Set the bar lowWant to know a secret for sticking with your New Year’s fitness resolution?

Set the bar low. That’s right: Do less than you think you should.

The other day I was interviewed by a reporter about how to stick with a workout plan. When the article comes out I’ll link to it, but it has to do with the fact most people who start up a new regimen as a New Year’s resolution end up quitting.

How, the reporter asked, can people ensure that doesn’t happen to them?

Most of us should do less than we think, I told her. It’s like the story of the tortoise and the hare. Going out slower — building a habit over time — is preferable to starting up hard and fast, getting frustrated/injured/stressed, and then quitting when it gets to be too much.

I’d much rather people start with a short workout — even 15 minutes or less — every day than think they can suddenly carve out an hour most days of the week. That likely isn’t going to happen. In fact, I wrote a column about it a while ago. Here is is.

It only makes sense. One of the biggest reasons people say they don’t work out is a lack of time. Until they get a buy-in to the value of working out (mentally/physically/emotionally) it’s not likely that extra time is going to be consistently available. How does that buy-in happen? Bit-by-bit, that’s how. The workouts don’t have to be fancy, long or perfect. They just have to be doable …. and done.

Eventually, exercising changes from something you think you should do to something you want to do.

That’s how I started. Five minutes a day, and then 10, and one day I suddenly increased my workout to 45 minutes and I felt awesome. I will never forget it, in fact. I was 19 years old and it was a Sunday evening in early summer, and I was pedaling on a stationary cycle that I’d moved from the basement to my bedroom. I had started out planning only to do my regular 10-minute session, but I felt so good I just kept going. And going and going and going.

When I was finished, I felt amazing — my first endorphin rush, maybe? I don’t know. Anyway, I was hooked. That was a long time ago, and that wonderful post-workout feeling (except for the sore butt the next day from the bicycle seat!) has kept me coming back ever since.

So when you’re thinking about your New Year’s resolutions, make them reasonable, so you can keep coming back. Expecting to wake up one morning and having everything changed is not necessarily realistic. The last thing we need is another stress — another “failed” attempt at making change. Set yourself up for success. And let me know how you’re doing!