Every January, gyms heave with ‘Resolutioners’: people who wake up on New Year’s Day, vowing this is going to be the year they get in shape. Gym enthusiasts loathe them, and all you hear in the change room is quiet complaining That class was so packed….can’t wait for those resolutioners to be gone. For a few weeks newbies make exercise a habit. Then life happens, and suddenly the five-day a week fitness regime is a couple of days, and then a week goes by and without rhyme or reason they are eating Doritos straight from the bag, figuring it is all pointless and futile, so might as well have orange-stained fingers, too.
Sound familiar? Maybe not the Doritos (insert: chocolate cake here).
To back it up with research – according to one study only 8% of people make their resolutions stick. That isn’t the most inspiring statistic, is it? So, if you are on the cusp of throwing in the towel and accepting that you might never run that 10K race, here are Five Essential Tips to Become The Committed!
Time is of the essence. Most “Resolutioners” are gone by March. If you truly want to make fitness a habit, here’s how:
1. Find Something You Love – But Do The Things You Hate
You are more likely to make a fitness program stick if you like doing it. But let’s be quite clear: you might never like exercising. Many people don’t like to exercise. If this is you, focus instead on the feeling that comes from exercise. The endorphin release works on the brain in a manner similar to morphine – reacting with receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain, and can give you that “high” you hear about. And, not to badger the point, but exercise is one of the best, proven and cheapest stress-releases on the market.
How do you choose an activity that you love? Go back to your childhood. What made you happy? Did you love climbing trees? If so, you probably love activities that challenge your muscles. Were you on every team you tried out for? Join a soccer or hockey league. If you honestly can’t stand running and every kilometre is a chore, pick another cardio. It is far better to decide you love spinning or kickboxing – anything that gets your heart rate up and challenges your muscles is a good activity.
I love running. After I had my son, it became my “me” time – I ran away from my toddler and newborn, and came home a better mother. I have run six half-marathons since he was born four years ago, am training for another half and if my body cooperates, a full marathon. Running is like meditation: a time to be in the present moment, listen to music, and enjoying the rhythm of running. Everyone can find an activity that they love to do.
But here is the caveat: you can’t only do activities you love. As you delve further into your fitness journey, you are going to have to do things you don’t like to get fitter, stronger, more flexible and healthier. Sometimes you are going to have to stretch and it is going to hurt – or you will feel the burn of squats the day after. That’s not a bad thing. Know the difference between DOMS and pain. DOMS is delayed muscle onset soreness, and it means the work you did at the gym is working.
2. Workout Close to Home or Work and Book Your Time
You got a deal on Wag Jag for Boot Camp classes that are a 20-minute drive from your house? Not the best plan. If you want to make your habit stick follow the second golden rule: find a gym or activity close to home or work. You can’t underestimate the importance of convenience. If you are going to find an excuse not to exercise, adding an additional 30-60 minute round-trip commute to your workout is not the way to go. If you don’t have time for a gym, consider all the activities you can do on your own: walk to work, take up running, subscribe to a streaming workout site, or get some DVDS.
Book your workout time the way you do a meeting or an appointment so that nothing interferes with your exercise plan. Of course, life happens: meetings, sick kids, too much to do foils our best intentions. But remember that exercise is a central piece in the mental health puzzle. People who exercise are happier. In January 2013, the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety was launched, a voluntary act that champions the need for employers to focus on psychological well-being in the workplace. Currently, over 40 companies in Canada have adopted it. Find out if your company has it, and if not insist on it. Your boss will make sure that you get your workout in over lunch!
3. Work Out with Friends
Workout buddies are good to have in your back pocket. You are less likely to overindulge on a Friday night if you are meeting a group of women on Saturday morning at 8am for a run. Yoga is a lot more fun with a friend, and working out is a great time to connect with someone you haven’t seen in a while. Instead of meeting friends over cocktails, why don’t you check out that new Crossfit gym (and then go for cocktails!). Beyond the fact you will be ticking off two boxes – exercise, and friend commitments – you are more likely to stick with a program if you are being held accountable. The next time you want to go spinning reach out to one of your mommy friends: take your “me time” and make it “we time.”
4. Fuel Your Workout Before and After
I’m constantly asked what you should eat before a workout and it is simple: you need enough fuel in the tank to get the work done. It is one of the greatest myths that you will burn off that layer of muffin top squeezing out over your jeans if you don’t eat anything before your workout. If your body is running on empty, you won’t be able to work out as hard. This means an early morning class still needs a piece of fruit or a simple carbohydrate/protein combo (like a smoothie). Bananas are God’s gift for working out: they are full of digestible carbohydrates – the fuel for your workout – and an excellent source of potassium, which helps your nerves and muscles. Oats are another great source of fuel, and will provide a slow-releasing carb that will keep your blood sugar levels stable. Try and eat something 30 minutes before your workout to give you the stamina you need.
Your fuel post workout is equally important. Within 30 minutes have a protein/carbohydrate snack to repair the muscles, and then a healthy, balanced meal (protein/carbs and fat) that doesn’t go overboard on calories 1-2 hours after your workout is finished. One of the biggest problems with weight loss and exercise is that people not only overestimate how many calories they have burned at the gym, but they are so hungry after they workout, they eat the house. Be mindful of what you are eating and listen to your hunger cues. Are you really hungry, or do you just want that cookie?
What you eat matters. Unfortunately, all the exercise in the world can’t undo a bad diet. There is little point in making exercise a commitment if you are going to wreak it at the dinner table (or standing over the sink eating Doritos). Slip-ups happen, but if you try and live the 80/20 way – eating clean and healthy 80 percent of the time, and allowing for treats and cheats 20 percent of the time – you will be on the road to success in no time.
5. Make Exercise a Family Activity and Commitment
We teach our kids to read, write and tie their shoes – and we should teaching fitness the same way. If one of your excuses for not working out is that you can’t fit it in because of family commitments, then make sure one of the things you do as a family involves movement. Go swimming, and take turns doing laps while one parent plays with the kids; go for a walk and put some intervals into it – challenge your kids to walk or run faster than you (they will love it, trust me), and keep up the pace. Move the furniture in your house and set up an obstacle course. One great resource is Spiderfit Kids, an organization based out of San Diego that has lots of games and activities to do at home. The research is astounding: kids who are introduced to physical fitness early on are more likely to make it a life-long habit, less likely to be overweight, have greater self-confidence achieve greater academic success.
Fitness and health are a journey –remember the key phrase progress, not perfection. This month I was going to blog about tips for taming the sugar beast but…I haven’t been perfect.
Next month, we tackle sugar. Are you with me?