One of the best aspects of the holiday season is the promise of new beginnings that envelops us all. The arbitrary starting line of the new year allows us to reinvent ourselves, kick bad habits, and gain new good ones. And this is why every gym in America is filled to capacity on January 1st.
Making a change is hard. The hardest part about making a permanent health change is beginning, trying to find a way to sustainably form new habits. That can be a daunting thought, which is why so many wait until the New Year to get started. And it’s also why so many abandon their health resolutions by Valentine’s Day.
Everyone wants to make sustainable change, and here are some tips to help you hold on to that health bug you catch this New Years:
Set Attainable Goals
First and foremost, you have to be realistic with yourself. If you haven’t exercised regularly for years, you probably aren’t going to be able to sustain a pattern of going to the gym five days a week. You are more likely to quit after disappointing yourself for not meeting those goals.
Instead, try setting smaller, easier goals to get you rolling. There’s plenty of time to go for daily six-mile runs. Start with committing yourself with going for a long, speedy walk every other day. Commit to giving your dog two long walks a day. Commit to “striving for five” fruits nad veggies every day. Small as they may seem, the momentum gained from these small victories spur new challenges, and I guarantee you’ll end up craving more once you get a taste of how you feel.
Know What Works For You
You’re friend runs every day and boasts about how great she feels. You give it a try, but an old knee injury acts up and you get sidelined for two weeks. You decide running doesn’t work for you, and therefore exercise doesn’t work for you. Wrong.
What works for your friends isn’t necessarily going to work for you. We are all different with our own schedules and our own bodies. If your joints hurt, try bike riding or swimming instead. If you work late nights, you aren’t going to be getting up at 4 a.m. for the boot-camp workouts your friend does. Maybe a mid-day workout is best for you. When a workout someone swears by doesn’t work for you, don’t be discouraged: there’s one out there for you.
Give Group Classes (or a Workout Buddy) a Shot
I know: many of us don’t like exercising in front of other people. Working out makes us look sweaty and gross and we make really unattractive faces. But, classes have a lot of benefits. Something that hinders many people from beginning to exercise is that they don’t know what to do. Classes take all of the thinking out of your workout, allowing you to follow a trained professional.
Also, having a set time to go exercise is helpful. It can be difficult to get off the couch, and a predetermined workout time helps push you. Last, there is a sense of community, other people getting together to get healthy. You can make friends and bond, and health is always easier when you’re not on your own.
Never Give Up
As cliche as it is, this is the most important thing. There are going to be weeks when you’re sick or tired or stressed and you’re going to slip. We are all human, and there’s only so much we can control. What you can control, however, is getting back on track. Get yourself back in the gym or back outside. Get yourself back to having a salad a day and taking the stairs. You’re not going to go from couch to two-hour daily workouts forever and ever. You’re going to build, break, and build again. Have faith that you’re making the right choices and never stop striving for that health.