Attainable: Set appropriate goals. Here is where most of us fall down. If you have been sedentary for a long period, don't make a resolution to run a marathon. Goals should challenge you, not frustrate you or make you feel like a failure.
Relevant: Think what is realistic with your current habits, energy level and let this guide your goals. Take small steps, and don't forget to factor in your personality. If you hate competition, it probably isn't a good idea to join a tennis league or basketball team.
Time-bound: There has to be both short- and long-term timelines to help you stay engaged and focused. I guarantee I'd never get a column done if there wasn't a firm deadline. Set weekly ones and monthly ones to see real progress. Share these deadlines with a workout buddy and ask for support and accountability.
Does it have to hurt?
No. The No. 1 reason we fail to make our resolutions into habits is that we overreach and end up in a constant state of pain. Excessive muscle soreness results from doing too much, too soon. It is a misconception that great pain is an indicator of a great workout.
Minor soreness or stiffness that is felt a day or two after exercise is to be expected if you are challenging your body. However, if you are experiencing the type of soreness that lasts for days and makes daily activity such as coming down stairs or getting out of your car miserable, you are crossing the line and increasing the chance for detrimental effects in the long term.
Exercising at a high intensity is doable without excessive muscle soreness if reasonable progression is built into the program.
Simply take into account your current levels of fitness and strength and apply slight increases in intensities and volume over time. Fitness is built, not injected so build it according to your SMART plan.
Cindy Boggs is a wellness writer and healthy living expert. She is the author of the award-winning fitness advice book, "CindySays ... You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World." Send your questions about fitness, training and health to cindys...@aol.com.