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Realistic Resolutions: How to Set—And Stick To—Your 2009 Health and Fitness Goals

By Billy Polson

I always look forward to the holidays for myself and my clients, as an opportunity to step back away from our workouts and see what worked in 2008, what didn't, and what new directions we want to head in. It's a time for identifying the top priorities for the coming year, which is especially important given that most of us get stuck in ruts with our workouts. So at the new year, I recommend really taking a creative look at what you would like to accomplish in all areas of your life, health, and fitness in the next 12 months. Use the guide below to start heading your body and your life in a new and better direction. Don't be afraid to fail—you will never know if you don't try. Look at your life—are you finding challenge and reward in your daily activities? If the answer is no or even maybe, then I challenge each of you to use 2009 as the year to truly make some amazing changes and enhancements to your life and health.

Get a Baseline
Before you start making changes, find out where you are now. Rate your current state of health and wellness on a scale of one to 10, where one means "horribly unhealthy" and 10 means "perfect health". In rating yourself, take the following factors into account (if you like, you can score yourself from one to 10 on each of these, and then divide by 10 to get your average):

  1. Food Choices: Do you eat processed (bad) or organic (good)? Do you eat a healthy balance of food types (veggies, fruits, lean meats, healthy carbs)?
  2. Drink Choices: Think about your intake of caffeine, soda, artificial sweeteners and alcohol vs. good old-fashioned water.
  3. Daily Caloric Intake: As opposed to your daily caloric output—are you operating at a deficit?
  4. Consistency of Above: Be honest with yourself about how consistent you are in making smart eating and drinking choices. Are you sticking with your goals?
  5. Types of Workouts:Do you only body-build, or do you maintain a balanced program of weight-training, cardio, flexibility training, and corrective work for better posture?
  6. Workout Program Consistency: A good, balanced program is a great start—but have you been sticking with it through the year? Do you skip days at the gym, or overlook some muscle-groups? Again, be honest with yourself; this is the moment for a reality-check.
  7. Relaxation/Meditation Activities: Are you taking care of your mind's connection to your body through activities like yoga, outdoor walks/biking/hiking, massage work, or meditation?
  8. Rest/Sleep Schedule: Getting eight hours per night? Does your sleep schedule follow your circadian rhythms (that is, sleep from 10pm to 6am)? Are you sleeping soundly through the night?
  9. Work Life: How many hours are you working per day? Is it stressful or rewarding?
  10. Drinking/Partying Habits: We all like to have a good time, but are you drinking or partying every weekend or too often? Are you spending the whole week recovering?
Get a Goal
Now that you've reached a health rating score, make a list of changes you'd like to make in 2009 to improve this number within the categories listed above. These will be pretty specific and practical changes. For example: swearing off diet soda, or alcohol on the weekends (or at least for the three months of the year); only eating as many calories as you burn each day; taking up a recreational sport instead of just gym workouts, or working with a trainer to develop a corrective program; or getting enough sleep, at least on the weekends.

You want these specific changes to stay in touch with the person you want to be more broadly. That's why it's important, at the start of the year, to think about your general life goals, and how you might achieve them. Take this opportunity to list five to 10 life goals to work toward in 2009. For example, these can be particular but life-changing—like paying off your credit cards, or completing a triathlon. Or, these can be more abstract, like becoming a more flexible person (and that, in turn, might require some of the changes listed above, like changing your insane work schedule). But the abstract becomes the particular: your goal to lose weight can be an ambition to get into size 32 jeans. And once you have the goal, you just need the plan.

Get a Plan
So, now that you've got the life goals, let's give you some specific fitness goals for 2009. Try to find five to 10 goals that fit in with your life and health goals, and that can help get you where you want to be. For example:
  1. Pick a Part: Make specific areas of your body stronger and/or more powerful for specific functions or movements. For instance, strengthening your lower abs for better lower back support and improved posture; bench-pressing your own weight; doing 10 unassisted pull-ups; improving your cardio endurance; increasing your flexibility enough to be pain-free in daily life. You can invent your own specific goals, thinking about how they advance your general life goals.
  2. Make a First: One great way to advance life goals is to become accomplished at something new, that you never thought you could do. And, it will help your basic fitness as well. So, go learn to swim laps, or prepare for a half-marathon, or learn to double-jump rope. Set a goal, achieve that goal, feel awesome.
  3. Get an Education: You can broaden your horizons, and get new ideas, by learning new information. Learn more about proper form (try consulting a trainer), or perform checks to self-diagnose muscle pain and postural issues. This will get you feeling enlivened for your general life goals, and put you in a better position to succeed.
You now have a lot of information—and you may not be able to do it all. Try to keep a single goal in mind, one life goal you want to accomplish, and pick a few of the health and fitness goals that pertain to it to change. Ideally, consult a trainer and/or nutritionist to come up with a plan for the first quarter of 2009, one that is in line with your long-term goal for the year. From there, it's mostly a matter of staying on track, and we all know that can be hard. So be practical. Write out your goals and the changes you want to make, and post that list somewhere that you can see it daily, like in your office, or inside the medicine cabinet so you can see it as you brush your teeth. Constant reminders can be a big help.

So can checking in. Put a reminder on your calendar on the first of April that you are to go through this entire questionnaire again and check up on how you're doing. Your plans may need tweaking at that point—and that's ok. Just be honest with yourself about where you are, so you can see where you'd like to go.

All the best of luck in 2009—and remember the challenge I gave you to make 2009 the year you make a real difference in your life!

About Billy Polson: Billy Polson is co-founder of the award-winning Diakadi Body personal training gym and creators of RealJock's 12-week Workout Programs. Billy is a certified Exercise Coach through the Paul Chek Institute as well as a Certified Personal Trainer through The National Academy of Sports Medicine. Have burning questions about your fitness that you want Billy and Diakadi co-founder Mike Clausen to answer? Send an email to