How many times have you heard or said: “New year, new you”? Probably too many times to count. About this time of year, many have started their New Year resolutions. But research shows that only 19 percent of people who make resolutions are successful. Since one of the most common resolutions involves exercising, I am here to give you a little insight into how we use resolutions in sports medicine.

In rehabilitation of injuries, the sports medicine team works with the patient to create goals for returning to function and activity. We never just say, “Your goal is to return to sport.” That is not specific. Likewise, you should never set nonspecific goals such as “I am going to exercise more” or “I am going to lose weight.” In rehabilitation, we use the SMART framework to formulate goals for our patients. It is an acronym for the following components of a goal:

Specific – Keep goals simple. They should clearly define what you plan to do.
Measurable – How are you going to determine progress? How are you going to determine if you achieved the goal?
Achievable – The goal is realistic given the timing, conditions, and environment.
Relevant – You actually care about the goal. It directly relates to your life and well-being.
Time-Bound – Set very specific timelines to meet your goal. Remember it is okay for those timelines to adapt and change. Focus on the progress.

An example of a SMART goal for an injured basketball player: Return to basketball with no limitations or restrictions within 6 months, so he is ready in time for varsity tryouts.

This goal is much more specific and measurable. It also sets us up to create hundreds of short-term goals along the way, such as “patient will gain 10 degrees of active range of motion of knee flexion within 2 weeks following surgery.” The SMART framework provides the athlete with actionable steps and enhanced motivation.

Here are a few additional points that are important when making goals for injured athletes. They're also applicable to your resolutions.

  1. Form a tribe.
    When our patients are recovering from injuries, they have a support team behind them here at MUSC. Find your support team and encourage it to keep you motivated.
     
  2. Don’t be restrictive.
    During rehabilitation, we focus on the abilities of the patient, rather than the disabilities. Focus on all the abilities you are creating for yourself with your new resolution. If you focus on the restrictions (“I can’t eat sweets,” “I can’t watch TV because I’m exercising”), you are setting yourself up for failure.
     
  3. Be passionate.
    Athletes are generally very motivated people. Why is that? It’s because they love what they do. If your resolution is to incorporate more cardio into your exercise routine, find a cardio-based activity that you love. Don’t spend hours on the treadmill, if it is not something that gets you fired up.

It’s not too late! If you have a resolution in this new year, stop what you are doing right now, and ask yourself: Is it a SMART goal? If not, get out your pen and paper and make a plan by writing down the S-M-A-R-T of your goal. Make sure you are truly passionate about this goal and go find your tribe. Like our athletes at MUSC Health do every day, you too, can accomplish your goals.