Monday, January 2, 2012

Keeping your fitness resolutions is easy if you take it slow and make it fun

I don't usually make New Year's resolutions and this year will be no different. But in the last couple of days I have heard lots of people talk about changing their lives for the better. Everything from people promising themselves to exercise daily to changing the way they eat. Personally, I think it's great to make resolutions, but it's way better to keep them.

The thing about resolutions is that those making them step out of the gate with a bang. Food stocked up in their pantry is thrown out. Gyms are packed with people in sweats climbing stairmasters hoping to lose 20, 30, 50 extra pounds. Two weeks later, hunger sets in and a chocolate bar is eaten or exhaustion sets in and the gym membership is forgotten again.

Instead of making a "resolution," a "life style change" is more appropriate. An Ironman isn't achieved overnight. The athlete who decides to compete in any event builds up to the event through smart training, not hard training - especially right away.

Although I am not a professional by any stretch of the imagination, I have some personal experience with lifestyle changes. So here are are my non-professional suggestions for anyone looking to keep their fitness goals for 2012. I also included some advice from Joanna, so her suggestions are included as well. After reading this, please feel free to add, amend or completely agree or disagree with my suggestions. I would love your feedback.

1. If you don't currently exercise regularly, don't start this week. 
Let me explain. I'm not suggesting you forgo your weight loss or workout goals, I am, however, suggesting that you take it slow. Instead of opening a gym membership, go to the your local sporting goods store, buy a wicking T-shirt, a pair of shorts/capri's you can move in and a good pair of sneakers (this clearly is optional, but since I'm a girl, I find that with right outfit, getting out and going is much easier for me, personally). Then go for a walk, swim, bike ride, run, or whatever it is that you want to do. But, here's the thing, do it Every Single Day and only for 30 minutes. You can go outside or walk on a treadmill, both work the same. (Joanna talks more about this below)

2. It's YOU time.
The 30 minutes is YOU time. Don't think of it as exercise or working out, but as time you need for yourself. It's OK if by Wednesday you don't feel like walking, read a book during that half hour, cook or knit or whatever it is that you like to do by yourself and for yourself. Even Ironmen have take a day off. You'll still be using your time for you and you'll be rested for the next day's workout. 
(Psst, hey you moms. This is for you. Being a mom and having children - one or 10 - is no excuse to not give yourself 30 minutes a day. Period. I have two kids. I have two kids who are 14 months apart... and I work full time. You are not being selfish by taking 30 minutes for YOU. What you are doing is being a responsible mom. You are showing your child(ren) what a healthy lifestyle looks like and they will emulate the choices you make. You are taking a few minutes to put your health first because, let's face it, if mom is sick, no one is happy. Don't have a babysitter or not interested in getting up before the sun while everyone is sleeping? Include your child in YOU time. If it means walking with a stroller or using the child care facility at your local YMCA, do it.) 

3. Don't confuse changing your diet with starving yourself.
Food is meant to be eaten. Instead of throwing away everything in your pantry, read the labels of everything in your pantry. Notice that the second ingredient in that can of baked beans is sugar. Or the gravy mix is full of chemicals. My advice is if you can't pronounce it or if it's not found in nature, don't eat it. Taking out the hidden sugars in your diet and replacing them with natural sugars from real foods will do wonders for your energy level, but also probably inadvertently help you lose some weight. And, really, if you want a piece of chocolate, eat it for goodness sake. You aren't going to ruin your goal by treating yourself, but you will definitely set yourself back if you consume an entire chocolate cake because you've been craving something sweet for a month.

4. Stop drinking soda.
There is no soda that's good for you. Need that fizzy feeling? Try seltzer. Diet soda is worse for you than full calorie soda, and that's not saying much for full calorie soda either. Drink more water, especially since you're adding exercise to your life, you will need to increase your water intake anyway. Want something with taste? Make your own juice.

5. Don't go at it alone. Get a friend on board. It's much easier to get up a half hour earlier if you know someone will be knocking on your front door if you aren't there. If you're married or have a family, you will need their support as well. So while you're going through your pantry, explain to the kids why they won't be eating cheesy puffs at lunch, but they will be replaced with cheese cubes ... or whatever. Or you can do what I do and simply stop buying them so the choice isn't there at all. My kids will generally forget that they love Tasty Kakes if there are no Tasty Kakes in the house.

Finally ... (promise)
6. Register for a race.
No joke. Actually register for the event and pay for it. Seriously. When money is at stake, it's excellent motivation to reach your goal. I recommend a local 5K if you're just starting out and, please, give yourself plenty of time to train for it. If you've never run, or you haven't run in years and years, signing up for a race next weekend is a recipe for disappointment.

From Coach Joanna:

Keeping it realistic. 
Forget about what it is you used to be able to do –either last year, or even when you last worked out or exercised regularly. Youare probably starting with a new slate, so try to just think about the goal athand and start slowly. The body can only accept about a 10 percent increase ineither volume or intensity per week, so don’t start from doing nothing, todoing an hour because you will not make it. Instead, try rotating activitiesfor 10-15 minutes each and 5 minutes rest in between while you transition frombike to treadmill to rower, for example. Each week, decrease the rest time by30 seconds. Increase the time doing each workout by a few minutes each week. Dothat until you reach your goal time of an hour. But only add only five minutesfor the whole week, not each time you work out.  After you work up to that hour of continuousactivity, make it more fun with intervals, changing intensity or incline – playgames with the workout. For example, if you’re on a rower, challengeyourself to maintain a certain speed for three minutes at a time. If you’re ona treadmill, try changing the incline for 1 to 3 minutes without changing thepace. If on a bike, try doing hill climbs for 2 minutes at a time, and ofcourse, rest in between.

Keep in interesting.
Keep it interesting by changing the activity either ineach session to start, or every day do something different than the day before. Try the stair master, walk or the elliptical. The challenge is always to find something you enjoy doing, thenmaking it creative and fun to do even though it will still be ‘work’ing out. 

Please feel free to add, amend or completely agree or disagree with me or Joanna. I would love your feedback. 


  1. forgot to mention one other thing:
    - find an activity you enjoy! you may spend the first month of your new gym membership trying out new activities. Could be tennis, yoga, volleyball, elliptical, swimming, water aerobics. But you won't know until you try them!
    and yes, but all means, find someone to do them with! keeps you accountable for sure and keeps the workouts more fun, too. and sometimes more challenging!

  2. Nice post, Diane. I especially liked the part about buying the right outfit and shoes first. I totally agree that sometimes motivation starts with looking the part!

  3. Love the advice. Anything is possible is something I try to remember. I'm going to try to stand strong though..... I enjoy the 1/2 Ironman's. A full is just no necessary. Enjoyment is why I do this. Not long term injury. Tammy. Love your drive though!

  4. Hi Diane. I can relate to your experience. I got into cycling about 7 years ago so I could lose weight. I lost 40 lbs and I've never turned back! And it is great sport to do on your own or ride with others! Thanks for sharing your story.