We are starting to see warmer temperatures and the flowers are beginning to bloom. We have officially entered the Spring season. Feels like a good time to check on those New Year’s resolutions.
Did you know that approximately 25 percent of Americans make formal or informal resolutions at the beginning of the year? The vast majority are either related to losing weight, more exercise, or both. Are you part of the 25? If so, how is it going? Did you last a week, a month, or are you still crushing it?
The challenge with any behavior change is getting it to stick long term. Most people can alter habits in the short term, but how do you create new habits that last?
Many studies have been done on the topic of New Year’s resolutions. ComRes did a study in 2015 where they interviewed 2,000+ adults. Here are some of the numbers. Seventy-one percent of resolutions are related to weight loss and fitness. Eighty percent of them end by mid-February. They also found that on average it takes 66 days for a new habit to form.
The good news – if you are still doing well, you have a good chance to make it a new habit. Let’s take a look at both eating better and increasing exercise.
Moving from a Diet to Maintenance
We all start diets the same way – with a target weight in mind. But what you do once you reach your target? If you aren’t careful, you’ll get stuck on the weight yo-yo. We’ve all been there. You crush your New Year’s Resolution, hit your target weight, but by the end of the year you are right back at your starting weight again.
The key is moving off the strict diet while retaining some of the new habits you developed. How do you transition from weight loss to maintenance? It’s important to understand how much and what type of food your body needs to perform well. You don’t need to lose more weight, but you want to turn your body in to a well-functioning machine. Find a program that you can use long term. What is your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure)?
It is important that you don’t move from a strict diet to simply not thinking about your nutrition. Just as you developed a great diet plan to lose the weight, come up with a strategy to help you maintain your new body. As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
Make Exercise a Permanent Habit – Stay Active
Congratulations on adding exercise to your daily routine. The next challenge: Make it a permanent habit. The first question, what is your exercise of choice? Do you enjoy hiking, or are you using an indoor elliptical? Regardless of your selection, are you getting bored with it? In order to stay engaged with your exercise program, we recommend some variety. Always be on the look out for a new or different way to keep your body moving.
Have you enjoyed watching March Madness? Move from spectator to participant. Some pickup basketball games in the park are a great way to get your heart pumping while competing with friends. Take advantage of the improving weather and get your exercise outdoors.
Do you have hobbies that you already enjoy and could incorporate exercise into them? Don’t choose between playing golf and exercising – combine them together. If you walk 18 holes of golf you will cover more than five miles, so skip the cart rental and walk the fairways.
The key is to diversify your exercise program. If your goal is to exercise four times per week, make sure it includes at least three different activities. Before you know it, you won’t think of it as exercise. You will look at it as hanging out with friends, playing a new course, or trying out a new trail.
Listen to Your Body
What is the fastest way to derail your new nutrition and exercise program? A painful injury can have severe impact on your progress. It can be something as simple as shin splints or soreness. You must listen to your body as you try new activities. A common mistake is doing too much the first time you try something different. An injury or soreness can prevent you from keeping up with your program and the next think you know, you are on the couch with a bag of chips.
It is important to listen to your body before, during, and after physical exertion. Regardless of whether you are heading to the golf course, the basketball court, or the hiking trail, always start off by stretching. Spend at least 15 minutes getting your body ready. Pay attention to your lower back and upper leg muscles. Following your stretch, be sure to warm-up prior to going “full speed” in your activity.
During your exercise, pay attention to how you feel. If you notice a twinge in your lower back or tightness in your legs, take a break. We do not believe in the “no pain, no gain” mantra. Better to shorten your routine today than push it and end up having to skip the next couple weeks. Always end your exercise with a cool down period – don’t go straight from a sprint to a stop.
Both at the end of your workout and the next morning, do a quick inventory of how you feel. Do you have soreness or pain? If so, where do you feel it? Is there something you can do to reduce or eliminate this pain going forward? For example, if you notice discomfort in your feet or lower legs, you may need to evaluate if you have the appropriate shoes for your exercise program. It is also possible that you could use some additional arch support. Is your lower back tight the day after? This is an indicator that you need to stretch more prior to exercising.
From New Year’s Resolution to Habit
Congratulations on doing well with your New Year’s resolution, but as we enter a new season it’s time to change it to a permanent habit. No one wants to make the same resolution two years in a row! Focus on improved nutrition, and diversify your exercise program. Good luck – we know you can do it!