Sticking with your resolutions

Mount Allison personal trainers provide suggestions for committing to fitness-related goals

In the new year, students may aim to achieve their fitness-related goals.

As the new year commences, many students adopt new resolutions, determined to get more sleep, eat healthier or exercise more regularly.

Despite the optimism a new year brings when it comes to sticking to a fresh set of goals, according to an Ipsos poll 78 per cent of Canadians will end up breaking their New Year’s resolutions. The large percentage of failed New Year’s resolutions can make setting exercise-related goals a daunting task, but these ambitions can easily be made attainable when broken down into manageable steps.

Karen Arsenault, a certified personal trainer at Mount Allison, recommends viewing New Year’s resolutions from a different perspective to make them more achievable.

“I encourage everyone to really sit and think about their fitness and wellness resolutions. Try to frame them in ways that make them meaningful to you,” Arsenault said. “In short, you really need to find your ‘why.’ Why do you want it? If you can come up with a really strong ‘why,’ your ability to get through the challenges along the road will be greatly improved.”

Psychology professor Dr. Terry Belke studies the factors that motivate individuals to engage in physical activity using an animal model. Belke’s research has indicated that fitness related New Year’s resolutions are often subject to failure due to making fitness goals that are grandiose in nature.

“A problem that people have is that they may set a goal that’s too large,” Belke said, “so setting themselves up for not being able to continue, whereas if you start with a small [goal], then once you attain it you can gradually [increase] the amount of exercise that one does so that you’re more likely to succeed.”

Belke recommended a model for committing to fitness goals where an individual starts with small amounts of exercise, and provides themselves with a reward for each exercising session. Eventually, once someone has been dedicated to exercising regularly, exercise begins to act as its own reinforcer, and the outside reward becomes unnecessary.

“Set realistic goals of shorter duration of exercise and increment them,” Belke said. “[Then] you get to the point where you’re doing enough [exercise] so that the exercise isn’t contingent upon a reinforcing effect.”

Natasha Niles, a former Mt. A student, works as a certified personal trainer at both the Fitness Centre and Athletic Centre, offering consultations for fitness and health-oriented goals. Niles advised a similar approach to Dr. Belke in terms of making fitness related resolutions attainable.

“Start with SMART short-term goals,” Niles said. “SMART meaning specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based. Be patient. Be consistent.”

In terms of other methods to help maintain exercise goals, Niles offered tips for the daily maintenance of a fitness regimen. “I encourage people to write down their goals in a space they will see [regularly], such as setting a reminder on their phone, inserting it in their planner, or placing a note on their fridge or mirror. Start small. Little changes add up. Aim to sweat three times a week. Start carrying water with you on campus. Add in a full serving of green veggies daily. Set a reminder to go to bed at the same time every night,” Niles said. “Any one of these little changes can yield results to feeling better.”

As a personal trainer, Arsenault provides different advice for achieving fitness goals based on personal differences in her clients, but emphasizes the importance of good nutrition for succeeding in their overall objective.

“To feel better and become your healthiest self, I recommend [understanding] that nutrition is 80 per cent of the equation. What you put in your body will have the most impact on your overall health,” Arsenault said. “Fitness and exercise are important for health, no question, but you can’t out-train bad nutrition.”

While Niles supports making fitness goals, and working to succeeding, she commented on the importance of being appreciative of yourself regardless of your success in committing to your fitness resolutions.

“Be kind to yourself always,” Niles said. “There is so much pressure for perfection. However, good enough is good enough. I encourage people to remind themselves, ‘I am good enough, I deserve to feel good about myself. I am setting a resolution for self-improvement, not as punishment. My body is great and capable of great things.’ ”

Jessica Firminger
Jessica Firminger is a fourth-year biology major from Sackville, NB and a winter enthusiast. When she’s not hitting the books, she’s hitting the slopes.