have consequences for not making progress towards their goals. Did you know that most professional athletes keep fitness journals so that their personal trainer or coach can see what is working or not working for them?
This doesn’t mean you need to go out and hire a personal trainer. Although a family member or a friend can be a great accountability partner, your fitness journal can also hold you accountable. It serves as a permanent record, which makes you less likely to cheat. For example, let’s say that you log all of your food intake daily. You see that you’ve made so much progress towards your weight loss goal because you ate healthy daily for the last two weeks. Are you really going to “cheat” and stuff your face with a dozen donuts? Most likely not; your journal will force you to think carefully about what you eat so that you stay on track.
Your journal can also help you identify challenges. Keep a record of your workouts and rate them 1 to 10, with 1 being very easy and 10 being extremely difficult. This way, you’ll start to notice patterns to understand where you’re struggling.
Not Just for Workouts
Fitness isn’t just about exercising and losing weight. It’s about being mentally and emotionally healthy as well. Your fitness journal can be a record of non-workout information, including:
- Number of hours slept
- Your mood
- Body weight/fat percentage
Need to schedule some time off from working out? Make sure to write it down in your journal and come back to it when you’re ready.
Many people think of a diary when they think of a journal. But a diary is a record of daily occurrences, while a journal is much more than that. A journal is much more personal; it is a log of your goals, challenges, progress, feelings, experiences, and reflections. Try to develop a habit of looking at your fitness journal daily, and you’ll likely notice a huge difference in your progress toward finally achieving the fitness goals of your dreams.