Stop Wishing, Start Doing.
A New Year has started. Resolutions have been made. Now what? Will it be another year of first month euphoria followed by a downward slide into the familiar and comfortable, or will this be the year you really hit it hard and earn your stripes?
In my facebook post “New Day, New Year.“, I covered some generic guidelines to consider while making New Year resolutions. In this blog, I take it a step further to help you action your health and fitness goals.
The journey from intent to action and desired results requires focused effort and persistence to change deep-set habits. It cannot and will not be achieved overnight. Research suggests that it takes a minimum of 21 days for any new activity to become a habit and about 3 months for that activity to start showing visible results. It may take even longer for activities/tasks that are tougher.
That said, let’s address 5 key health and fitness challenges:
“This will be the year I get in shape / lose weight / build muscle”. On the back of this common resolution, Gymnasiums witness a spike in their annual memberships every January. Sadly, in majority of cases people stop going to the gym by March or even earlier. If possible, don’t sign up for annual memberships. Shorter duration membership may be slightly more expensive, but it leaves you with more options to seek change (try a place with better facilities/trainers, closer to home etc.) and prevents exercise/fitness pursuits becoming easy casualty if things don’t turn out as expected.
When all is said and done, a membership is only as good as the use you put it to. People often misinterpret what they REALLY need to succeed with what they THINK they need. What you really need is an exercise plan, an exercise partner or trainer to hold you accountable for it and NO EXCUSES. Figure out your time/lifestyle constraints to plan an exercise schedule – both in terms of frequency and intensity. (This is valid for people at all points on the fitness spectrum.) A good coach will help you in this.
Start with something easy and simple such as taking a brisk walk for 20-30 minutes three days a week for a couple of weeks before increasing the duration and/or frequency or intensity (jogging/running). Follow a similar path if your goal is to build strength or muscle etc. Make sure you have an exercise partner or a personal trainer to keep you honest. The social connection with another human also makes the workout more enjoyable. Lastly, do not succumb to excuses. There are solutions to perceived problems.
Don’t use weather as an excuse. Dress up or down to handle weather changes. If there is an extra nip in the air wear an extra layer of clothing, but make sure you do not miss a planned session or the downward slide could be steep and fast. And don’t wait for beginning of the week/month/quarter (or whatever extended timeline you tend to promise yourself) to start/resume. Today is good. Today is best.
Break down your nutritional goals into Macro and Micro habits. Macro habits must cover general healthy eating patterns such as low sugar and alcohol consumption, eating in balance, preferring natural over processed foods, eating more greens, regular hydration and nourishment, non-erratic eating (i.e. never getting famished or too full) etc. At the Micro level, you could take guidance from a nutritionist to understand food choices that are good for your specific body type, fitness/health goals (how many calories to consume each day based on your physical activity levels and from which food types), figure out foods you might be allergic to (sometimes the symptoms are not obvious) or are not able to digest easily and to assist overcome chronic health issues etc.
3. Sleeping/Waking habits:
This is a big challenge. One needs to sleep earlier to wake up early. Fix yourself a reasonable lights-off time so you get sufficient rest and set a wake up alarm so you don’t oversleep. It may involve a few uncomfortable days where you feel sleepy or lethargic through the work-day but you need to ride it out. It is about discipline and letting your body adjust to the new timings till it becomes a habit. Pretty soon your body will adjust to the new times and tell you when it is bed-time. Who knows, you may not even need a morning alarm to wake up.
(Refer my blog While you were not sleeping to understand our needs and patterns related to sleep)
4. Alcohol Consumption:
A problem-area I am often asked about even by people who are otherwise quite physically active is the extra pounds/kilos around their midriff. And more often than not, the culprit is alcohol. If you want to lose the extra flab around your midriff or in general, you need to take a hard look at your lifestyle (especially what you are consuming), make an unwavering commitment and cut alcohol consumption. There is no justifying it and your belly. If you can’t control quantity, give it up till your goals are achieved. The period of abstinence will anyway be good for the body and in resetting mindset.
5. Stress Management:
Whether you are a student, a working professional or a home maker, the frenetic pace of life and increasing competition is adding stress at all levels. And this stress reflects on our health. It is important to take regular breaks and switch off.
Not all breaks need always be ‘leisurely breaks’ of ‘chilling out’ at resorts, ‘doing nothing’. It will be a good idea to make a few of them ‘active breaks’ which involve moderate level of physical activity such as trekking or hiking. It can be equally (if not more) invigorating, will add to your fitness levels and open a new way of thinking and looking at life.