Dear New Year's resolutioner,
Congratulations on your big decision to get healthy and join the gym. It's possibly one of the best choices you could make for the new year. The trick now is to make it stick. Don't get disheartened. You're probably going to ride the struggle bus at least a few times, but it's absolutely possible to make exercise a regular part of your life.
I'm not tooting my own horn (OK, maybe a little), but keeping to an exercise routine is one of my superpowers. Ever since my brother introduced me to the joys of working out (RIP Bally Total Fitness Club) in my late teens, I've been a regular at one gym or another. Daily exercise is one of my non-negotiables. It's always a mood lifter and helps me maintain a more even keel when life gets out of hand.
Every year about this time, I watch from my perch on the stepmill as sales folks at the gym give endless tours to resolutioners mulling a membership. For several weeks after that, I wade through the throngs of new members who wander this new wonderland exploring shiny machines, avoiding grunting, barbell-dropping men and peering through the windows at exercise classes as they bop through one more round of circuit training or sun salutations.
I'm on your side, even as the third week of January rolls around and the busy 5:30 p.m. gym scene inevitably dials back to its usual level of frenzied activity, and the parking lot empties once again. Developing an exercise habit doesn't stick to many resolutioners. And maybe it's because they've now realized working out in a gym isn't their thing. Maybe they prefer a yoga or Pilates studio or taking their bodies into the great outdoors or exercising to YouTube videos at home, and that's fine. I like those alternatives, too. But for the rest who give up exercising altogether, I beg you to reconsider.
Here are a few potential pitfalls awaiting you in this new season of your life and ways to thwart them.
- 1) Believing it's all or nothing. New gym-goers probably feel a burning desire for this new lifestyle of go-go gadget healthiness. They're hyped to go every day or five times a week and spend at least an hour every time. Whoa, Nellie. That's a fantastic way to set yourself up to fail, in my humble opinion. Maintaining low expectations could be your best bet. How about working your way into a regular routine? Try going three times a week for 45 minutes. That way it won't feel so daunting. And mix it up so you don't burn out. Do weight training one day, cardio the second and a yoga class on the third.
- 2) You don't know what you're doing. Hey, half the time I don't even know how to work some of those machines. Or I stall out on what exercises to do with the free weights. Enter the personal trainer. As part of a new membership, you often receive a free session or two with a trainer. Use it. Set up a session and tell them exactly what you're hoping to achieve. Going forward, there are also many ways to find new workouts. Skim Pinterest or Google your fitness goal. Recruit any gym rats you might know; they would love to show off their knowledge.
- 3) You don't have time. Come on, now. I know you have time. Put down the phone, stop scrolling through Facebook, turn off the Netflix. Bam! There's an hour right there you could be doing something much more positive for yourself. P.S. You can always download the Netflix app and watch your favorite shows while you climb stairs or ride the bike to nowhere. Watching Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry taste test buttery scones and tart meringue pies on "The Great British Baking Show" while I torch calories and salivate at the same time? Yes, please.
- 4) Exercise is so hard and not fun. At all. Au contraire, mon frere. The hardest part is getting to the gym and getting started. I understand. It's often hard for me, too. That's why I trick myself. I promise the lazy person inside me who'd rather lie around and read a book that I'll leave if it continues to stay hard and un-fun after the first 15 minutes. It's also why I promise myself a small treat for getting those workouts in, especially the weight-training ones. I stop at Natural Grocers on the way home from 24 Hour Fitness and buy a Virgil's Zero Cream Soda and a packet of SeaSnax roasted seaweed. OK, OK, I know some of you are rolling your eyes at my "treat," but it works for me and doesn't immediately negate everything I did at the gym. So give yourself that 15 minutes to warm up and get the endorphins flowing. If you answer honestly, I bet you feel pretty good once the blood's flowing and the body's moving, don't you? Keep telling yourself five more minutes, and before you know it, 20 or 30 minutes have flown by. Find a healthy treat that keeps you motivated - maybe a cup of coffee at your favorite coffee shop afterward or a humble brag on social media. Let everybody unfriend or unfollow you - you'll show them with your glowing skin, shapely muscles and improved disposition.
Yours in sweat,