All the hype surrounding New Year’s resolutions can leave you feeling overwhelmed before the year even starts. Every year there’s a lot of pressure to “get in shape” and make this year “the best one ever.” There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be healthier or more fit—and resolutions can help you accomplish what you’ve dreamed of doing—but setting attainable goals is the best way to set yourself up for success.
This year, make a resolution to not feel guilty about what your resolutions are and how you go about achieving them. Give yourself credit for all you do day in and day out. If you’re looking to make some changes, start small. When you take small steps over time, you increase the likelihood of those changes sticking. Below are some ideas for how you can make your dreams a reality this year!
1. Start slowly.
Before I became pregnant, I exercised regularly and enjoyed being active. After my daughter was born, I found it difficult to do the activities I’d previously found enjoyable. Between healing my body and caring for a newborn, exercise was at the bottom of my to-do list. As time wore on, I was soon chasing a toddler, but I craved higher-intensity exercise and the endorphins that came with it. I also knew that getting my heart rate up would reap invaluable benefits, especially since heart disease runs in my family.
Rather than putting pressure on myself to get a “bikini body” or run as far as I used to, I challenged myself to a simple goal: do more than I’d been doing. If I set out to complete a 30-minute workout and needed to take breaks or couldn’t complete the whole thing, I was still doing more than I had been. Soon, I became stronger and more confident and increased the intensity and frequency of my workouts.
Try to focus on progress rather than perfection.
I remember being tied to the couch in those early days of motherhood, feeding, pumping, and snuggling my little one. If you’re in the same position (literally!), challenge yourself to get moving and know that you don’t have to complete a set workout to reap the benefits of being active. If you’re already exercising moderately, make small changes to increase the difficulty or frequency of your workouts.
Don’t let the pressure to have a perfect workout regimen keep you from starting in the first place. Something is better than nothing, and the key is to do more than you were doing before, however small that may be!
2. Involve others.
Some might find exercising with company the last thing they’d ever want to do, but for others, it’s just the kickstart they need. Grab a friend and try out a new yoga class or take a walk around the block with your stroller. If you have a partner, find a couples’ exercise class and make it a date night. Scheduling activity is a great way to remain accountable and ensure that it happens.
Try to find fun ways to include your kids in your routine. Even if exercising with littles around means an imperfect workout, you’ll still realize the benefits of activity, and you’ll probably have more fun in the process! Some gyms or local organizations offer mommy-and-me classes where you can work up a sweat and make new friends. You may even learn some moves and activities you can do at home.
3. Make it fun.
In order for any fitness routine to last, you need to find exercise that you enjoy or at least don’t mind. Maybe that means joining a gym where you can use different equipment and take advantage of classes. Many gyms have childcare services available, so you can get some me-time. Or maybe you’re more into making a game of exercise. Is there a sport you enjoy doing? Look for recreational leagues and clubs in your area or sign up for a dance class. If you enjoy swimming, see if there’s a local pool you can access year-round. You certainly don’t have to complete a set program for exercise to be beneficial. There’s a right fit for everyone. What works for one person may not work for another—and that’s okay!
4. Reward yourself.
Your kids aren’t the only ones who respond to rewards or incentives. Simple things like getting yourself new workout gear like Kindred Bravely's nursing and maternity sports bra and leggings can help motivate you to make small, healthy changes. When you feel good and have the right equipment, you’re more likely to use it. Try putting a dollar into a jar each time you exercise and buy yourself something special with that hard-earned money! Or maybe rewarding yourself with a pedicure after several weeks of exercise will motivate you to keep going—and also pamper those sore muscles. Remember to celebrate the small victories, because they are truly big ones! Give yourself credit for going after your goals.
5. Focus on your overall wellness.
New Year’s resolutions can be motivating and fun to make but being healthy and happy are the real goals. Remember that you can take steps in a new direction any time you want—not just on January 1. You will probably find there are times when it’s difficult to have the exercise routine you’d like but try not to feel discouraged. This isn’t an all-or-nothing endeavor. Keep plugging away and making progress, and your health and mood will reap the benefits from the life changes you’re making.
I’ve been back on the active path for a year now, and while there have been times in that year where I lapsed and got out of my routine, I’m proud of myself for taking the steps to get back out there, and I’m stronger and healthier for it. I’ve actually lost zero pounds, and that’s okay! The scale doesn’t tell the whole story. I’ve found it much easier to carry my toddler around and be active with her, and that’s more important to me.
Here’s to starting off a new year with zero guilt and all the confidence that you can do this. Do what works for you and remember that you are doing a great job right this very minute.
Disclaimer: Always seek a doctor's advice before beginning an exercise program.