By Angeli Ryan-Lim
It’s a story we have heard many times before — My New Year’s Resolution is to go to the gym more! This year I’m going to eat better, drink more water, and prioritize my sleep! I am going to get healthier to live a better life, maybe shed a few pounds while I’m at it! After all, it seems like the perfect time to begin all these new changes with the turn of the new year.
Gym owners like me brace for this time of year where an influx of new clientele reach out to get started on their resolution. From the client’s perspective, the intention to get started is where the easy part ends. Following through with consistency is the hard part.
Depending on which study you read, 50-80% of New Year’s Resolutioners will stop going to the gym by February. There is a plethora of reasons for why that is, too many to elaborate on in this singular article, however the one less obvious reason is because they lack basic foundational habits. How can you set yourself up to prevent falling victim to the 50-80%? Here are some tips to help you build your own foundation of habits that will last:
1. Make it small and easy. If you are starting from zero experience and your resolution is to eat better or exercise on a regular basis, rather than getting over-ambitious and purchasing an expensive treadmill, meal service, or committing to a 12-month gym membership, start with simply getting into the habit of doing something different and making it as easy as possible.
When you start building a new habit from scratch, focus on tiny evolutions. If you’re trying to eat better, simply start with your ability to drink more water than you’re used to for the day. Easy enough to achieve, right? When that becomes second nature, evolve your habit to include more balance in your breakfast. Once that becomes second nature, evolve your habit to include healthier mid-day snacks. Keep evolving one small thing at a time until your eating habits resemble your resolution.
If you’re trying to exercise on a regular basis, build a habit of walking for 10 minutes after work each day. When that becomes second nature, evolve your habit into walking for 15 minutes. Then evolve your habit into jogging for 10-15 minutes. Ultimately, when the habit of setting aside time for yourself to exercise becomes second nature, then start considering getting yourself the much-anticipated gym membership. By this point, you’ve earned it and won’t let it go to waste!
2. Make it realistic. I can’t even begin to tell you how many clients that have come to us with super unrealistic goals. For example, a goal of losing 50 lbs. in a single month is not only unrealistic, but it also opens up the opportunity for disappointment.
Losing 50 lbs. is not feasible in a month but losing 5 lbs. is. Crash diets may cause the immediate satisfaction of losing a bunch of weight, but the moment you start back into your old habits, the progress is disappointingly lost.
Now consider losing 5 lbs. each month over the course of ten months. Not only will this lead to that 50 lb. weight loss goal in a more realistic timeline, but it will also teach you more sustainable habits that will stick with you in the long run. From week to week, you can observe what habits worked or what habits need improvement and tweak as necessary for the following week.
It’s okay to shoot for the moon, but planning for small goals on your way to your big goal helps create a game plan so your big goal is still achievable.
3. Be consistent. Habits take time to create, which is why it’s important to practice them often. In the lifetime of a pro baseball player’s career, they have practiced swinging their bat hundreds of thousands of times. They developed a “feel” for their swing, a habit if you will, over the course of hundreds of thousands of repetitions.
You are certainly not going to become a regular gym go-er with one visit. It takes repetitive practice of simply showing up before it becomes second nature, a metaphorical “feel” for your swing.
4. Accountabili-buddy. It’s much easier to make it to the gym every day when you have a gym buddy or a coach. Meal prep can be less of a chore when you do it with a friend. Not only will you have someone to help hold you accountable, but you are also helping someone else reach their goals! A solid support system is key, and it can start with just one person.
5. The New Year’s Resolution conundrum. New Years is famously (infamously?) known for the resolution. This is the onegoal you are going to work on throughout the journey of the year. And you’re really going to stick with it this time!
That’s a lot of pressure for a decision made on one, singular day! But why this day? Why is this the day that decides the trajectory of the year? What makes January 1st so alluring?
It’s a fresh start. A clean slate. It’s a wide-open world of opportunities! However, just like when the weather changes from winter into spring, the change of seasons brings life and new opportunities for nature to grow.
Commitment to change doesn’t need to be exclusively reserved for January 1st. There are many firsts throughout the year: the first month of the quarter, the first week in the month, the first day in the week, the first hour in the day. There are many opportunities for you to create a new habit or goal for yourself, rather than continuing the pattern of waiting. What are you waiting for?
Similarly, there are many opportunities to reflect on the progress of your habit or goal, even scrap it, evolve it, and start over. To live the human experience is to understand we are prone to failure. But we cannot be afraid to fail. Just because you didn’t lose weight this week does not mean your entire journey is ruined. One miss in your new habit isn’t going to derail your progress. It’s an opportunity to reflect and be conscious of your choices and learn from that experience so you can move forward. It’s about finding forgiveness for yourself and finding joy in the journey of starting over brand new.