Keeping Your Health and Fitness Related New Year’s Resolutions
Every January 1st millions of us vow to be a better version of ourselves in the year to come. Whether you vow to start learning another language, volunteer for a charity, put more time aside to spend with your family or put more money aside for your savings account, many people will begin the month with a steely resolve to do things better in 2020.
However, New Year’s resolutions are dwindling in popularity. According to a YouGov survey conducted at the end of 2018, only 22% of Brits were intending to made New Year’s resolutions for 2019. The results also showed that young people were more likely to make New Year’s resolution than older people (37% of 16-24 year olds intended to make New Year’s resolutions as opposed to only 15% of people aged 65 over) and that women are more likely to make them than men (24% of women surveyed intended to make New Year’s resolutions for 2019, compared to 19% of men who responded).
Why, as a nation, are we shying away from the opportunity for a bit of self-imposed self-improvement? The dawn of a new year seems like a perfect opportunity to start afresh and make positive changes, so why don’t we?
Fear of failure at a notoriously depressing time of year is surely a factor. The days are short, the weather often terrible and we are all trying to recover from the financial and epicurean excesses of the festive period. With past failures jostling for attention in our memory banks, why would we want to compound this already grim month by setting ourselves up to fail at yet another New Year’s resolution too?
However, grumpily deciding not to bother with a resolution at all probably won’t make the month any happier. The answer to a better January and a happier 2020, is to make smart New Year’s resolutions (not the kind where you vow to eat Chinese takeaway instead of Indian, or to ditch Coca-Cola for Pepsi – you are only cheating yourself with hilarious jokes like this).
The most popular New Year’s resolutions focus on health and fitness - with losing weight and exercising more always coming in near the top of the list - so here are our top tips for thinking smart to make and keep your 2020 health and fitness related New Year’s resolutions.
1. Pick just one resolution
It can be tempting to try and do a full life makeover, especially if you have had a tough 2019 and are determined to make 2020 a better year. If you are already busy and stressed, vowing to go to the gym every night, cook all your meals from scratch, always eat your five-a-day, lose 20lbs and take up yoga is a tall order and one you will probably fail at in one way or another before the end of the first few weeks.
Decide whether healthy eating or exercise is your current priority and choose a single goal based on the answer. If you succeed at one initial goal, it will boost your confidence and give your more energy to make more changes later on.
2. Choose something new
If you have been vowing to get more exercise every year for as long as you can remember and, apart from spending money on sports kit in the January sales each year, you regularly fail to do very much to achieve your goal, maybe it is time to think of something else? Repeating past failures is no good for the soul, so ditch your old resolutions and think of a new one. If you are still keen to exercise more, don’t just say ‘I’m going to exercise more’, find a class you think you will enjoy, at a time you know you can regularly attend, and book yourself in for a taster session before you decide to make that your goal for the year. You many find that you really enjoy the first class and are happy to make it your goal to attend on a regular basis, but if you hate it, don’t be afraid to look for something different.
You don’t have to be sweating and wheezing for an hour in a HIIT class or a spinning session, maybe a weekly salsa lesson or a zumba class is more your style. There are so many different things you can do to get active, just find one to suit you and commit to it for a term. Once it is part of your routine and you have made friends at the class, it will be far easier for your resolution to go the distance.
3. Be Realistic
But be aware that realistic is relative. Some people are really good at making massive life changes at a moment’s notice, while others are better off introducing changes more gradually. If you are motivated by a lofty goal, then make one (sure anyone can do an Ironman, right?). If you are intimidated by the thought of going from couch potato to ultimate triathlon man - or woman - then aim to get up and go for a 20-minute walk each day. Sticking to that goal for six months will make you feel healthier and ready to make the next step in the quest for a fitter you.
4. Buddy Up
It is very easy to talk yourself out of a post-work run or a weekend cycle ride if the only person that you need to notify that you can’t be bothered is yourself. One of the best ways to stick to regular exercise is to arrange to do it with others. Once you have considered the prospect of thinking of an excuse and picking up your phone to let your friend know, the chances are you will have talked yourself back into going out. You may even find that exercise is easier with a companion and that you cover ground without even thinking about it, whilst putting the world to rights with your training pal!
5. Join a Club
If you can’t find a friend who can exercise with you, or if you would like to benefit from the experience of people who have been doing the sport you are interested in for much longer than you have, then join a local club. The expertise of other member and the regular training sessions should help to motivate you to get out and train - and you may enjoy the social side of it too.
6. Share your goal and your progress
It may be tempting to keep your New Year’s resolution to yourself, so that, should you fail, you can revert to business as usual without anyone being any the wiser, which is far less embarrassing. However, if you share your goal and your progress with a few close friends and family, they can offer much-needed encouragement when you are finding things tough. They may even be able to talk you out of throwing in the towel and giving up altogether. They can also be there to celebrate with you when you have achieved your goal, which is far more fun that drinking bubbly alone!
7. Plan ahead
Don’t make your resolution at 11.55pm on December 31st! It is worth sitting down with a pen and paper now and deciding which resolution you think will make the most positive difference to your life and whether this is achievable, given the other responsibilities you currently have.
Forgive me for sounding a bit cheesy here, as if I have swallowed a cheap self-help book, but you need plenty of time to imagine yourself as the person you want to be, so that you have a clear vision in your mind of the “2020 You” when midnight begins to chime on 31st. Whether this you is fitter, faster, leaner or simply happier than the 2019 version, you need to get to know and like them before you will be motivated to do anything to achieve your goal.
8. List the benefits of what you are doing
Whilst you are sitting there with your pen and paper, list the benefits of the resolution you decide to make. If you are giving up smoking consider how much better off you will be financially, how your friends and family will not have to inhale your second-hand smoke, how much healthier you will be, how you won’t have to stand outside in the cold at parties to have a smoke etc. If you don’t want to put this on display for all to see, pin your list on the inside of a cupboard or wardrobe door, so that you can re-visit it when your resolve is wavering.
9. Don’t give up if you slip up
If you have decided not to drink during the week and you find yourself unable to say no a Prosecco at a mid-week work event, or you have a bad day at the office and drown your sorrows in a nice big glass of red wine when you get home, don’t assume that this means you should give up. All-or-nothing is an unhealthy approach to New Year’s resolutions and we should all be able to forgive ourselves for a cancelled training session, a fish and chip dinner or a bar of Galaxy, without tearing up our meal plan or training schedule and giving up altogether.
10. Book an event to work towards
Having a go at the Couch to 5K? Taking swimming lessons so that you can finally do a triathlon justice? Losing weight so that you feel more confident in your summer clothes on your holidays? Book a 5K race or a triathlon; get that holiday in the diary. Having a date to work towards will focus your mind and give you a deadline for your goal. Even if your chosen New Year’s resolution doesn’t have a related event that you can participate in, book something you enjoy (a spa day, a meal at your favourite restaurant, a weekend away) as a conscious reward for your tenacity and hard work. Obviously there is nothing stopping you giving up on day three and just honouring your reward booking anyway, but just think how much sweeter it will be if you’ve smashed your goal beforehand?