4 Key Ways to Make Even a Failed Fitness Resolution a Total Success!

You can achieve your fitness resolutions (or get back on track if you’ve lapsed) and hit 10,000 steps per day, lose weight, or get fit with the right planning, motivation, and goals! You probably got off to a great start to your fitness resolution but you got busy, the weather wasn’t great and your resolution has failed before it ever really began. Don’t worry, you’re not alone! 41.6% of resolutions fail after just one month. Even though most resolutions fail quickly, it doesn’t mean you have to wallow in failure. You know walking is great for their health – you just need to make your walking routine stick

We’re bringing you 4 keys to making your fitness resolution a success. They contain 11 individual tips that will help you set the right goals, plan ahead, get motivated and stick to your resolutions over the long run.

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Key #1: Set the right goals!

Woman running on beach - fitness goals concept
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Chances are that when you first wrote down your resolution, you had an idea of what you wanted to achieve. When you tried to put it into practice, however, that goal seemed perpetually out of reach. In that case, you just need a set of goals that are attainable! Reset your goals so that they still push you to go farther, but aren’t so difficult that you’ll inevitably fail. Match these goals up with your rewards, making sure that each milestone is achievable if you work at it. You want your goals to be challenging but achievable so you’ll have the motivation to hit those milestones and get those rewards!

Choose SMART goals

SMART goal setting concept graphic
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Setting goals that are both achievable and challenging is an important factor with sticking to fitness goals, according to Bustle.com. Entrepreneur.com recommends setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Accountable, Realistic, and have a Timeframe). The goals that you set go a long way towards whether you’ll keep pursuing them or give up early.

  • Specific: A set number of steps, time or distance walked
  • Measurable: Make sure you’re able to track your steps in Pacer
  • Accountable: Check your steps frequently, or share goals with a friend
  • Realistic: Set a goal you can reasonably achieve based on time/health circumstances
  • Timeframe: Set a date for you to achieve this goal (for example in 6 months)

Goals should be challenging

Determined female walker getting ready for exercise
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Setting a difficult, inspiring goal can be a great way to motivate yourself to walk more. A fun, “out there” goal can also serve to focus your motivation on a specific task at hand. You’ll be more excited working towards walking a 5k race than you will be by adding an extra 100 steps a day and you’ll feel more rewarded when you do accomplish it. Even if you don’t get quite all the way, you’ll still achieve something great.

If you’re currently walking 5,000 steps per day, getting up to 10,000 steps per day will almost certainly ensure that you hit the 300 minutes of weekly walking recommended for the greatest health benefits. What’s challenging for one person may not be challenging for another, so make sure your goals are calibrated for your personal experience level and fitness ability.

Goals should be realistic & achievable

Your goal should be tough, but also realistic (the “R” in SMART goals) so that you can maintain your motivation. Setting a goal that you can’t realistically achieve can lead to discouragement when you realize that it’s so far out of reach. Even small increases in steps can make a big difference, so set a goal that you can reach! A great way to evaluate how realistic and achievable your goals are is to calculate just how far and long you’d need to walk to achieve them. Then decide if that is work that you’re able (and willing) to do.

If your goal is 10,000 steps in a day, try to work out how much time and how many miles walked that would entail. You can do this by estimating your steps per mile, walking speed, and time available. Take into account where you’re at the beginning as well. 2,000 steps per day to 10,000 is a huge jump and requires a ton of work. You’ll also have to factor in injuries and health conditions. Some people just physically cannot walk as many steps as others, but that’s ok! For other goals, like walking an extra hour a day, you can actually figure out what it would take to free up that time.

Key #2: Plan ahead (including rewards!)

Have a Strategy

Workout plan in diary fitness planning concept
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You may have heard the saying that a goal without a plan is just a dream. It’s not just a saying – it’s actually true! If your goal is to hit 10,000 steps per day, you can’t expect it to just happen on its own. You’ll need to come up with plans and strategies to ensure you get enough time to walk, you have the right places to walk, and that you stick to your plan every day. Motivation to walk is important, but it’s not enough on its own.

Figure out how long you’d need to walk every day to hit your step goals. Of course, you’ll need to get the goal gradually, but have a sense of what you’d need to achieve to succeed. Make a daily schedule, and identify times that you can fit in a walk. If you notice you’re doing low-value, sedentary activities (like watching TV or checking the internet), try taking even a 5-minute walk during that time. 

Account for life circumstances

Your health, life circumstances, and age all factor into how much walking you can get every day. If you have a newborn baby, for instance, you simply may not have the time and ability to put in a ton of walking. You can look into alternative ways to get your steps, like getting a treadmill or doing at-home cardio, but it may turn out that at least temporarily you’ll have to lower your step goals.

If you have a permanent injury or health condition, or if you’re a senior, you may simply not be able to get as many steps as you once could. While this can be frustrating, it’s important to be realistic and get as active as YOU safely can rather than comparing yourself to others. Even small increases in your step count can make a big difference in health (and can even reduce your risk of death)! The important thing is that you keep walking and stick with your habit, and being realistic about your goals allows you to do that.

Reward yourself!

Unboxing new black walking or running shoes
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Who doesn’t love a reward for doing something positive? Set up a reward system that will motivate you to hit your goals. Maybe you’ve been thinking about taking a vacation for a long time. That can be your final reward for completing a long-term goal! With that as a goal, break your resolution down into milestones. Each milestone can have a smaller reward attached that keeps you on target. Smaller rewards might be a new outfit, new gear or a treat you’ve wanted for a while. The further you get, the better rewards you’ll give yourself which will motivate you to make it to the finish!

