Resolve to do less this year!
The tradition of making New Year’s resolutions dates back to Ancient Roman times with the two faced god Janus, who kept one face looking toward the past and one face towards the future. Romans believed Janus could forgive them for past mistakes and bless them for the year ahead.
And so, it happens year after year: the gourmandizing of the Holiday season accompanied by a resolution at the start of the New Year to begin new habits and leave old behaviors behind. A recent survey revealed that as many as 37% of Americans resolve to exercise more and to eat better in the New Year. Yet only 8% of people manage to realize their goals. We fall victim to hard-to-achieve-challenges, convinced that the only way to accomplish said goals will require enormous energy and motivation. Notice the traffic and congestion at any local gym on January 1st, and it’s plain to see that many of us have bolstered our will to succeed by joining gyms, or signing up for classes. This time, we tell ourselves, we will triumph. But by Valentines Day, there are noticeably fewer people clogging the cardio equipment as enthusiasm wanes and the challenges of achieving magazine-cover-worthy physique begins to feel as far fetched as flying to the moon. So what is it about sticking to an exercise program that is so evasive for so many? Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret, and it’s easier than you think. Start small. In his book The Compound Effect, Darren Hardy explains that there is no magic bullet, secret formula, or quick fix to achieving one’s goals. Rather, he describes how small, consistent changes add up to big wins in health. Instead of focusing on the outcome, concentrate on small achievable actions towards the goal.
Small steps you can make now towards building a healthier body:
- Take the stairs in place of the elevator. If it seems too daunting to climb as far as you may need to, then resolve to walk up at least 3 flights and walk down 4 flights.
- Park in the back of the parking lot. Those extra steps add up!
- Take a walk at lunch. The fresh air will invigorate you, and may help deter an afternoon slump and break room cookie sabotage.
- Take a break in the morning and do 10 squats.
- Complete 10 push-ups in the afternoon. Not strong enough yet for a full pushup? Do them against your desk, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll build strength.
- If you’re on the phone, stand and do some calf raises.
- Keep light dumb bells at your office and once per hour include 30 sec bursts of weight lifting – bicep curls, tricep extensions, shoulder press. By summer you’ll have new muscles to show off.
The other key to sticking with new exercise habits is to get clear on why you want to exercise. Simon Sinek– in his book Start With Why – passionately explains how businesses and individuals create success in their life. They clearly elaborate on why they want something. If your “why” isn’t strong, it might not be compelling enough to make you stick with a new program. Spend some time diving deeper to decipher the reason you want to develop an exercise program or diet. It might be that you want to FEEL more vitality and energy, or perhaps you are struggling to manage your blood sugar (muscle mass is a great utilizer of glucose). Or, maybe you’re proactive and want to grow old with enough muscle to withstand a fall on a snowy day. Whatever your why – write it down and revisit your goals and your why on a regular basis.
Another key strategy of reaching your fitness goals: keep track. Research indicates that those people who record their goals are more successful. Keeping an exercise or food journal provides you with the opportunity to look at progress over time. It can be a powerful and rewarding tool to see that you are progressing towards your goal, and thus can build self-confidence and self-esteem, which, in turn leads to exercise adherence. If you’re a pen to paper person, then keeping track will be a cinch. You may find using technology to be more inspiring as it will track progress in a way that is visual. It doesn’t matter how you keep track as much as it matters that you actually engage in record keeping.
By incorporating small bursts of movement into your day, and as your strength and endurance compounds, you may naturally seek more ways to exercise. This is where the habit—the behavior—get’s easier. Feeling strong and capable will drive you to do more of what makes you feel good. You won’t need motivation or will power because it will become like an internal drive to move. So this year, with your eye on the future, resolve to do less, but do it consistently and watch your health, strength and fitness improve.