Call it a birthday resolution.
When Tony Hillen turned 29 shortly before Christmas 2011, he resolved he would not be overweight when he hit 30. He weighed 295 pounds, and he set a goal of losing 100 pounds during the next year.
When he weighed in a couple of weeks ago, as he was about to turn 30, he’d lost more than 115 pounds.
Time for a new goal.
Hillen began running this past summer, after he’d already lost 80 pounds. He set a personal challenge for himself to train until he could run for 30 minutes or 3 miles.
He met that goal, too, and running has become more and more enjoyable. He knew exercise would be important for him to maintain his current weight, and he increased his distance until he could run about 6 miles by late November.
Hillen’s newest goal is to run the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon at the end of April. He’s started using a 20-week training program through the RunKeeper smartphone application.
“It seemed daunting at first to do those distances, but I realized it’s not really as bad as I made them out to be in my head,” the Tolono man said.
It’s the time of year many people are making resolutions similar to Hillen’s: to lose weight or get in shape.
According to Statisticbrain.com, being fit and healthy was No. 5 of the top 10 resolutions made at this time last year. (No. 1 was losing weight.)
About 45 percent of Americans make resolutions, but only 8 percent are completely successful in achieving their goals.
The website states that 75 percent of people making resolutions keep the resolution through the first week. That number falls to 64 percent keeping their resolutions beyond one month — and 46 percent beyond six months.
So how do people like Hillen manage to stay on track and attain their goals? One piece of advice is to tell others about your goal, both to gain their support and to keep yourself accountable.
When Hillen decided to lose weight, he told friends. He posted his weight and his goal on Facebook.
Likewise, he’s starting to tell people about his marathon goal. There are several runners in his office on campus (he works in IT support for the University of Illinois College of Liberal Arts and Sciences), and he’ll talk with co-workers every few days about training. He also posts the time and distance for his weekly long runs on Facebook.
“People tend to comment,” Hillen said. “That immediate response is definitely helpful, having friends and family say, ‘Way to go. Keep it up.’”
Jenny Hadfield, a running coach who blogs on the Runner’s World website, suggests keeping a “carrot” out in front of you to keep you motivated. For example, if you sign up for a race you want to run, you’re more likely to be accountable and get in the training you’ll need to complete it. (Hint: If your resolution includes running, consider signing up for one of the Illinois Marathon races in April, as Hillen plans to do.)
Hadfield also suggests joining a training group; keeping a log to track your progress; or running for a charity or in honor of someone.
Cohen has been running for a few years. She has run a couple of 5K races, and she ran her first 10K in November. But she didn’t think she could train for a half marathon alone. A co-worker suggested the Second Wind Running Club’s half marathon training program.
Cohen joined, and she’s looking forward to running with others and learning from them. She also tries to do her weekend runs with friends.
Likewise, it helped Hillen that his wife began trying to lose weight as well.
“When you’re both thinking about what you’re eating, it’s much easier to plan meals and work together as a team,” he said, adding that he lost weight by counting calories, eating more healthful foods and eating smaller portions.
Celebrating your accomplishments along the way to achieving a goal is a good way to stay motivated and to break down a large goal into smaller steps, so it doesn’t seem so daunting.
Hillen was motivated last year by his immediate weight loss in the first few weeks to continue trying to eat more healthfully.
Running also helped Cohen lose weight: about 70 pounds. Once she started seeing results, “there was no stopping me. I realized how much more energy I had and how much better I felt.”
Hillen said training for and running the marathon will be another measure of success in achieving a healthy lifestyle. And his only goal is to finish.
“I’m not really competing with anyone,” he said. “It’s only competition with myself.”
Tips for resolve
Advice from the American Psychological Association on making and keeping resolutions: You don’t have to mark the New Year with a sweeping change.
“It is a time for people to reflect on their past year’s behavior and promise to make positive lifestyle changes,” the APA says.
Set small, attainable goals throughout the year, rather than one huge goal Jan. 1.
The organization offers these tips on keeping resolutions:
Start small, with resolutions you think you can keep. For example, set a goal of getting to the gym three or four days a week rather than every day.
-- Change one behavior at a time, so you don’t get overwhelmed. It takes time to replace unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones.
-- Talk about it. Share your goals with family and friends, or consider joining a training group or exercise class with others who are working toward similar goals.
-- Don’t beat yourself up. You’ll have weeks when you can’t get to the gym, or when you skip the veggies in favor of cookies. Get back on track and don’t give up.
-- Ask for support. Talking with either a friend or a professional can help strengthen your resolve and help you manage stress.
Photo: Support from friends like Carrie Clements, left, and Stephanie Abernathy, right, helped Michele Cohen, center, finish her first 10K event in November. Her next goal: the Illinois Half Marathon in April. Photo provided by Cohen.