Nowadays we are constantly bombarded with messages that encourage us to stop this, shed that, get in shape, and to adopt the ‘new year new you’ motto. There’s an excessive amount of pressure on us in January to be ‘the finest versions of ourselves,’ to aspire to what are frequently totally unattainable fitness objectives, and to essentially give up everything we love. January can be depressing enough as it is without all these other demands placed on us, right? To begin with, there’s the come down from the festive festivities, then there are the brief chilly days and the dark mornings and evenings, and let’s not even talk about the sorry looking state of our bank balances. So, I don’t know about you lot, but I am through with doing it that way. I want to establish intentions for 2024 that are realistic, motivating, achievable, and most importantly that don’t make me feel awful.
As you can probably tell, I’m not a big fan of new year’s resolutions. But I do kind of get why the start of a new year is a great time to sit back and reassess a few things in life (although, I do strongly believe this shouldn’t be reserved solely for January. I personally think we should have a check in with ourselves at the beginning of every season, but hey that’s a whole other blog post). I just don’t think we should be so tough on ourselves that’s all. And so, I want to talk to you about the notion of establishing intentions rather than resolutions, which is a much more positive and self-nurturing practice.
Tactics To Set Intentions And Adhere To Them!
Let’s commence by scrutinizing the language we use, as this shapes a potent narrative for how we position our mindset. Resolutions revolve around the notion of determining something. Solving a predicament or finding a solution to something that is presently wrong or not functioning properly. A relatively negative connotation, don’t you think? Before we’ve even commenced to attain any fitness objectives we might have, we’re telling ourselves that we need to be fixed and that we’re not adequate. Intention, on the other hand, offers positivity – I intend to do this to achieve this. The word is encouraging and doesn’t concentrate on a problem; instead, it inspires growth.
This year more than in prior years, I have felt as though I need to establish more structure and set intentions in January. As though I need to seize the bull by the horns and take charge of certain areas of my life. I’m not discussing about doing Dry January or signing up for gym membership, that classic January punishment. No, I mean sitting down and having an intense think about what it is I want from 2024. What I want to do more of, what I would like to achieve, what things make me happy, what ignites the passion in me, makes me feel alive.
We all can fabricate excuses, right? Don’t get me wrong, there are numerous non-negotiable tasks filling our day that we can’t simply cross off of the to-do list; work, kids, house admin, etc., it’s all stuff that needs to be done. So it’s simple to see why exercise and self-care practices can fall by the wayside. I’ve allowed that to happen with strength training, which I used to engage in abundantly, but now can’t actually recall the last time I hoisted a weight or even did so much as a sit up come to think of it. Interestingly, the one thing I have kept consistent with is running and that’s mainly because I can tie it in with taking the dog out and consequently, it becomes one of those non-negotiable tasks. Funny how us women are more than OK doing things for others, but if it’s for our own benefit or gratification we consider it as somehow not significant enough and we remove it from our priority list.
But the reality is we are important and it’s time to commence acknowledging that. Not only is it incredibly vital we make time for ourselves to do the things we love and that make us feel good, but that we also do so to strengthen the belief in the people around us; our kids, partners, loved ones, that they too should be looking after themselves and doing the things they love.
To aid you in establishing some intentions for 2024 I’m going to share with you 10 lessons I’ve learned that have assisted me to not only clarify what intentions to set but that have also empowered me and driven me to achieve.
1. Monitor Your Movement
For a long time, I have been against donning a smartwatch, opting instead to run in the buff so to speak i.e. without tracking my runs or fitness levels. My reason for this was because I found I was comparing my performance to others and it made me feel as though what I was doing wasn’t up to par. So why the abrupt change? Why am I here telling you that monitoring your movement is a good intention to set to aid you in reaching your fitness goals?
Well, something clicked for me. Something glaringly obvious really. And that was that I could still track my runs but simply keep my records private and choose not to follow anyone else. I mean, yeah I know, it’s not rocket science, but for me it was a light bulb moment. Since then I have a new smartwatch, which I’ve been using for about 3 weeks and I am relishing it. Not only does it record my runs, walks, and other fitness activity, it counts my steps, tracks my heart rate, monitors my stress levels, tells me when I need to rest, records my sleep patterns, honestly it feels as though it has me pretty figured out already.
