Countless memes exist about vacant gyms in December of each year compared to a 30-person world wrestling match as a metaphor for fitness centers come January. Of course this is based in fact as many well intentioned people, wanting to work off the holiday excesses or those vowing to make good on their fitness resolutions create a swell in the normal populace.
The cynics and naysayers simply abide and wink knowingly, for patterns of years past resulted in a surge of those who started with noble intentions but for whatever reason lost their motivation to continue, and by February or March the gym populace has scaled back again.
I am of the opinion that the longest journey begins with a single step, whether that journey is to have the courage to start a fitness regimen or return to a healthy lifestyle after an absence, and so gladly welcome those who comprise this peak in capacity at the gyms. However, it is an unfortunate reality that a number will quit, and so the purpose of this month’s article is to examine why many lose their commitment and how one can keep from becoming one of them.
Christopher Van Etten, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and double amputee who is now a fitness model and inspirational figure, wrote “Don’t become a resolutionist. Just COMMIT to a goal.” Look him up. If he can do it, why don’t others succeed?
Part of why many lose their focus is failure to let go of past orthodoxies. If what a person was doing before did not yield optimal results leading to disillusionment why engage in the same practices this year? With that in mind, one could use the time honored New Year’s toast of “Out with the Old and In with the New” as a maxim for making 2014 the year you achieve your goals. Allow me to explain.
OLD: A person derails their training with knives, forks and fluids.
I’ve seen many begin on the fitness path only to fail to modify their nutrition. They continue to eat unhealthy foods, snacking on things unfriendly to their goals or almost worse, skipping meals then binge eating, which plays havoc with their metabolism. In discussions some have almost seemed forlorn by stating what they have to ‘deny’ themselves, which leads to a self-defeating cycle of yo-yo dieting.
NEW: Change your mind set.
In eating wholesome, nutritional foods, what are you denying yourself? Adult onset diabetes, or ODH, heart disease or dangerous cholesterol levels. The instances of ODH have risen by over 250 million cases since 1985 commensurate with the rise in obesity.
What else are you denying yourself? Failing to achieve fitness goals despite putting in the time and effort to improve your life? If a person views proper nutrition as a reward for hard work versus a burden, then they’re more likely to adhere to a proper method of eating.
OLD: One has tried/is trying desultory cardio, where they are not holding themselves to a metric or standard laboring under the misapprehension that it will melt away unwanted andipose tissue and they will then “tone up.”
NEW: Set standards and goals. Engage in cardio that is focused and objective bound. Shoot for a minimum number of days per week and set to achieve certain target heart rates or HRs/rates of perceived effort, or ROPE for those not using a monitor, working to improve upon these. The benefit, outside of more effective cardio is seeing a return on the investment in the form of higher HRs/ROPE for greater duration which will increase further motivation, for nothing succeeds like success.
OLD: People looked at the fitness book/magazine/DVD and saw the supposedly near perfect mix of ab exercises guaranteed to give them that defined midsection.
NEW: Realize that ab work does not result in unwanted weight and adipose tissue loss. The ab exercises shown will build muscle there but that does not improve body composition.
Instead, taking into account age, limitations, congenital injuries, etcetera, commit to learning how to effectively and safely improve lean muscle mass in your entire body which science has shown will help stave off osteoporosis and improve basal metabolic rate. That means more than working only one’s “show muscles,” a euphemism for chest and arms, but rather all the major muscle groups.
Concerned about getting too big? This is part of ridding oneself of past orthodoxies. Very unlikely that will happen and, if for some reason it does, one can then always back off because they’re achieving results that are too great!
OLD: One believes they have to spend hours per day to achieve results, and lose focus/consistency after a few instances of not being able to dedicate large chunks of time toward fitness goals.
NEW: Realize that a few minutes of quality cardio and sound strength training four or more times per week is much better than the two-times-two-hour sessions per week. And yes, one can do both cardio and strength training the same day. There are specialists in each of those pursuits who don’t, but determine if you want to achieve general fitness and quality of life improvements or become a specialist, then work from there. Both are commendable; just don’t limit yourself by thinking one cannot do both.
As always, this is by no means a complete list, but represents some of the most common reasons resolutionists become discouraged, after they embark on their new year’s fitness quest. Instead commit to eradicating those behaviors which derail the best of intentions and make this your year. After all, aren’t you worth it?
Want to know more or offer a suggestion for a future column? Those with fitness related questions, comments and suggestions are welcome to contact me at TierFiveFitness@hotmail.com.