Dec 272010

The first of every new year, many of us vow to suppress our vices and embark on a healthier and more productive lifestyle. Within a week or two, most of us shelve the newly purchased exercise equipment and the mineral water and take to the sofa, caloric drink in hand. Why do resolutions so often fail and what can we do to be more successful in 2011?

Let’s first tackle the first part: why resolutions so often fail. My theory, after reviewing hundreds of peoples’ resolutions and fitness goals is that they are formulated without an fundamental plan behind them, unrealistic, or not a true priority. For example, I can’t count how many times I see “I want to lose 10 pounds.” OK, that’s great, so does everyone else on your block, but how do you plan to get that fat to budge?

Expecting to succeed without a specific plan is like trying to drive someplace without your road map or GPS. You will be more successful in your endeavor if you outline a plan such as; “I plan to lose 10 pounds in approximately 5 months by increasing increasing my aerobic exercise to one hour per day five days per week (2 of those days will include 30 minutes of high intensity intervals 2 min hard, 1 minute rest) and hiring a personal trainer to design a strength training plan I can do twice a week. I will also consult with a nutritionist to look at what I’m currently eating to help me modify my diet so it’s lower in calories and more nutritious. I am going to do the cardio before work on M, W, and F and after work on T and Th. I will work with the trainer on T and Sa.” Your plan should always have a time limit on achieving the goal and outline in detail all the steps you will take to get there.

Now let’s talk about the unrealistic expectations and resolutions. If you’ve never exercised in your life and you are over 40, there is little chance you are ever going to have the lean muscular body of an athlete or look like the next Cosmo cover girl. I often am left speechless when someone says to me, a long-time competitive swimmer and fitness instructor “What do I have to do to have your body?” They probably don’t want to hear “Turn back time and start competitive swimming (or some other vigorous exercise) when you are 10 and then stay super active the rest of your life,” so I usually say something like “do a lot of exercise and learn to love it.” Even if you can’t look like a cover girl or an athlete, that doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel. You still could dramatically improve your look and your health. Instead of comparing your body to someone else, compare it to the body you had before you started your weight loss plan. Notice how loose your clothes are fitting and buy a new outfit that flatters your new physique.

Finally, if it’s not really a priority, you won’t succeed. I read recently in a magazine that most people want to weigh less, but when asked various questions in a survey about modifying diet and exercise, most responded that they really didn’t want to weigh less bad enough to eat less and workout more. Be honest with yourself when constructing your resolutions. Are you willing to make changes and sacrifices to lose that weight, lower that blood pressure or fit into that slinky dress? Will what’s going on with your life right now support these life changes?

Remember, success in any area of life, including health and fitness, requires commitment and discipline. Think about anything you’ve ever achieved that was worthwhile. It took persistence and hard work, right? Well it’s the same with your health. But if you really want to be healthy and are willing to commit the time and plan a strategy to make it happen, it will. And next year when it comes time to make more health and fitness resolutions, you will be able to write down “Keep on doing what I’m doing!”

Dec 052010

I recently received a friend’s annual holiday letter, which had a synopsis of her family’s happenings for the year. One of her announcements was that her exercise and diet program had fallen by the wayside. Ouch, I thought. Why is it that the days get shorter, the holiday season approaches and the commitment to health and fitness goes down like a house of cards?

The reason is different for everyone. For some, colder weather and shorter days result in depression, which does a number on motivation. People grieving over lost loved ones also struggle with depression during the holidays. The juggling act of shopping, working, and social commitments makes fitting in time to exercise difficult. Whatever is threatening to railroad you from your commitment to yourself, below are some tips on how to stay on track.

1 – If depression is a struggle for you, make every effort to increase, rather than decrease exercise duration and aim to work out first thing in the morning. High intensity exercise works especially well. Exercise has been proven to reduce depression and if you start the day by releasing some upbeat chemicals in the brain, you will feel more optimistic and the rest of your day will go better.

2 – Exercise with a friend. People often feel lonely during the holidays, since there is so much rushing, that many people don’t get to relax and enjoy as much quality time with others. Call someone you enjoy talking with and schedule a walk, preferably outside, where you can get some fresh air, connect with someone, and get some exercise at the same time.

3 – Think of Food as Fuel. What you eat has a direct affect on mood and energy level. Try to avoid too much caffeine, alcohol, and sugar and make sure to include lots of fruits and vegetables in your diet. I’m not suggesting you never enjoy a drink or dessert, but don’t consume these at the expense of the fuel your body really needs.

4 – If time’s an issue, squeeze in short bouts of exercise. Run around the block first thing in the morning. Walk up and down the halls at lunch. Take the dog on a walk or make a few trips up and down the stairs in your house or apartment complex. Buy a step and step up and down from it while watching the news.

5 – Buy a gift for yourself that has to do with health and fitness. It could be a cute outfit to wear to Zumba class, some new iTunes music to listen to while running or a new pair of shoes. Get what will fire you up about staying in shape this holiday season.

Stay Healthy and Stay Safe and Have a Beautiful and Loving Holiday Season!