How to Stick to Your New Year's Fitness Resolutions
Over the last few years, more people than ever have joined gyms. The start of a new year is without a doubt the busiest time of year for new membership signups, with the ‘new year, new you’ soundbites people hear on TV still resonating in their ears.
Sadly, despite the increasing number of gym memberships and people taking up fitness New Year’s resolutions, only a small percentage of people manage to stick it out and make going to the gym or living an active and healthy lifestyle a consistent habit beyond the first few months. There’s a wide ranges of causes for this, but we’re going to look at some of the main reasons people struggle to keep their fitness resolutions, and what you can do to avoid falling at the first hurdle.
You only have to look at the ‘promises’ of easy weight loss and/or muscle gain in magazines, books, supplements and exercise DVD’s to see that selling these easy, quick fix, fitness products is the way in which they sell their products. This also often warps the expectations that people have about the results they ‘should’ be getting within weeks. Unfortunately, this not the reality for a vast majority of people and this kind of marketing leads people to expect ‘too much, too soon’ – it can be disheartening if people don’t see the rapid improvements they have been ‘sold’.
The truth is, seeing positive physical changes can be a slow process, especially if you are still learning the ropes about how to exercise safely and properly. This is before you even begin to consider all the appropriate eating behaviours that are required to see the results you want. It may be possible to see rapid results if you already have these foundations in place and understand the exact requirements in terms of training and nutrition, but even then there’s a crucial question you need to ask yourself – “Is this lifestyle something I can see through until I reach my goal? And – more importantly – sustain it afterwards?”
MAKING CHANGES YOU CAN SUSTAIN LONG TERM
You should instead take an approach that you’re going to use fitness as a vehicle to be healthier in the long term, rather than worrying about a quick fix. Educate yourself on what you need to do in order to get where you want to be. If you get results quickly, then great – but if not, don’t compare yourself to others. Stick with it long enough and you’ll find what works best for you without having to sacrifice too many of the things you enjoy to get there.
Here, in a nutshell, is how many people attack their New Year’s fitness resolutions – “This week I’m going to go to the gym five times, walk the dog every night, walk to work and I’m going to live of salad”. The problem with this approach is that you are pretty likely to be setting yourself up for failure. Honestly, how realistic is this for a person to achieve? Especially if they are coming from a completely sedentary background, with no knowledge of fitness and have had pretty poor dietary habits to begin with.
They might be able to do this for a week or two, but long term this is actually not a healthy approach to take. It doesn’t promote any semblance of balance, factor in what is sustainable in the long term and – ultimately – is going to end in failure. Nobody, not even those people you see on the cover of magazines, live like this – at least not all the time. Devise a plan that you can stick to. Understand your own limitations and work to overcome them by putting the right support structures in place.
STARTING SMALL, THINKING BIG
So we set ourselves up to fail and then what happens? The second you miss one gym session, or give in to that chocolate biscuit or piece of cake, everything goes out the window. You’ve failed, but only because the plan was destined to do just that. One bad day eating, bad meal, or missed gym session does not define your long term progress or undo all your hard work. And yet time and time again we see people thinking like this.
Instead of this ‘all or nothing’ approach, try to look at it another way. If before New Year you never went to the gym, ate takeaways three times a week and never walked anywhere or did anything active, then going to the gym at all, cutting down take-out food to once per week and walking 5,000 steps a day is progress from where you were previously. Just because you can’t go all out all the time, doesn’t mean you aren’t making progress.
Start with small changes in habits you know you can achieve, then when you hit these targets consistently, focus on making other changes. But if you do have an exceptionally ‘good’ week, don’t assume not doing as well the next week is a backwards step – it’s still progress from where you started.
GETTING THE SUPPORT YOU NEED
Tied into this is arguably the biggest reason people fail and that is a lack of proper support. By support I don’t mean having friends and family who want you to do well – this is naturally a massive help, but ultimately they are unlikely to have the right skills to be able to help put plans in place that will be achievable, offer the right type of motivation and support and understand what you need to do to achieve your goals and how to navigate the hurdles to get you there.
In the gym environment, personal trainers are the most obvious and easily accessible professional support available. Many people feel that they don’t need a trainer to just get a bit fitter or healthier, and for some that might be true. However, we have to also consider that a trainer offers knowledge, experience and -most importantly – accountability, both in terms of having someone you won’t want to let down and as a financial investment.
Investing cash in a service is a great motivator to use it, especially when that service is being provided by someone who knows if you are missing sessions or going off plan. It’s interesting that people will happily pay for gym memberships and never go as they have no-one to be accountable to but themselves. Until you develop strong self-motivation and lifestyle habits, then it’s probably a good idea to get a little professional support. This could be a personal trainer or it could be trying out an exercise class. Focusing on taking part in events that provide a group support environment, or trying a new sport with a good coaching all offer the support structure you need to keep moving forwards..
Ultimately, if you are serious about making a New Year’s fitness resolution stick – whether that’s to run a marathon or lose 10lbs – then you need an appropriate plan of attack that isn’t setting yourself up to fai from the get go. It’s difficult to accept our own limitations, but the quicker we can identify what they are and not succumb to them again. If you can do this honestly and openly, previous failures will no longer define your future success – use what you’ve learned from your past experiences to create a better environment for success.