It’s that time of year again – New Year’s Eve. It’s when everyone is coming down the homestretch of the Holiday Season – a time filled with plenty of food and drink, one last party and, for many, a lot of weight gain. It’s also a time when people start to make resolution proclamations.
“I’m getting in shape this year!”
“I’m losing weight this year!”
“I’m getting into that size “fill in the blank” this year!”
And the masses then join a gym or buy some running shoes or “go on a diet”, all of which lasts a week, maybe three, and then it’s back to the same old same old. By the time April or May rolls around, shoulders are shrugged and thoughts turn to “maybe next year.”
So what’s the problem? And what, more importantly is the solution? The problem is simpler than you might think. The problem is not that people lack motivation, it’s that they lack education and guidance.
“I’m getting in shape this year!”
“I’m losing weight this year!”
”I’m getting into that size “fill in the blank” this year!”
doesn’t give you a well-defined goal, not even the more specific third one, because all of these goals are unspecific on how you want to get there.
The question anyone who is making a fitness New Year’s Resolution should be asking themselves really is, “what is my goal? what is it that I truly want to achieve in terms of fitness/weight loss?”
“I want to get in shape” can mean so many things – what kind of shape? at what cost? The same can be said about “losing weight”. There are all kinds of ways to lose weight, some are long-lasting healthful methods, some are…well, not. Both can get one to a goal of losing weight and/or getting “in shape”; one can get you there rapidly, the other can get you there and keep you there indefinitely.
Once you’ve defined what it is you are actually trying to achieve, the next question becomes are you willing to change. If you are trying to alter your physical make up for the better, undoubtedly, you will need to change some habits, and change can be hard.
That’s where it all falls apart every year for the majority of people. An unfortunate result of our on-demand society is that we have become more and more a people who demand results immediately. We then assume that if we don’t get the results we want immediately, that whatever we are trying must not work or must not work for us.
We start to make excuses -
oh, I’m just not shaped like that.
oh, I’m big-boned.
oh, I tried that and it just doesn’t work for me.
oh, it was uncomfortable.
Well, to be honest, for a small percentage of the population, that is true, HOWEVER, the overwhelming majority of people who use these excuses are simply unwilling to put in the time to change and they think, incorrectly, the excuses will make them feel better. Now, before you jump on me for calling people lazy, please go back and note I wrote unwilling, not lazy. Change takes sacrifice and sometimes people are unwilling to make certain sacrifices to achieve change – and that’s okay. BUT, you have to realize that a choice has been made not to change. Owning this choice instead of making excuses goes a long way toward inner peace and happiness. If you can’t commit to change, then enjoy where you are and embrace it. Mental health and inner peace is just as important as physical health/fitness.
Here’s the bottom line – hard work pays off; consistency pays off; a healthful diet pays off. You put those three things together and your results are guaranteed. For some, those results begin to appear on the scale and in the mirror within a week; for others, the visible changes don’t appear for a month or two, but something to realize is that the moment you make a change for the better, good things are happening inside you…immediately.
So is this the year? Where to start?
The first thing I tell people is to start tracking what they are consuming.
You would be amazed just how much you actually consume throughout the day without thinking about it. The mere action of tracking, truly committing to tracking you intake, will make you think twice about the variety of snacks that may cross your lips.
There are quite a few food tracking apps, but the two I found easiest to use are:
My Fitness Pal:
and Lose It!
The thing I like about their apps over others is that they are user-friendly, allow you to enter recipes and create meals, and have access to bar code scanning for easy input. The apps also allows you to set weight loss goals over a period of time. The apps though should be used as a guideline, not treated as gospel. Once a week it’s a good idea to eat whatever the mouth and stomach desire. One can’t live in a perpetual state of denial (meaning denying yourself “goodies and treats” – a topic for another post) without eventually feeling bitter. The 90/10 rule works pretty well for most – for every 9 healthful meals, eat & drink something ridiculous!
The second thing I tell people is that they must perform regular physical activity.
This can come in many forms. I have always found running to be the most affective, particularly for achieving physical fitness while pursuing weight loss, but physical activity can include swimming, biking, taking the stairs instead of taking an elevator, walking, even enjoying the company of your spouse or significant other (I know people get squeamish talking about sex, but it should be noted that a 150 lb person having sex for 15 minutes burns almost 75 calories – that’s nearly 300 calories per hour or the equivalent of a brisk walk or a 10 mph bike ride, but more fun). The point is, there are many ways to incorporate physical activity into your daily life.
For those short on time, I did a little experiment this Holiday season. Some of you may have heard of Tabata – it’s a method of exercise where you do a full body exercise for 20 seconds at 100% followed by 10 seconds of rest. You repeat this cycle 7 more time, completing the exercise in 4 minutes. It is intense and if you do it right, you pretty much want to throw up at the end of it. It is effective, but it is not fun. So doing a little research I came across HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). It’s actually been around a while, but I was so into my running I had not really checked it out. The concept is to perform high intensity full body actions for a short interval, followed by a shorter interval of rest – it is similar to Tabata but not quite as intense. Right before Thanksgiving, I decided to see if this kind of quick hit training could make a difference. I chose to use the burpee as my full body movement of choice. If you don’t know what a burpee is, click —>>>HERE<<<—.
I did five sets of 28 burpees with one minute of rest between sets. Within each set I would do a 7-7-7-7 routine to mix up different kinds of burpee variations. For those counting, that’s 140 burpees. I was able to complete the routine in less than 15 minutes. I did this 3 times a week and I purposely did not run during that stretch except on Thanksgiving (had to do a Turkey Trot – 3.1 miles) and on my birthday (ran 4.3 miles for 43 years). That’s a total of 7.4 miles from November 22 to December 31 – essentially a non-factor. So what were the results? Despite eating my share of holiday food, less than 45 minutes of work a week allowed me to actually drop 4 pounds and lose a small percentage of body fat. I am looking forward to seeing what happens when I bring running back into my routine tomorrow.
The third thing I tell people is get some proper sleep.
Sleep is when the body resets itself. It’s when it heals. A solid 6 – 9 hours of sleep is absolutely necessary for achieving good health.
Finally, I tell people to stick with it.
It’s hard when you don’t see immediate results. I get that. What I try to remind people is that change IS happening. Slow change is more permanent, because your body and your mind are getting into habits that will stick. Stay the course, believe in the program and you WILL be rewarded.
So is this your year? Do you have a specific goal? If you really want to change, make it a priority and stick with it until the end of March. This is a trick of sorts though, because if you DO stick with a regular routine until the end of March, you won’t stop because the routine will have taken over.
Good luck with your 2013 health and fitness goals!