A new year is so full of promises. All the missteps, blunders, and flubs of the past year are magically erased with the turning of the calendar page. We are invigorated, ready to take on new challenges.
So we make our New Year resolutions, promising that this year we will be better about absolutely everything. We will call our mother more often! We will start saving for retirement! We will work out every single day and lose every pound we have gained since we graduated from high school! Then, when we invariably slip up because we are human, we see ourselves as failures and stop calling or saving or exercising until the next year.
At least, that was my pattern. I am not a naturally active person, but I fall into the Resolution Trap every year. I promise myself that I’m going to eat healthy, drink more water, and exercise for at least 30 minutes every day. I buy new shoes, new workout clothes (have to look cute when I sweat!), lots of fruits and vegetables, a new water bottle, and I start exercising like crazy. Then I miss a day. And another. And another. And then I have a hamburger. By the third week of January, I’m off the wagon and have given up for another year. To counteract this, I decided to talk to Sharon Jackson, owner and head trainer of Fit Bodies by Sharon, and Jennifer Kieta, instructor at Zyn22 and Health and Fitness writer for Tanglewood Moms, to get some advice. So here are some ways to make sure that you keep your New Year’s fitness resolution.
Take baby steps We are all capable of changing, but we are too ambitious at the start of the new year. We say we’re going to work out every single day and eat healthy and drink gallons of water and lose weight. “That’s too much. You’re just setting yourself up for failure!” says Sharon. Instead of trying to go to the gym every single day or buying one of those insane workout systems that promise ridiculous results in 30 days (and, like as not, lead to injuries), take baby steps. “Set smaller goals. [For example] walk around the block three time a week. When you’ve got that down, add another goal. Maybe drink two more glasses of water every day or eat more vegetables. You have to do things in increments.”
Talk about it Jennifer says that keeping fitness goals a secret makes it easier to quit when you miss a day or two. If no one knows you have started a fitness routine, no one will know when you stop a fitness routine. Instead of hiding fitness resolutions, “tell friends and family who can support you.”
Find a buddy I am quite good at rationalizing my way out of working out. “I have far too much work to do!”. “I’ll do it later.” “Oooh, look! Cat videos!” To counteract this, both Jennifer and Sharon strongly suggest finding someone to workout with. Sharon says, “We all need an accountability partner. It’s easier to stay on track when you’re working with someone.” If someone is relying on me to workout with them, I’m far more likely to stop rationalizing and actually exercise.
Keep it interesting It takes 21 days for a new activity to become a habit, and boredom is a sure-fire way to kill a new routine. If you only walk every day, you are going to become bored. “Try biking or yoga,” Jennifer suggests. Take a dance class or work with a trainer. Shake things up!
Track your progress Jennifer suggests an exercise journal and a food journal. “Keeping a journal to document your successes each step of the way helps you stay focused and allows you to see the progress… a food journal is a good thing to have to keep track of what you’re eating.”
Reward yourself All work and no play… Yes, it’s a cliché, but it’s true. Humans respond more readily to rewards. If you don’t reward yourself on occasion, you are far more likely to fall off the wagon. Jennifer suggests buying a new piece of workout clothing. Sharon has a “cheat day” built into her food plans. Get a massage or a manicure. Do something just for you!
Just get started! You don’t have to wait until a certain day to start your resolution. As Sharon says, “Why wait? You can start walking today!”
This article originally appeared in the January/February issue of Madeworthy magazine.