Keeping the New Year's Resolution Going

Fitness Resolutions Part II: Keeping it going

In part one of this article, we talked about the most common New Year's fitness resolutions and the hangups that shut most of us down before reaching our best. Before we go on to discuss a few best practices for success, let's mention another reason fitness resolutions fail...

Many fitness resolutions fail because of the fitness industry itself. The holidays and Spring time are the times of year when, like clockwork, the fitness industry preys on well-intentioned enthusiast. During these seasonal periods the clubs, gyms, spas, and trainers will make an all out push for your business. All too often the fitness industry will take advantage of your desire to change and offer a variety of membership packages with long term commitments and prices. The general ploy is to reassure you that by signing a contract and committing financially, you will be motivated to keep the resolution going. Hiring a personal trainer or joining a fitness facility will not improve your chances of making your fitness goals in the new year. (555)

Predatory fitness is not isolated to gyms and health clubs. A variety of retailers take part in the seasonal assault on your fitness goals. Online sales of mobile device apps (think couch to 5K apps) surge during the holiday resolution period as do retail sales of athletic apparel, running shoes, and training gear. I am not proposing that any fitness related app or retail purchase is unwarranted.

However, spending excessive amounts of money on long term training contracts, nutritional supplements, and gear can add to the stress of sticking  to your fitness resolution. By adding the financial burden on top of the “stress for success” you may increase the likelihood of failure and end up with significant buyers remorse.

Suggestions for Successful Fitness Resolutions

Start planning your new fitness habit now. The typical resolutioner believes they can wake up on January first and launch into this new fitness endeavor. Even if you have an exercise history or previous base of fitness (and been away from exercise for a while) this idea of leaping out of bed bright and early on day one of the new year will put you on a collision course with failure...or worse, injury.

It is irresponsible as it is unrealistic to think that, after staying up (way) past midnight, eating the typical party fare, and perhaps taking in some alcohol, that you would be able to leap out bed and start your new fitness program. Chances are you’ll be hitting the snooze alarm or throwing up within your first mile or during the first set on the weights. Inevitably, the start date to your new year’s fitness resolution will be pushed back.

Rather than this haphazard approach, consider taking the plunge on paper a few days before you plan to start. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Consider your start date. Is January first the best day to start? You may be better off planning your fitness resolution to start a few days later, after the New Year’s celebration has worn off.

  • Assess yourself. This is a tough one. How long has it been since you have truly engaged in a fitness or exercise program? If the last time you ran or lifted weights was in high school (and you graduated more than six months ago) trying to hit your stride running or lifting is going to be difficult if not a direct route to injury. Anyone who has been away from structured fitness activity must carefully plan a return. Even if you have had a base of fitness in the past, returning to exercise with too much volume or intensity without proper planning and guidance, will risk injury and further setback.

  • Assess your time and financial resources.How much time can you afford in your day to exercise? The fitness industry loves to toss around phrases like “make time” and “if you want it bad enough, you’ll find time”. Those throwaway one-liners never last in a sustainable fitness plan and ultimately fuel the stress and self loathing that comes with the reality of life. There are circumstances and situations with will prevent you from completing even the most carefully planned exercise regime; this is real life unless you are a sponsored professional athlete.  To maximize your chances of success, you must find a way to fit your exercise program in around other important priorities in your life. One way around the “make time" problem is to do a few dress rehearsals. Conducting a dress rehearsal before you actually start training will help you get needed gear together and organized, understand how long it takes to travel to and from the gym or training site, and will start to build a routine. You will find that routine building is a key factor in maintaining your fitness resolution.  Training early in the morning is a great way to get this done if you practice getting up early. Getting a workout tucked into your lunch period is equally effective if you practice getting your gear together and toted into work each day.

A few final points

  • Plan your fitness resolution well
  • Don’t wait for January 1 to start a dress rehearsal
  • Start making little habit changes before your jump into your plan
  • Consider waiting a day or two after the New Year to get started
  • Do your homework on essential gear
  • Hire a personal trainer who will teach as well as coach

Making Fitness Resolutions and Keeping Them

A quick start guide to understanding and keeping fitness resolutions 

Why do we make a fitness resolution?

The answer to this question is as varied as those who ask it. In short, we resolve to do something simply because we want change some aspect of our life. That change may come in the form of weight loss, quitting a bad habit, or getting ourselves back to a certain level of fitness. Whatever the reason, we dedicate ourselves to a resolution with the expectation of good things happening. We expect, perhaps subconsciously, to exert a certain amount of control over our current situation with additional benefit of improving areas of life indirectly from the resolution effort.

Is there a typical "New Years" resolution?

