First, let’s go ahead and agree to let go of the “New year, new me” motto. We don’t need that kind of toxic positivity in our lives. The clock struck midnight, we all ugly cried our canceled plans, hopes, and dreams into a sleeve of Oreos; and yet, we’re still dealing with all the heaviness of the past year. So, while we’re letting go of things, let’s also throw out all those typical January “lose weight and get healthy” marketing messages that have infiltrated our newsfeeds, inboxes, and inner dialogue. The new year gym membership promotions (if it’s even open), the new year diet that supposedly works in two weeks, and the lose-weight-like-magic pills that make your heart feel like it’s going to pop have to go too.

But maybe, like me, you want to start the year with prioritizing your health. I like January being a month to reset my mind and body. I enjoy pursuing health, fitness, and a physical challenge or two. I just want those pursuits to fit what life looks like right now––tighter finances, less time, less energy, and less mental space. I’m guessing you may want that too.

So, if you want to join me in making health and physical activity a goal for 2021, here are a few suggestions to help it fit into what life looks like right now for you and your family.

Make It a Family Conversation

Try to make the topic of health a family conversation. You could share your own goals with your spouse and kids. Be vulnerable about where you’ve fallen short before. Ask for their help to keep you accountable. Explain why health through physical activity is something you’re pursuing. After you’ve shared, ask your family members these questions:

  • What do you enjoy doing most: riding your bike, climbing the playground equipment, splashing in the pool? 
  • Is your favorite activity included in your educational day—even virtually? 
  • Is there a physical activity you could do as a family? 
  • How do you feel after being active? 
  • Do you miss being more active since you’ve been stuck inside more this year?

Find the Emotional Roadblock

While it may take some time to get direct answers for some of those questions, it might give you a chance to read between the lines. Preschool and elementary schools kids are probably bouncing off the walls and have been since the pandemic began in March 2020, but what about middle and high school kids? Maybe physical activity makes them self-conscious? Are they embarrassed of body changes? Has a classmate made a comment about their size or efforts at something new? How does talking about physical activity make them feel?

And what about you? Is this goal supportive of the amazing person you are? Are you being too critical of yourself? Are you harboring expectations for an aesthetic that won’t make you happy in the end? Are you taking into account the year-long (and still going) pandemic? Do these goals stem from the comparison game you’re playing on social media? These are tough questions with even tougher emotional responses, but knowing these answers can help remove the potential failure cloud around your efforts towards a healthier lifestyle. 

Maximize What You Already Do

My husband and I love sports. Our collective resume includes: softball, baseball, studio dance, basketball, competitive cheerleading, soccer, gymnastics, cycling, yoga, bodybuilding, kayaking, hiking, and . . . by now this list is obnoxious, I know. We might love it, but I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Physical activity doesn’t have to be this specific, this competitive, or this intense. You are active right now and you can maximize that. 

If your kids like bike riding, get a bike too and ride with them. If you live in a subdivision or near a park, go for a walk together after dinner. You could jump rope, throw a ball, even climb the playground equipment with your kids. Take an extra lap, or two, or three in Target. Take the stairs. Park farther away. If you live in a city, walk to your errands. Stand up during your next Zoom call. Get a few yoga balls for everyone to bounce on while you watch TV. If your kids like video games, get an active one: Pokemon Go, Nintendo’s Ring Fit Adventure, Just Dance, and more.

Actions Speak Louder

Sometimes the simplest thing about discipline is just doing it. Why? Because your children are watching you. They also love you. They aren’t judging how you choose to express physical activity—unless you have a middle schooler. They judge everything about everybody. 

If your downward dog looks more like a floor lump, that’s okay. If you’re out of breath by the walk to your mailbox, fine! Day one is tough even for the most seasoned athletes. We all have to start somewhere. And, isn’t it a great example to your children not to be afraid to try something new, even if it’s awkward? Just doing something shows your kids everything! They see your efforts and they see your determination to do things differently. They see you putting actions to your words. Even if it’s a once-a-week thing for 20 mins, your consistency will have a valuable impact. 

See! You can probably check most of these things off your list immediately as quick wins. With just a tiny bit of intentionality, these conversations and activities can add up to create an environment in your family that supports a long-term healthy lifestyle. So, when you’re bombarded with all the New Year messaging about weight loss and 20 days to six-pack abs, you can confidently remind yourself that you’re doing what you can in a way that’s great for the whole family. Take it one day at a time.