What choices do you make in relation to setting goals and exercise

New Year’s resolutions, goals, and exercise

Rock, paper, scissors. I was stumbling a bit when picking the topic for my first blog post. Should I start with the rock, paper, or scissors in this first encounter? I chose the rock! In my encounter, the rock represented the start – more precisely the start of the year. This leading me to talk about New Year’s resolutions! In the following, I will dwell on the choices and considerations that you may be stumbling over when making a resolution or a goal.

New Year’s resolutions and exercise are a well-known and widely used combination. However, the combination can often cause us to stumble. (A bit like I stumbled when trying to pick my first topic). The combination is often short-lived if you are unrealistic and vague in your description. If you also include MS in the combination, it can easily go wrong.

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions for 2021? After all, 2020 was a very different and challenging year. Did you have time to reflect? Or did you fall a little behind due to the pandemic and the challenges that followed? No matter if you made resolutions or not, it can be useful to take a closer look at the phenomenon. New Year’s resolutions are basically about setting goals – and this is not only limited to the first few months of the year.

Advice on resolutions and goals

You will find plenty of advice and help online on how to succeed with New Year’s exercise resolutions or exercise goals.

A + B = C

“hmmm …. not always when you have MS”, you will probably state from experience. 

In fact, there are many pitfalls and considerations to take into account when you have MS. The variability and unpredictability of MS are perhaps some of the biggest pitfalls. One moment everything is okay, and the next moment the pain, the spasticity, or the MS fatigue kicks in. Sometimes you may struggle with motivation in the first place to even try to set a goal or exercise. The slightly more basic needs in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are much easier in terms of motivation. In general, you will be able to motivate yourself to go shopping if you are hungry. 

Goal setting and compliance

While the experience of settling your hunger gives you success in the short run. The experience of success through exercise is rather more long-term. Therefore, it may be necessary to set oneself some solid, measurable, and realistic goals with a time horizon in order not to go astray. This is a general phenomenon for everyone when it comes to setting goals. However, as a PWMS, you have to acknowledge that progress is not linear and in some cases/areas, progress with MS can also be maintaining what you have. When you set a goal, you have to allow for some tolerance. You have to be able to tackle both the good and the less good MS days! Otherwise, you will find yourself in a process of constantly giving yourself a feeling of guilt (I am not good enough).

That said, it can be beneficial to hold yourself accountable with regard to fulfilling your goal. You can do this e.g. by physically writing down your goal or  by telling someone else about your goal. This may help you be more persistent and compliant with your goal.

On days when everything is going a bit uphill, try talking to yourself figuratively as your own best friend. Your best friend will not continually criticize you or guilt-trip you. He or she knows will also be aware that progress is not linear – especially when you have MS. Likewise, your best friend will also be ready to praise you on the good days.

When you experience a bad day (let’s face it they will be there) I would advise you to try to maintain your own basic level of activity as best you can. You are bound to get days where even your basic level of activity will be hard to comply with – and that is okay too. It is important to be able to handle this difference and variability in your MS – as these variabilities can happen from one hour to the next sometimes. It goes the other way too. On the good days, you have to avoid putting the car in the 6th gear all day. Otherwise, fatigue may catch up on you. It can be a difficult balancing act! It is no wonder that boom and bust are a problem for many PWMS.

Do you recognize the issues?

  • Do you stumble in relation to goal setting?
  • Do you find the process ends up causing guilty conscience instead of being productive?
  • What does your best friend say?

The above issues are all well-known in relation to being active with MS. You are not alone! If you follow this blog, you will find more topics around the issue of motivation and staying active with MS.   

P.S. You could also take a look at my guest post on the blog of Berkshire MS Therapy Centre.

P.P.S Read on  here for more advice on being active rather than passive with MS.

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2 thoughts on “New Year’s resolutions, goals, and exercise”

  1. My New Year’s resolution this year was “I must go for a walk of 20-30 minutes every day” and so far so good. Writing the location and distance down every day was interesting to start with, but has become very “same every day” nowadays. Still, every day without fail since the 1st of January isn’t bad, I guess.
    Miss you Henriette, good luck with the blog

    1. Hi Silvia,
      Thank you. Really good effort on the goal. What an achievement with no-fail since January. Thank you so much for reading the blog. Missing you too.
      As per the disclaimer, I can’t advise individually. However in general, if someone is reaching their goal for a longer period, perhaps the person could look at increasing the goal slightly. But only if the person is reaching the goal with ease. If the goal is still perceived to be hard (e.g. the person is exhausted for a long period afterward), then stick with the level you have.

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