This is the time of year that many people hold on with white knuckles to those New Year’s resolutions they made only 3 weeks ago. Why is it so difficult to keep up some of those good health habits?

Sometimes it’s because we’re too ambitious — we set our goals a lot higher than what’s realistic. I talked this in an earlier blog about resolutions called tortoise tactics, where the reminder of taking small steps toward personal health and the health of the planet are advised.

Sometimes we set goals that demand the kind of energy our bodies are accustomed to using in Spring (moving up and out, as plants do when they first start emerging from the ground). This is a good notion for starting a new year, but the truth is, if you live in a Northern climate — like that of Washington DC or anywhere north of DC — you find yourself in the dead of winter, and winter demands of us a different kind of energy.

In winter, outside temperatures dip below freezing; and with fewer daylight hours, the body naturally looks for ways to stay warm and to conserve energy. Winter is a time we like to reflect and take stock of our lives. We have little energy for active and outward energy. How we balance winter energy with our desire to maintain diet and exercise habits that support our optimal health is a particular challenge at this time of year.

Honoring winter’s gifts may take a completely different tact when setting health goals. It might mean choosing a physical activity that requires us to be indoors – like taking a yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi or dance class – either at a gym by video download. You can always step up your game a few months from now when temperatures are warmer and days are much longer, and lend themselves to a morning run or an evening trip to the gym.

Just like planning for a long road trip, we need to plan out how we want to arrive at our goals. If we set out in the dead of winter, getting to our destination may take us a lot longer because we might encounter icy, snowy road conditions and the occasional accident that can set us back. We plan for this before getting on the road by packing the car with things we might need. We might bring with us a shovel, snow brush, boots, winter clothing, water and snacks so we can be prepared for anything.

Goals too need this kind of preparation. Plans for accomplishing your goals must take into account winter weather, shorter days, and the kind of introverted energy we all tend to have in the winter. What kind of physical activity will you use to match winter’s challenges? What kinds of dietary changes can you make to keep up you warm and energized?

Remember the lessons of the tortoise: it’s the small and steady steps we take toward our goals that help us win the race.