Whoohoo, it’s clean slate time! I love the idea of having a fresh new year to write on – at this time of year it seems like anything is possible. And with that idea in mind and credit cards in hand, lots of people are going to walk through the gym doors this week, cheeks aglow with optimism, thinking that this, THIS is the year that everything will change. Gonna get healthy and lose weight and put on muscle and get ripped and jacked and so freakin’ sexy that nobody will be able to stand it!! And it’s gonna happen by, like, April!
Maybe that will happen for some of them. I hope it does, really I do. But for most of those people, it won’t. Most of them will be done with this whole getting-fit-and-healthy idea by Blue Monday, and the gym will be mostly empty again except for the people that have showed up there every damn day for years. Statistics show that roughly 47% of New Years’ resolutions concern improved health and fitness…and 8% of resolutionaries are successful at following through with them.
Why on earth does this keep happening? Clearly as an industry we are dropping the ball. A lot of balls. It’s easy to see where it’s happening, too, which is maddening as hell because professionals in the fitness industry are supposed to be helping people make their lives better. The thing is, the vast majority of fitness pros I know care deeply about seeing their clients succeed over the long term. We aren’t into snake oil or magic pills or detoxes; most of us know very well that there is no quick fix, that damage from an unhealthy lifestyle that took years to develop is going to take more than a couple of months to undo. Yes, ten different fitness pros will have ten different road maps to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’. But that doesn’t matter, because the real problem is this:
The market is freaking saturated with quick and easy bullshit fixes. A lot of them are insanely expensive. Sure, they’ll work great over the short term – if you can muscle through that seven day juice fast or twenty one days to a reset metabolism you’ll see some pretty crazy results…but I promise it will not be fun and as soon as you go back to “normal” those results will be gone faster than the wrinkles between Doctor Oz’s eyebrows.
Okay, so what do you do if you’ve made health-related resolutions that you would like to keep? Don’t worry; I’ve got you covered. Here’s what I wish someone would have told me when I jumped down the fitness mole-hole – it would have saved me a lot of time and heartache (or heartburn – take your pick!)
- Start where you’re at. Be brutally honest with yourself – if you haven’t been exercising, do you think you’re ready for any program with the word X-treme in the title? I’m thinking not. Start with a workout plan that is on the easier side of doable; you may be surprised at how sore you are tomorrow. I had a conversation once with someone outside the gym, who asked me how I manage to train consistently…then without waiting for an answer he told me about how he really wants to be consistent about working out, but every time he goes to the gym he ends up so sore he misses school and work, and when the pain finally dissipates after a week or so, it takes another week to gather up the courage to go again. If this sounds like you, it may serve your long-term goals better to dial it back and do something that will leave you eling good. You know, excited to get back and do it again, even.
- Adjust your expectations. Storytime: many years ago I had a client who joined the gym in the first week of January to lose weight and get fit. Kathy* was a mortgage broker who worked from home. She was a little overweight, the bulk of her diet consisted of gummi bears and coffee, and most days she didn’t get out of her pajamas. At 48 years old she was starting to notice that she was having trouble getting in and out of her desk chair. She had moved the cans of soup in her kitchen to the counter because she didn’t have the strength to lift them out of the cupboard. We had a very frank discussion on her first day about where she was starting from and how getting fit and strong was going to be a long process for her given that she was too weak to tackle what most people would consider normal daily activities. Two weeks later, she was walking tall, carrying a 5lb dumbell down the length of the gym – I couldn’t have been happier; she was making it happen! When I expressed how amazed I was at her progress, her eyes hardened. “That’s great, but when am I actually going to see some results?” I was flabbergasted; this was her sixth workout. I reminded her of our conversation only two weeks – fourteen days! – ago where we talked about what results she could expect to see. She grudgingly accepted what I had to say. Another week went by where, in every session, she mentioned that she wasn’t getting any results and the workouts weren’t doing any good. After nine workouts (total) she stopped showing up and I never heard from her again. So, coaching fail on my part – obviously I didn’t effectively communicate with her and the two of us had very different ideas about what the words “long process” and “results” meant – but she was also clinging to some pretty unrealistic expectations regarding how her body was going to change. Now, Kathy was an extreme case, but almost daily I have a conversation with someone who wants to see better results, like yesterday. Here’s the thing, and this is your coach giving you some tough love here: strength and fitness is a blue-collar pursuit. You have to put in the hours. You have to eat mostly well, most of the time. There is no fast track to success. Anyone who tries to sell you on fast results is lying through their teeth and setting you up for failure over the long term – because the ONLY way you will see great results that you can maintain forever is by making little changes to your habits that will stick. FOREVER. This is your new normal. Are you ready for some good news? The good news is, it’s worth the effort. I promise – pinky swear with a cherry on top, that it’s SO worth it. YOU are worth it.
- Be patient and progress at your own rate. Yup, there are indeed lots of people on Instagram who are progressing faster than you. There are also lots of people who are not posting belfies on Instagram because they are feeling disillusioned with their progress (or lack thereof). But you know what? Fuck all of them; they don’t matter. What matters is this: are you building habits that you can maintain forever? Are you showing up regularly to get exercise? (At this point I don’t even care what kind of exercise you’re getting as long as you’re moving.) Are you getting better at being consistent? If you answered ‘yes’ to all three of those questions, you are moving in the right direction. Now, say you’ve been doing that for two or three months and you want to take it up a notch. I’m not going to be the one to tell you to go for it or not (unless of course you’re someone I know pretty well), but I’d urge you to take a close look at why you are wanting to put the pedal to the metal. I have conversations to this effect with my own coaching clients all the time, but to illustrate this point I’m going to use myself as an example: I work with a trainer myself, every week. Not because I need someone to push me to work harder, but because I need someone (who knows me well and wants to see me progress) to tell me to chill out and just keep being consistent which he is wont to do just about every time I see him. Which is why we all need a trainer, or an instructor, or a workout buddy, SOMEONE who is willing to be the voice of reason when madness sets in and you feel like you need to work harder, be more, get there faster. If you’re like me and have impatient, type ‘A’ tendencies, those urges just lead to injury and illness. Trust the process and keep showing up. You’ll get there.
In a nutshell, the one most important thing to do to keep your getting fit/healthy/strong resolution is keep showing up. It’s definitely not the quick fix that it’s easy to get sucked into, but it will work…and it won’t let you down over the long term. And if you need a boost, message me! I’m always in your corner.