Don’t bother with New Year’s Resolutions

This first appeared in the Huffington Post on 2nd January 2013.

I know why we all have them. We’ve eaten far too much — those nibbles between the meals that contain more calories than the meal itself. The wines, beers, cocktails and juices all consumed in the name of festive spirit. And with bloated bellies the last thing we want to do is exercise. With bank accounts empty and tight waistbands we promise ourselves this is the year we’re going to get fit, get focused and get healthy.

Save yourself the pain — don’t bother. Avoid the disappointment, frustration and anguish.

Just think about it. If exercise has slipped by the wayside in recent weeks, months or for many people, years; then starting your regime when the mornings and evenings are dark, cold and wet is to get started in the worst possible conditions. What’s it like to train at this time of year? When you do go out for your first jog, you’ll probably be blinded by headlights or splashed by vehicles driving through puddles. Added to this, when you left the house you just about felt warm enough, but 500 yards down the road you’re overheating from too much kit. And of course you will overdo it. Stories of friends running marathons, climbing mountains or cycling impossible distances will have you setting yourself completely unrealistic expectations for your first run. After no more than a few hundred yards you will be reduced to a walk. Dispirited, you’ll probably head home vowing to try again another day but somehow never quite managing it.

For those of you off to the swimming pool or gym it’s no different. You’ll arrive there with crowds of other newbies all feeling self-conscious, looking at everyone else thinking they seem like experts whilst you feel a bit of a muppet. They have all the kit and look the part and you’re wearing some shorts and a T-shirt left over from some previous sporting attempt. If you’re in the pool you probably have on some old pair of holiday swimming shorts and you’re probably not sure which lane to be in. People either keep overtaking you or you nearly kill yourself trying to keep up.

And then there are the starvation diets. If you’re like many people, you’ll have a go at ‘this person’s diet’ or that ‘celebrity’s secret method.’ For a few days it will work — but such restrictive diets are difficult to sustain. In addition, everyone is polishing off the remainder of the delicious food and it’s a real struggle not to nibble and pick at things. Oh, and by the way, none of these diets present you with the brutal truth. Losing weight is hard work and unpleasant.

You are asking your body to consume yourself. Instead of the food you eat, you expect it to use your fat as a source of energy. Your body would much rather you ate instead — hence why food is so tempting when dieting.

So cut yourself some slack. Save yourself some pain and forget such silly plans. January is not the time for resolutions.

January is the time to start dreaming. Exercise, weight loss and even work are all so much more difficult without a purpose. Whilst it’s cold and dark outside start doing some research. Look for a challenge that excites and motivates you — one that has you imagining yourself doing it and getting a real buzz from the idea.

It could be a beautiful cycling holiday in the summer, stopping at delightful cafes trundling along the quiet back lanes as a family. Perhaps you’d like to be able to walk up some of the beautiful mountains we have in this country. Or maybe you can get excited about running your first 10k or a marathon (don’t just enter any race or event. Do one somewhere that inspires you, whether it’s local or the other side of the world). Or perhaps it’s as simple as aiming to walk some of the local trails.

You’ll know when you have found the right challenge because it will excite you, maybe even scare you. When contemplating it, you may even doubt you could do it — that’s fine — that’s how it should be. Compared to endless running on the spot on a treadmill going nowhere with nowhere in mind to go which is quite frankly demoralizing, boring and a waste of one’s life — training to do something that inspires you feels very different. With the right goal, it’s a lot easier to make getting fitter and weighing less a sustainable habit.

Now you have your goal in mind, do some research as to the best way to train for what you want to do. Learn about the right kit, read up on the right exercises, and read about the best things to eat to help you achieve your goal.

Talk to some people who have started from where you are and achieved what you want to achieve. Learn their lessons. With all these insights in mind — now it’s time to start doing a little exercise and watching what you eat — but not because somehow you feel you have to but because you have a purpose, an inspiring goal, something that motivates you to get out there. Start when you are ready, wait until the weather is a bit better if necessary. The best thing of all, is when you achieve your goal, the next one is even easier.

Meantime, pour yourself another drink, have another mince-pie. Keep reading and learning and build your motivation. Ordinary people can do extraordinary things when properly motivated. New Year and New Year resolutions are not the place to start.

Dominic Irvine 2nd January 2013 All rights asserted

Inspired, but looking for a goal – try this one!

Here is an interesting article on critical factors in goal setting and here is how to break a world record.