Fitness COVID-19

5 Tips for Setting Realistic New Year’s Resolutions Despite the Pandemic

Dana Bender
Dana Bender
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As we consider setting personal resolutions for 2021, it is crucial to recognize that the goal-setting process and the behaviors are chosen to achieve those goals might look different this year due to the pandemic.

Typical fitness-related New Year's resolutions include weight loss (as highlighted by the many strategies found within our Mini Course on Effective Weight Loss) and going to a gym more often. Outside of fitness, typical New Year's resolutions involve trying something new, achieving a better work-life balance, spending more time with friends and family, etc.

Due to local guidelines and restrictions due to COVID-19, many of the behaviors typically chosen to accomplish these goals will look different, at least to being the year.

The good news is that we can still set realistic and attainable New Year’s resolutions for the coming year that align with our growth and development. To do this, we need to start the goal-setting process utilizing the SMART goal philosophy with certain tips and adaptations in mind. Goals are more successful if they are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-specific.

SMART Goals for New Years

Specific means we need to clearly outline the behavior we would like to accomplish instead of keeping it too general. For example, instead of setting the goal of eating healthier, the goal can be to eat more greens. The measurable component of SMART goals means that we need to outline the frequency or quantity by which we would measure success. Keeping in mind the example above, making this goal more measurable would be to say, "I would like to eat greens with dinner at least six days a week."

The time-specific factor of SMART goals means that it is important to set a start and an end date for accomplishing the goal. To develop and achieve your 2021 goals during a pandemic, we will focus more on the attainable and realistic factors of a SMART goal. The specific, measurable, and time-specific aspects of goal setting have not changed, but what might be attainable and realistic has.

5 Tips for Setting Realistic New Year's Resolutions

To do this, it is essential to reframe the typical New Year’s resolutions to be more attainable and realistic.

Listed below are tips on turning typical New Year's resolutions into achievable and realistic goals despite the pandemic.

1. Going to the gym more often 

If your typical New Year’s resolution relates to weight loss and going to the gym more, an important consideration for this year could be replacing the fitness center part of the goal with something you can do virtually at home or outside.

Instead of saying to yourself that you will go to the gym more often, consider setting a goal that involves signing up for a local fitness center’s or Peloton’s virtual on-demand offerings, participating in more virtual fitness classes live, or even signing up to work with a virtual personal trainer. Your goal could also include a combination of all three.

Incorporating this change will make the goal more realistic and attainable for the year ahead, especially if gyms are temporarily closed again. The benefit of choosing live versus on-demand classes is that the former can hold you accountable to a set time and day.

Exercising more frequently and working out with others can help sustain the behavior over time. As you incorporate these changes, it is important to note that what you do at home and in a virtual environment will help you stay consistent in your fitness program independent of a fitness center in a post-pandemic world.

2. Trying something new 

If your resolution relates to trying something new that requires in-person learning, such as taking a cooking or sculpting class, it might not be possible to do so due to the pandemic. If you would still like to learn something new, consider what you might be able to try in the comfort of your own home.

For example, buying Rosetta stone to learn a new language, attempting a virtual introductory ballet class for the first time, purchasing an in-home Lettuce Grow farm stand if you plan to do indoor gardening, or reading a do-it-yourself home project book to launch a DIY project.

To make these types of goals more attainable and realistic, choose something that you can do within budget and in the comfort of your home without having to rely on any in-person class setting.

3. Spending more time with friends and family 

Spending more quality time with friends and family is a popular and typical New Year’s resolution, even though it might look very different because of the pandemic and related safety protocols. If getting together in person with loved ones is not possible, set a realistic and attainable goal surrounding what you can do outside of in-person gatherings.

For example, video-calling a different friend every other week, setting up a weekly family call on FaceTime or Zoom, or even setting up a monthly game night with friends using online games like Kahoot, etc. There are many online apps and options available to connect with loved ones virtually.

4. Finding better work-life balance 

Finding better work-life balance might be a favorite goal of many in 2021 due to the longevity of work-from-home, the blurred boundary between when work starts and ends, and not feeling as relaxed and rejuvenated during one’s personal time.

If setting a New Year's resolution surrounding a better work-life balance is important to you, it is crucial to start small and build from there. Start with one specific action you can do each day, and make that a habit before incorporating a second action.

Realistic and attainable resolutions for the New Year might be to put away work-related reminders (e.g., work laptop) out of your environment once you end work for the day. Another example could be starting a daily 30-minute pre-or-post work ritual that helps set boundaries and prioritizing at least 15-30 minutes of daily self-care in the form of meditation, exercise, or reading.

5. Eating healthier

Eating healthier is a common New Year's resolution but might see an uptick in popularity due to increased alcohol, sugar, and take-out meal consumption in 2020. Regardless of the pandemic, setting realistic and attainable nutritional goals requires choosing specific actions.

Revisiting our example earlier, instead of developing a generic goal like “eating healthier," pick a specific action like “eating greens with dinner." Doing so helps increase the chances of success while also making nutritional goals more attainable.

Once one habit (eating more greens) becomes consistent, then a second healthy habit can build from there. The most important thing to remember regarding nutrition-related resolution is not to let the pandemic become an excuse.

You can learn more about strategies for eating healthy within our free "Eating Healthy at Home Mini Course".

With or without the pandemic, there are always ways to (1) improve the selections we make with online food delivery or grocery orders, (2) minimize sugar and alcohol consumption, and (3) implement Meatless Mondays to incorporate a healthier plant-based meal.

As these examples show, it is important to set ourselves up for success by adapting and reframing our goals in response to each year’s specific challenges. Doing so will help increase our success in accomplishing personal New Year’s resolutions despite the pandemic.

Help Others Set Realistic Resolutions by becoming a NASM-CPT!

It takes determination and willpower to see your resolutions through. Using these tips are a great way to stay consistent. 

Another excellent option for sticking to resolutions is helping others attain their goals.

You can hold yourself accountable and learn new techniques for healthy, realistic resolutions by becoming a personal trainer and coaching clients through their weight loss or fitness goals.

Take a personal training course online today through NASM!

The Author

Dana Bender

Dana Bender

Dana Bender, MS, NBC-HWC, ACSM, E-RYT. Dana works as a Wellness Strategy Manager with Vitality and has 15+ years experience in onsite fitness and wellness management. Dana is also a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach, an Adjunct Professor with Rowan University, an E-RYT 200 hour Registered Yoga Teacher, AFAA Group Exercise Instructor, ACSM Exercise Physiologist, and ACE Personal Trainer. Learn more about Dana at


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