Every January our gym has an influx of new people coming in to fulfill their New Year’s resolutions to start a fitness regime. For the most part, they don’t stay with it very long.
Resolutions don’t work for most people and I am surprised we keep making them and breaking them and never seem to learn.
I joined a gym over three years ago. When I started my exercise routine (after a hiatus of twenty-seven years) I found I not only lost weight but a lot of other unwanted things went away, like high blood pressure and achy joints. So I stayed with it.
They say exercise releases endorphins, too. I think I’m hooked on those. There for a while, I felt so good I could hardly contain it. I went around grinning like a fool, giggling at nothing and running across the parking lot with the shopping cart. I’ve calmed down a little now, but I’m still hooked.
I think a person has to hurt in order to get the endorphins pumping. These new people—the resolutionists—don’t like to hurt. The ladies show up in the latest form-fitting designer outfits but spend their time on a cell phone instead of the ab machine. Some of the guys expend a bunch of energy grunting and clanging the weights. Everyone ignores the grunters and they quickly go away.
My intent here is not to pick on people who resolve to get in shape, but to point out how ineffective resolutions are. A resolution is not a sustainable motivation to make lifestyle changes.
Doing something as a habit requires planning. That is, swapping a bad habit for a good one requires forethought. It won’t happen just because a person wants it.
The habitual unhealthy snack has to disappear from the cabinet. The new healthy substitute has to first go on the grocery list, then be washed, chopped, prepared & put in plain sight.
The habitual inactive activity has to be made somehow inconvenient. Hide the TV remote or remove the comfy chair in front of the PC—something to remind a person to change the habit. The new healthy habit must be scheduled, at least until it becomes automatic. A reminder on the cell phone, a scribble on the calendar or a pop-up on the computer are things that work for me.
I think one of the reasons I remembered to go to the gym, even when my schedule got hectic, was because I talked about it. Everyone who knew me knew I was working out.
“How are you doing, Janet?”
“Oh, I’m feeling great! I’ve been going to the gym and I’m losing weight and getting strong.”
The next time I’d see this person, she’d ask me if I was still working out. I wanted to be able to say yes. I had made myself accountable to everyone I knew.
For a time, I also planned my day around my workout. When I started out the door for the office, I had my gym clothes either in a bag or laid out on the bed. If someone asked me to dinner, I accepted if we could go early so I could still make it to the gym. Until the habit became habitual, I had to make it a priority.
If your New Year’s resolution concerns healthy lifestyle changes, I hope you make a plan that will make it happen. I would hate to see you become a fashion diva, a grunting, clanging, cell-phone-yakking fitness failure.