The information it gives me enables me to keep track of my progress, to see the improvements I’m making, but also to keep a check on the areas I’m perhaps not doing so well at. And what I’m finding most beneficial of all is that it allows me to cut myself some slack. If I see that I haven’t had a great night’s sleep, or that my stress levels have been higher than normal, it offers an explanation as to why my run wasn’t as good that day. Or even better it allows me to preempt that I’m not going to be feeling so great and that I should consider not exercising that day, or changing the type of exercise I do.
Monitoring my movement has kept me consistent and helped me to learn more about my body and to tune in with what it needs each day. This knowledge has kept my intentions on track without me really even having to think about it. Because the watch is doing all the thinking for me.
2. Disregard The Gym Membership Offers
Controversial, I know. Particularly when at this time of year you’re surrounded by messages telling you that signing up to a gym membership and taking advantage of the discounted January ‘new year, new you’ offers is exactly what you should be doing. But the way I perceive it is why spend money on a gym membership when you could be exercising for free at home or outdoors?
Gyms can be quite intimidating places. They’re extremely busy at this time of year which means you can’t always use the machines and weights you want to. They’re noisy, brightly lit, and there are mirrors everywhere. Honestly, it’s my worst nightmare. I personally feel as though my money is better spent on investing in a few pieces of equipment to use at home. I’m not talking about big bulky machines like multi gyms and power racks, there aren’t many of us that have space to house one of those bad boys, no just buying a range of dumbbells, an exercise mat, maybe some stretch bands etc., are all you need to get started. And that works out way cheaper than any gym membership.
The advantage of having this kind of kit at home is that you can use it whenever suits you. Going to the gym, on the other hand, has to be scheduled into your day, you have to account for travel time to and from the gym so it’s going to take longer, and you also can’t workout in your pj’s if you want to. Well… you can, but you might get some funny looks!
Establish intentions that encourage movement that is under your control and that aren’t dependent or limited by external factors, such as gym opening times etc. and youare far more likely to remain on course without needing to exert nearly as much conscious effort.
3. Set Achievable Goals
One of the primary causes of individuals abandoning their resolutions is setting excessively high targets. It’s far easier to downsize when setting intentions. It’s vital to be realistic with yourself for this to be effective. Honestly assess your current level of fitness. Have you been active recently, experienced a significant hiatus, or is this an entirely new endeavor for you? Irrespective of your current level, commencing at a slower pace and gradually progressing is not only more attainable but also helps prevent injury. Instead of resolving to ‘attain a six pack by summer’, shift your focus and set the intention to ‘be more active’, making your fitness goal much more achievable.
Consider the amount of time available to you and when is the most suitable time. Again, be realistic. If you’re not a morning person, attempting to fit in a workout in the morning isn’t advisable. While it may seem like a convenient way to ‘make time’, in reality, if you cherish your morning sleep, the likelihood of failure in the future significantly increases. Avoid setting yourself up for failure; set intentions that align with you rather than against you. Do you have a spare 20 minutes at lunch? Take a walk. Have half an hour after dropping the kids at school before needing to be at your desk? Squeeze in a brief run. Want to catch up with a friend? Why not attend a yoga class together and grab a coffee afterward. There are always opportunities to incorporate activities, but it’s crucial to be realistic about what you can accommodate without impacting other aspects of your day. Begin by contemplating what you aim to achieve each week. For instance, ‘this week I aim to… be more active.’ By keeping the intention simple, you’re much more likely to accomplish that goal, not only making you feel great but also serving as motivation to persist.
4. Identify Your Motivation
Every individual is propelled by something, and before determining the intentions you want to set, it’s beneficial to ascertain your driving force. Some individuals are spurred by observing the performance of others and thrive on competition. If that resonates with you, utilizing a fitness tracker or an app to track your acquaintances’ progress is recommended. Some individuals require an event to sustain their focus. Knowing that you have a long-distance race scheduled in 9 months will undoubtedly keep you motivated. While others are motivated solely by the uplifting feeling exercise provides, pursuing the endorphin rush.
