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New Year’s Resolutions and Fitness Goals

If you are like most people, you will set a New Year’s resolution or goal. That goal may be fitness- or health-related. Many people fail to reach their fitness goals — not because of lack of effort, but because of their mindset.

There are four killer thoughts that doom fitness goals from the beginning. Be aware of them and flip them to use to your advantage.

  1. Rumination.
    We tend to go over things repeatedly in our heads. The thoughts of what if, should have, and would have are constant. They cause self-doubt and anxiety. If you have failed with fitness in the past, you might play the failure like a broken record and assume that you cannot be successful with fitness in the future.

    Rumination is a significant source of stress and an emotional roadblock to success that you must overcome to be successful with fitness. The key is to simply acknowledge your past experiences with fitness and set the intent to do something totally different, whether it is a new activity, hiring a fitness trainer, or following the next three steps.

  2. Unreachable goals.
    These are goals that we cannot reach because they are unrealistic. Unreachable goals are larger-than-life goals such as “lose weight” or “lose 50 pounds.” These don’t work. Instead, set micro-goals or session-based goals such as “I will finish 20 minutes on the treadmill today.” Session-based goals build self-esteem and self-efficacy with fitness that builds into a long-term program.
  3. Emotional toxins.
    Most people show up in gyms and fitness centers with toxic thoughts about the facilities, equipment, and staff. You have to retrain your thinking about fitness and lifestyle change. That starts with the first two minutes of exercise.

    Simply set an intention for that fitness session or focus on a problem that you would like to solve during that session. For example, if you have had a rough day, set an intention such as “I will feel less stressed when I walk out of here.” Reset your mind to think of fitness as positive versus negative and immediate versus long-term only.

  4. Alignment.
    The most challenging aspect of personal fitness is to truly personalize it. Align your fitness preferences with your psychological makeup. For example, if you are an introvert, walking on the treadmill is best for you. For an extrovert, group fitness is a great starting place.

    Beyond choosing the right mode of fitness, align your goals with your psychological makeup. Is weight loss or increased muscle tone really a motivating factor for you? Or is it something more cerebral like simply improving low mood?

No matter your unique relationship with fitness, and no matter what has happened in the past, you can be successful with fitness simply by changing your thoughts and approach. When you walk into a gym or fitness center, remember that the past is irrelevant and the future is not as important as right now. The key is to personalize and differentiate each session with immediate goals and your unique psychological makeup. Enjoy the New Year and new you!

Resolutions photo available from Shutterstock

New Year’s Resolutions and Fitness Goals

Amy Ashmore, PhD

Amy Ashmore holds a Ph.D. in Kinesiology from the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Timing Resistance Training: Programming the Muscle Clock for Optimal Performance (Human Kinetics, 2020), dozens of articles, blogs, training and continuing education programs recognized by National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA), American Council on Exercise (ACE), and American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Amy is former Sports Sciences faculty at Florida State University and the former Program Director for Sports Sciences at the American Military University. She is located in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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APA Reference
Ashmore, A. (2018). New Year’s Resolutions and Fitness Goals. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 31 Dec 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.