Can two events be simultaneously encouraging and disappointing all withing a period of a few weeks?
The normal inclination would be to answer that with an emphatic “yes” as we have all seen high expectations erode to disappointment at some time or another. But the kind of juxtaposed elation and disappointment I’m referring to comes in the form of New Year’s resolutions that have gone, as a matter of speaking, rogue.
Every year, January 1st is marked by scores of people who have re-committed themselves to their own version of a make-over by jogging, joining gyms, getting up when the stars are out to begin their predawn body-sculpt-to-the-shredded-model on television.
All of these behaviors are admirable and certainly worthy of encouragement, but lurking between the time it takes to start something new, and the time it becomes a habit resides the power of resignation.
By the third week of the new year there is noticeable absence of those that began their promising journey, and by the end of February status quo has taken hold.
As a fitness trainer, it disappoints me to see other people with such big goals, disappointed. While the psychological model can be complex there are many controllable aspects to a successful fitness goal-based program. While they might seem obvious, my years in this industry have allowed me to narrow the reasons down to some of the common denominators. I think the bigger question to ask yourself is how many of these are you doing? How many have you build into your environment?
- Adjustable Goals – I use the word “adjustable” because despite our ambition, there are times when we aim too high. Goals must often be adjusted, and when a person has set a goal of “5 pounds of weight loss per week” and only lose 1 pound, flawed thinking is to assume that “this fitness thing doesn’t work.” Could this be you? Perhaps the goal should be 2 pounds per week.
- Pain is part of the process – Anyone who thinks that they will embark on a fitness program, and dial it up so perfectly that some level of pain or discomfort is completely avoidable, is wrong. Yes, I realize that walking is probably one of the more atraumatic types of fitness, but once any kind of running or resistance training is thrown into the mix, you will be sore. There is no perfect formula to avoid some level of muscular discomfort, however starting a program conservatively and building it up over time (reps, weight, duration, decreased recovery) is a much better way to go. Slow and steady, avoids the “this hurts too much to do regularly” mindset that can creep in.
- Avoid Extremes – All too often, people begin their behavior modification by beginning with what I refer to as “extreme behavior.” I had one client who insists that she is not a morning person, but has to get up at 6 a.m. for her job. Her new fitness commitment had her up at 4:30 a.m. In my opinion, that is a program destined for failure. Not because of the time, but because there was no transitional plan to slowly wake up 5 minutes earlier every day, or every week until the 4:30 start time was part of the morning ritual. Naturally, getting to bed earlier certainly helps this effort.
- Surround yourself with “can do” people – Much like healthy food consumption is difficult in a family of snackers, your fitness environment must include those who support your journey. It doesn’t matter who the person is – boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, mother, father, best friend, sharing your sacrifice with someone who appreciates you, the effort your putting in or the commitment you are demonstrating makes you feel as if you have a team-mate that believes in you. Yes, validation comes from within, but does it help when someone else is in your corner? – without a doubt.
The best news of all though, is that if you have fallen off your resolution fitness wagon, there is absolutely no reason why you can’t pick up where you left off. Re-think what created failure in your first effort, and ever so slowly ease yourself back into your newly refined vision. It’s never, ever too late.