“Cheers to another new year and another chance for us to get it right.”
– Oprah Winfrey
It is December, and we are all gearing up for the holiday season. Soon we will blink and it will be the New Year, and many of us will be making our New Year’s Resolutions. This is what I would like to address in this post. On January first, we will say that we want to lose the extra holiday weight and get stronger, and therefore, decide to join the local gym. That’s good, and I am excited for you to make this happen. However, too many of us start out with good intentions, but very quickly stop going to the gym. We fall off well before we form the habit of working out regularly. So, I would like to offer a way to make it happen this year, and for you to stick with it for the long haul—for the rest of your life—and make a resolution that you will be able to keep as a habit from now on.
Firstly, almost 80% of people who sign up the first and second week of January will, by the second week of February, no longer be going to that gym. This is mainly why the majority of gyms enforce yearly contracts, and do not offer refunds. They know that no matter how great their facility might be, there is only a 1 in 5 chance you will actually use it the entire year.
Why does this happen? Why do people start out so strong, but a month later are no longer going to the gym? After seeing this for so many years as both a member in various gyms and P.E. teacher, and later as a trainer myself, I have repeatedly seen a major mistake that people make. It is called overtraining. What I mean is that you came to the gym, inspired, motivated, and excited about improving yourself this New Year, so you hit that gym pretty hard, three, four, or even five times a week. The first week, you are pretty sore. It was a shock to the system, but you are going to stick it out. You go the next week, you fight the good fight, still really sore, not seeing any improvements in anything and you just feel tired. Week three, you don’t feel so good, you feel like that holiday cold is coming on, and it takes all of your willpower to get to the gym. By week four, you don’t even make it to the gym; the kids had some recitals, you got sick, and work picked up again at the office. Then it is week five, and despite your ambition in week one, you did not go this week either, and it is not looking good for the next week, is it?
By overtraining, you wore yourself out. It was too much, too soon, and your body and subconscious can’t handle it and thus, sabotage your efforts. Here is what I suggest. Because it has likely been a while since you last exercised, start slow. Commit to only 1 time a week—but commit to that time every week. Schedule everything else in your life around that one session per week. Now you can’t say, “I’ll go tomorrow.” No, you go today. Life will throw enough curve balls and emergencies that this will not always be possible, so you do not need to schedule business meetings when it is your day to hit the weights. That’s it! This is the only thing I want you to start making a habit of. Each week do 5 to 8 exercises that will work your full body. Do it in 20-30 minutes, then leave it alone until the following week. But when the next week comes, add 5 lbs. or try and do a couple of extra repetitions. By recording the results of your workouts, you will immediately start seeing improvements. This reward mechanism will offer positive reinforcement and encouragement to keep it up each week.
When it comes to losing weight in the New Year, don’t do anything else the first two months until you are feeling really good about your once-a-week intense training session. After a couple of months, then you can start removing the added and unnecessary sugar in your diet, and increase your intake of vegetables. But wait on this, and progress with it naturally, and at an easy pace. Too many of us try and make these changes all at once, and get really frustrated when it all falls apart on us. Too much, too soon, is too much for the body to handle at one time, so we will take small—but solid—steps. As Lao Tzu said, “A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.” Start training once a week, avoid overtraining, and this will be your first step—which is the most powerful step in your journey this year—to building the best you.