Did you make a broad fitness resolution at the stroke of midnight on January 1st? You know, something like “I’m going to join the gym and really use it this time” or “I’m going to be skinny in three months”.
Okay, here’s some straight talk. Pull up a chair. Wait, never mind: you’re likely to be sitting already, being at the computer and all.
Fitness resolutions? Bah. If you’re going to make a commitment to “get fit”, the odds are pretty good that you will fail unless you make it specific. It’s not good enough to say, “I’m going to get fit this year”, unless your personality is such that you do everything you say you are going to do, the majority of the time. If that’s the case, however, you probably aren’t the type that “needs” to make resolutions because you’ve already got it going on.
The rest of us? We will probably fail with broad promises to ourselves. Don’t be offended; it’s the truth. The fact is, I have worked in a health club since 1995 and all of us employees know that although the club gets really, really busy at the beginning of the year with people who have “found religion” and are going to “really do it this time”, the treadmills and ellipticals will be lonely once again by mid-February. Sure, these gym newbies mean well, and they do fully intend to stick with it at the time they make the commitment to themselves. That’s what causes the intense feelings of failure for the many who do give it up by Valentine’s Day: they were serious at the start.
I have a couple of ideas to share with you that might help you hang onto those fitness resolutions and find success with them in 2010:
1. Be specific. You can tweak a broad resolution to make it something you can really work with; remember, it’s your commitment and you’re in charge of it. Baby New Year isn’t going to come a’knocking and slap you across the face if you change what you promised yourself on January 1st. Promise yourself that you’ll exercise three days per week, or that you will cut out desserts, or that you will eat vegetables every night with dinner.
2. FIND A BUDDY. I cannot emphasize this one more. Having a workout partner will make you more accountable. Think about it: if you have plans to walk before work, you are less likely to hit that snooze button if you know that a friend will be disappointed in you because you stood him or her up. If you join a gym, reach out to people and make some friends quickly. Take classes. As a group fitness instructor, I see the power of the group dynamic when it comes to getting people excited about the workout; it’s easy, once you get into the habit of going to certain classes, to feel like you’re missing something if you don’t attend, which will keep you on the path of regular attendance. (By the way, if you are reading this and you already go to a gym, REACH OUT TO NEW PEOPLE at this time of year. You could help them change their life by keeping them on their routine!)
3. If you are a new exerciser, know that it will be hard when you begin. You might be very sore. You might be VERY SORE, for days at a time. It goes away, though. It’s just your muscles doing a little protest. If you stay on track and make exercise a regular part of your life, it will get easier, I promise.
4. Be realistic, especially about weight loss. If you have more than just five pounds to lose,
I despise you with every fiber of my being you have to remember that it’s probably not going to come off overnight. In fact, you may gain a few pounds when you begin exercising, from muscle gain and redistribution of your weight. Don’t let that deter you: keep your eyes on the prize. The experts say that the scale shouldn’t matter as much as the fit of your clothes and how you feel. If you watch “The Biggest Loser” on NBC (one of my favorite shows, by the way), you know that it is not uncommon for those contestants to lose weight in the double digits on a weekly basis. THIS IS NOT HOW IT WORKS IN THE REAL WORLD. Those people are spending a whole workday in the gym, they are constantly monitored by medical professionals, and their food intake is extremely controlled. Their job is to lose weight. For the rest of us, it might take two to three months to lose ten pounds: there is nothing bad or inadequate about that.
5. Focus on the pieces of fitness. The Big Picture can be daunting, but if you look at your success in small chunks, you might be enlightened. If you currently find yourself short of breath after climbing a flight of stairs, exercising regularly is going to make that go away and even if you don’t lose a pound, isn’t it great to climb a flight of stairs and continue breathing normally? (Yes. Yes, it is.)
6. Celebrate the small victories. Let’s say that you resolved to exercise four days per week and this week you only did it three days. Well? That’s THREE DAYS. Get over that skipped day and tell yourself that you’re going to keep plugging away so that next week you will hit all four. Just. Get. Over. It. Wallowing in disappointment makes people want to give up, and you’re not a quitter, right? (I thought not.)
All of us have room for improvement. Trying to instill new habits to make ourselves better people takes time and commitment. It can take a village. It takes lots of effort. But we’re worth it. Do your best for yourself in 2010 and maybe, just maybe, you won’t even feel the need to make a resolution next year!
(That’s your cue to get off the computer and start moving.)