Key #3 Accountability & internal/external motivation

Happy women walking together in park
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Sticking to your goal is much easier if you’re accountable for your progress. You can be accountable to yourself by recording your progress and journaling or brainstorming what went well and what didn’t. You can also bring in friends or even post your results on social media for some added accountability. Your motivation can be internal or external as well.

Accountability to yourself – internal motivation

You’ll have more success at sticking with your fitness goals if you remember the reason why you’re trying to get fit in the first place. It turns out that internal, so-called “intrinsic motivation” is more powerful than external motivation. Intrinsic motivation comes from inside ourselves based on things we find internally fun and enjoyable – not based on rewards or validation from others.

Why do you want to get fit?

Most people with a fitness resolution want to get more fit and active for a specific reason. Even if you’re targeting 10,000 steps per day, that’s usually to achieve some fitness goal rather than walking for walking’s sake. It could be because you want to burn calories and lose some stubborn belly fat, or it could be that you want the stamina to finish all of your daily errands without tiring yourself out. Your “why” could be to keep up with your kids or grandkids, or even just to chase around your dog during walks. Try to come up with a personal “why” for walking that will make you feel great inside.

What will you do when you hit your goal?

Think of what you’ll do or how you’ll feel when you hit your fitness goal. Try to come up with internal motivation – how you’ll feel rather than what other people may think or say about you. Maybe hitting 10,000 steps per day and being able to walk long distances means that you’ll be able to spend an afternoon walking through your favorite park. If your goal is to lose weight, focus on the health benefits you’ll achieve from walking and how great you’ll feel. If your motivation to hit your goals starts to drop, remember what’s at stake and you’ll be more likely to keep going.

Accountability to friends & family – walk together!

Multi-generational family walking in autumn
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Face it, sometimes you need a little help to stick to your plan. Your friends and relatives would probably love to help you get healthier, so don’t be shy and ask! Find one person or a group of people who you can share your goals with. Reporting your progress to them can help you stick to your plan. Make sure the person (or people) you choose will support you but also push you to keep going. It may surprise you how much having someone check in on your goals can help you continue to work towards them. You’re no longer only answering to yourself, which really helps stay on track.

A University of Aberdeen study “found that finding a new exercise companion increased the amount of exercise people took. This was increased even more when the new partner was emotionally supportive.” Not everyone has a workout buddy in their neighborhood or even on their social media friend list. Pacer Groups are a great way to find amazing exercise companions that will give you support and motivation no matter where you are! Just knowing that other people are doing the same workouts that you’re doing can give you a push to succeed. The Aberdeen study found that you don’t actually have to work out together to see the benefits, because “it is more important to encourage each other than doing the actual activity together.”

Key #4 It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint!

Rural road at sunrise - start your journey concept
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Everyone goes through setbacks, but fortunately getting fit and active is a long-term effort – more like a marathon than of a sprint. If you stumble in a 100-meter race, you’re going to have a tough time. But stumble once in a marathon and you have plenty of time to recover and do great.

If your resolution has stalled, just start over today! Write down today’s date and your restated fitness goals, and make it a March resolution instead. If 10,000 steps per day turned out to be too much, try reducing your immediate goals to 6,000 steps. Then increase this by 1,000 to 2,000 steps every month. If your goal was to eat better, today is the perfect day to restart your improved nutrition plan.

Track your progress over time

Setting milestones on the way to your main goal helps you keep motivated and earn small wins by making progress over time. If you’re going for 10,000 steps per day, try increasing your steps by 1,000 to 2,000 step increments and check how you’re doing every so often. If you’re targeting 30 minutes of walking per day, considering increasing your walking time by 1 minute every week or two. Taking a challenging goal and breaking it down into easy to reach steps gives you something to aim for in the short run as you’re hitting your goal in the long run.

Adjust your goals and strategy along the way

Just because you set a goal for your resolution in January doesn’t mean that it can never change! Use your milestone progress to adjust your final goal when necessary. If you’re on pace to hit your step goals early, you can always increase your final goal and adjust your monthly milestones. Likewise, if you find that progress is slower than normal it’s fine to adjust your milestones downward. Your goal should be steady progress over time. Keep in mind that fitness plateaus are normal. You may find that you just can’t get past 7,000 steps until you hit a certain fitness level or figure out a new creative walking strategy and suddenly your steps per day may jump past that number.

Stay positive:

Snail crossing finish line - finish goal concept
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One of the best ways to ensure you keep at your goals is to not let setbacks derail your progress! All is never lost – if you slip up, just get back on track as soon as you are able. Life happens, and if your goals are so rigid that they don’t allow for setbacks, then the chances of you sticking with them are pretty slim. Prepare yourself ahead of time for the inevitable slip-up, because it’s what you do AFTER the slip-up that determines whether or not you’re successful. For instance, if you get busy or catch a cold and miss your step goals for a week, just get back to walking more as soon as you’re able! Don’t get discouraged, because fitness is a marathon, not a sprint!

Final thoughts

Trust us, if you’re crushing your step goals, eating healthier and feeling better, you won’t be thinking about what day you really started your resolution. You’ll simply be thinking of how great you feel. But to get there, you have to start sometime. Why not make that sometime, today?

Get out there and start over towards your new New Year’s resolutions! You CAN and WILL succeed this time!

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If you haven’t downloaded the Pacer app yet, download Pacer for free (on mobile)! You can also check out our website (mobile or desktop) or follow our blog for more great walking and healthy lifestyle tips.

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