Experts offer tips to help you reach goals this year

Posted: Wednesday, January 02, 2002

Here are some tips from the experts on keeping a resolution to maintain a new healthy activity or let go of old unwanted habits in 2002:

Set short-term goals. Rather than trying to have the perfect waistline by next week, set shorter goals and make them specific, said Joni Dykstra, personal trainer at Healthy Changes Fitness Center. "You can figure out how to achieve that waist size by, say, working out three times a week. Then make it your goal to simply get to the gym three times," she said.

Recruit a workout partner. You'll have encouragement and friendly competition. "It's useful for those bad mornings when you don't feel like rolling out of bed," said Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., training consultant for the National YMCA.

Create a support group. "Joni (Dykstra) gave me good feedback as I was starting my workout routine," said Sue Caswell. "I'd hear, 'You're doing great.' She reminded me not to compare myself to others, but challenge myself with my personal goals."

Create your own program. Whether quitting an undesirable habit or setting up a workout schedule, you can custom-create a plan that will work for you.

"Like our radio ad says, you can 'master your body,'" said Chuck Smalley, co-owner of the Body Master gym in North Kenai. "In our facility, you create your own program, then make changes as you see fit. You gradually achieve your goals of conditioning, toning and endurance."

"Our indoor running track is a draw for some runners and joggers in the winter," Smalley said. "And we now have Frontier Physical Therapy inside our facility, so people can consult with a therapist when they create a workout routine."

Consult a trainer or instructor. Smalley suggests that if you are working out in a fitness center, you should get some advice as you set up your program. "You'll want to set goals that are realistic and challenging, but not damaging," he said.

Don't overdo it. "That's an easy way to get hurt," Dykstra said. "People can pull a muscle or get a blister from working out too hard. Or they wake up so sore they can't get out of bed," she said. "Then they take a break for a few days, and it's hard to think about getting started again."

Keep a chart of your goals and progress. There are computer programs available for keeping a training log, or you can check with a trainer or instructor. It takes about one month to develop a new habit. "If they can hang in for a month, and get through the soreness, they'll have a better chance of sticking with it," Dykstra said.

Bet on it. A study at Michigan State University found that people who bet $40 they could stick with their program for six months had a 97 percent success rate. Of those who didn't take the bet, only 20 percent were able to stick to their routines.

Shift your focus. Jay Kimiecik, Ph.D, associate professor of exercise physiology at Miami University in Ohio, teaches a concept called "intrinsic exercise."

"People who successfully maintain a workout regimen learn to shift their focus from distant, external outcomes like losing weight to positive, internal benefits in the here and now," Kimiecik said.

"The idea is to exercise for its own sake. If you get something out of each session, you'll keep doing it."

Intrinsic exercisers work on meeting personal goals, such as lifting five more pounds, instead of comparing themselves with other people, Kimiecik said.

The "intrinsic" concept can also apply to kicking a negative habit. In quitting smoking, the motivation could be breathing fresh air today or having clean-smelling clothing when you get home.

Going with "the flow." Kimiecik says one way to stay motivated during exercise is to reach "flow," a mental state of total absorption in the activity.

"Consider it psychology's version of 'The Zone,'" Kimiecik said. If you can reach it, you'll want to exercise again and again to attain that positive state of mind."

Remember to fill your own cup. "Some people feel guilty about attending a class or having a workout schedule, because it takes them away from their spouse or children," Dykstra said. "Especially women. Some are so used to being caretakers of everybody that they never take time for themselves. If they can exercise three or four hours per week, they end up having more energy and a much better attitude," she said.

Reward yourself for achieving certain goals. Chris Reinarz said she is going to put $5 in a jar every day that she doesn't smoke. "I figure that's about how much I spend on cigarettes," she said. "I'm planning to go shopping with that money, and spend some of it in Vegas."

Stick with the mirror. In other words, don't compare yourself with others. "Some people say, 'I want to look like her,' but you need to focus on what's normal for your age and body type," Dykstra said. "It's not all about fitting into a Size 6."

Ann Marina is a freelance writer and part-time instructor at Kenai Peninsula College.

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