This year, I have established the intention to prioritize strength training. Primarily, because I’ve undertaken a personal challenge later this year, and I am aware that, in order to achieve a suitable level of fitness, strength training will significantly benefit me by reducing the risk of injury and enhancing my physical capabilities. In the past, I would have designated this as a resolution and vehemently pursued it, resulting in complete exhaustion and negatively impacting other aspects of my life. Yes, I attained the desired outcomes, but it didn’t contribute to my happiness, and it utterly consumed me. This time, I’m adopting a different approach. I’m embracing a more intuitive mindset regarding physical activity, which intertwines excellently with intention setting. Consider today, for instance. Strength training was on my to-do list (the intention was present). However, the day flew by, unforeseen circumstances arose, right? In the past, I would have compelled myself to engage in strength training regardless. Today, however, I’ve heeded to my body and realized that I completed a long run yesterday, today was hectic, and strength training can be postponed. The intention was there, but occasionally it doesn’t unfold as envisioned, and that’s acceptable. It can be done another day. No guilt, no self-criticism, no shame. And as I’m still motivated to do it, I am confident that I will accomplish it when I can.
5. Prioritize Yourself
When formulating your intentions for the year, they should center on you, not others. This is easier said than done, especially during this period when your social media feeds are likely inundated with fitness influencers dictating what they believe you should be doing. Despite their competency in the field, it’s imperative to remember that these are your aspirations, your objectives, your accomplishments that you want to attain. While I don’t dissuade seeking assistance or guidance from fitness experts who are well-versed in the discipline, it’s important not to be excessively influenced by external sources. Instead, rely on your instincts, listen to your body, and remain steadfast to the intentions you initially set.
Simply because your friend, a social media influencer, or an individual spotted in the gym is lifting heavier weights, completing faster runs, or not breaking a sweat, doesn’t imply that you are falling short. This is your personal journey, not theirs.
Furthermore, please don’t establish intentions solely because it’s January and others are doing so, and you feel compelled to join as well. If the timing isn’t right and you’re not entirely inclined, don’t force it. You will discern when the opportune moment arrives. Trust the process.
6. Simplify Matters
I am all for streamlining processes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not averse to hard work, nor do I advocate taking shortcuts, but if there’s a means to make a goal more attainable, it’s worth exploring alternatives. This is about assisting yourself, ensuring you adhere to your intentions and saving time in the process.
Here are some suggestions:
- Prepare Your Attire – Planning to embark on a morning run? Check the forecast and lay out appropriate clothing beside your bed, so it’s the first thing you see upon waking up. Heading to the gym? Have your bag packed with all your gear. Line up your sneakers at the door. Pursue anything that will propel you to actualize your intentions.
- Organize Your Environment – Similar to preparing your attire, if you intend to exercise at home the next day, set up your mat the night before to ensure your space is ready in the morning. Bring out your weights, pause the workout video at the desired point to commence, do whatever is conducive to facilitating an effortless start.
- Outline Your Exercise Regimen – While I don’t advocate rigidly fixed plans, having an outline for exercise sessions is essential. Foresee the type of exercise you want to engage in, determine the frequency of workouts, and pinpoint suitable times. Being aware of your available time slots allows for greater flexibility in your exercise schedule. Finding an accountability partner can enhance motivation, as involving another person can augment adherence to your exercise plans, as you’d be unwilling to let your partner down.
Preventative planning is advantageous, particularly for those prone to procrastination. Establishing monthly or weekly goals and anticipating prospective hurdles can foster sustained commitment.
Recognize the significance of rest and recuperation, ensuring to allocate rest days to optimize functioning, prevent injury, and avert burnout. Quality sleep also plays a crucial role in attaining fitness objectives.
Engage in physical activities that you find enjoyable, as experiencing enjoyment is pivotal for sustained engagement and motivation. Embrace setbacks as integral to the journey to success, and endeavor to derive knowledge from them and tailor your approach accordingly.
Reflecting and charting your intentions for the year can be a constructive and contemplative process. Visualizing and documenting your intentions, devoid of excessive rigidity, can sustain your focus and motivation throughout the year.