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It’s Exercise Season

D.I.S.C.O. your way to a successful workout plan

Jan/Feb 2023

by Vanessa LaFaso Stolarski, Contributing Columnist

The new year seems to always spark new promises to prioritize our health. Yet, somewhere around the third month into the year, those promises often get broken.

For example, we might set a goal to work out five days a week, but then five days becomes three, three becomes one, and one becomes none. Why do we often set goals that we know we will fail to reach?

The short answer is that we are not really setting goals, we are only making wishes.

If you want to set actual, attainable goals you must go a step further than saying, “I’m going to work out more.” Developing a detailed plan is a step toward building accountability, which leads to success.

Here are five steps to “D.I.S.C.O.” your way to your goals.


Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University of California, recently published a study on some of the most successful strategies people use to accomplish their goals. Matthews found that people who wrote down their goals generally accomplished 20% more of them than those who did not. Matthews also discovered that in addition to simply writing down their goals, people did best when they included as much detail as possible.

For example, you set a goal for yourself to get in better shape. Start by determining how many days per week you want to exercise. Now establish which days you are available to go to the gym. What time of day is most realistic for your energy levels and time? How long will you work out? Write it all down.


What work you plan to put in determines the results you will get out. Matthews’ study revealed that those who set actionable tasks for their goals and communicated their progress to their support system achieved 40% more than those who did not.

Write your workout days on the calendar or set alerts on your phone. Put the gym schedule on your refrigerator or have a conversation with a friend. In fact, Matthews suggests that recruiting a support system has a reinforcing effect on the success of achieving goals.


One of the reasons many people suffer from fear of failure is that they tend to pay more attention to shortcomings than successes. If we want our brains to focus on the path to achievement, we must teach it what to look for. Pay attention to every little victory that suggests you are edging closer to achieving your goal. Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool.


When we establish a timeline for our process, we avoid meandering into excuses territory. Determine when you plan to begin and how long you want to take to get there. Give yourself a realistic window in which you trust yourself to reach your goals, but not so open-ended that you can talk your way out of it.


Write down what your goal means to you, what it will mean to your loved ones, how it will improve your quality of life and why it’s so important. Getting clear on your “why” helps expand the goal to something substantive beyond just wanting to fit in a certain jean size.

Creating detailed, substantive, actionable goals with a timeline and support system has been scientifically proven to yield optimal success.

Generally, written goals are accomplished 20% more often than non-written goals.

Vanessa LaFaso Stolarski is a certified nutrition counselor, weightlifting coach, life coach and stress management specialist.

All health-related content and media provided by Cooperative Living or its website(s) is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.