Yes there is. Resolutions that include changes in diet and exercise consistently earn high marks on top-ten resolution lists year after year. A quick Google search indicated that "fitness" and "diet" were consistently in the top five resolution goals going back to 2010. Indeed, of the top 10 resolutions for 2017, getting fit, starting a fitness program, and loosing weight swept one-two-three.

While nobody questions the reasons why we make resolutions this time of year, we should question how long these well-intentioned devotions to self-improvement will last.

Are New Years resolutions successful? 

That depends on how you measure success. Again, a quick turn to Google indicates that of all the people who will make a resolution for 2017, about 66% of them will have a fitness related theme. 73% of those aiming for fitness in the new year will dropout in six weeks or less. After three months that resolution dropout rate climbs to near 80%.

Despite the statistics, there you can be a resolution success story if you understand why resolutions fall apart and how you can avoid the traps.

Why is it so difficult to keep a fitness resolution?

There are as many answers to this question as there are people who are making the resolutions. Despite the varied circumstances surrounding the failure of a fitness resolution, there are a few common issues.

  • Over optimism: thinking you can accomplish more then you can in a short period of time; "go big or go home" mentality where desired (unrealistic) outcomes are linked to self change
  • Lack of experience: lacking the practical and experiential tools for success 
  • Self-handicapping: leaving yourself a way out of the resolution - giving yourself permission to fail because "resolutions never work anyway" and failure is inevitable
  • "Cold-Turkey" thinking: starting off without any meaningful planning or preparation

Coming up next...

In our next installment, we will discuss another reason fitness resolutions fail and provide a few best practices to help you succeed. 


Don't be afraid to run in the cold

As the weather turns colder, many athletes run for the sanctuary of the gym. We trade our favorite routes for the climate-controlled arena of treadmills and bike trainers. 

The weather conditions so far this season has provided us with a fantastic opportunity to train outside. With few exceptions, the sidewalks, grass, and roads have remained useable for running The ability to train outside on these different surfaces will reduce the training stress on the body as well as preventing some the boredom that comes with repetitious activity indoors.

But what about the cold? 

We've been lucky to have temperatures in the forties this season but it can feel a bit colder. Some people get worried they will get sick from training outside this time of year. While colds and general illnesses tend to spike around this season, training outside is not likely to be the culprit of illness.

Here's why:

You get sick from coming in contact with a virus or bacteria or some other pathogen. You cannot get a cold (or the flu) from being cold. You have to come in contact with the disease that causes the illness. That means contact with objects or other people...indoors or out. This is why washing your hands is so important. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have confirmed that simply washing your hands is the most effective way to prevent the spread of disease. Period. Don't want to get sick? Wash your hands!

If you're sick, back off your training. 

This is simple. If you're already sick (its not your fault, it happens no matter how hard we try to stay healthy) you need to back off. If you have a fever, sore throat or congestion in your chest you shouldn't be training and certainly shouldn't be in a gym. These symptoms indicate that you're already sick and your immune system needs all the calories, rest, and sugar-free hydration it can get to fight off whatever it is. Sick? back off. Training can wait. Your health is most important. Attempting to push through whatever illness your fighting will likely prolong the situation and result in a lackluster training session on the road or in the gym.

Your immune system is not immune. 

In addition to having contact with a disease, you're immune system has to be weakened or susceptible to that disease in order for you to get sick. Now this is where things can get tricky. Vigorous exercise can, in the short term, weaken your immune system. Marathon and half-marathon runners and triathletes can sometimes get sick during or after a strenuous part of their training cycle or after a race. Thats because, even if they've been washing their hands, they've come into contact with a disease and their immune system hasn't recovered from the stress of training or long race. Student-athletes can face a similar situation. Good coaching practices that keep workouts reasonable, yet productive, will help avoid some of the training stress that can wear down your immune system. Thats part of the coaches job. You have a bigger job...

The athlete can do much more than the coach or personal trainer when it comes to keeping fit and healthy. Getting enough sleep, proper nutrition, and sugar-free hydration (along with hand washing) are all controllable by the athlete and will contribute to a stronger immune system and better state of health while training. You'll be able to train hard and remain healthy.

Training in the colder weather has its health advantages. 

You'll notice your nose running when your training in the cold. This is, in part, due to the impact of the cool air on your sinuses - the cool air reduces swelling and promotes drainage. Thats a good thing...looks awful, but it is good. As we rid the accumulated mucous from our sinuses we also flush away many of the germs, bacteria, viruses, that are hanging out in there. Keeping well hydrated with sugar-free drinks helps keep this mucous and secretions thin and able to drain well, preventing congestion and the "stuffy/runny nose" many people seem to get this time of year.

What Does Starting Over Look Like?

This video highlights what it means to me to have to start my fitness plan...all over again.