A strange phenomenon sweeps through gyms around the world in January. Ambitious folks will barge through the doors in hopes of shedding holiday weight and promising themselves that this year will be different. This year, these sudden fitness enthusiasts who are fighting you for valuable elliptical time are determined to stick to their workout regimen.
This January rush at the gym used to really bug me. I had my usual exercise schedule and typically no problem snagging an elliptical or weight machine. These folks, though, would storm in like they owned the place and completely ignore the 30-minute time limit on the equipment. So, from time to time I had no choice but to use a treadmill, which wouldn’t be a problem except I hate running. It’s strictly an “in case of emergency” action for me (e.g., being chased by a bear, rabid dog, swarm of bees or villain from any number of horror movies).
While I was pounding the cushioned, faux pavement on the treadmill, I would take comfort in the fact that many of these people making themselves comfortable on my usual machines would be gone in a month. They were just following through with a hastily made resolution and as soon as they lost their five pounds or lost interest, they would be gone and I’d be back to business as usual.
Now here’s a twist for you: I am no longer an avid gym-goer. Bet you didn’t see that coming, huh? With a move, a baby (who is now a toddler), a new baby on the way and a job, I had to find something that was a little more efficient for me. I learned to take full advantage of my son’s naptime, the glorious time in the morning when I’m the only one awake, and that time after my son goes to bed.
The secret to wedging exercise into our already busy schedules and setting fitness goals is not to expect results overnight. Getting healthy is a marathon not a sprint (that running metaphor just about did me in). I hope that if you’re beginning an exercise regimen this year you’ll make life-long health your goal and you won’t just strive for a number on the scale. So, before you grab your headphones and start feeling the burn, you have to decide whether you’re going to just be part of that wave of people that overtakes the gym for a month then disappears or if you’re going to be a regular. Consider these pointers when rearranging your schedule for fitness:
- Set realistic goals. I’m sorry to tell you that you won’t lose two inches from your waist with one workout. With consistent exercise, though, you will see results sooner rather than later. And you will notice one thing almost immediately: although you may be sore, you’re going to feel better, both mentally and physically.
- Find the time. We’re all busy. Jobs, kids, spouses and pets all need our time, but you can either let these be excuses for not exercising or simply a scheduling challenge. Maybe you don’t have time for the gym, but you can run around the neighborhood or pop in a fitness video at the end of the day. Find what works for you!
- Find exercise you enjoy. No, this isn’t a joke; there is something out there for everyone. You can run, walk, dance, yoga, circuit train, join a fitness class or create a regimen all your own with a little bit of everything. Try pairing up with a friend for more motivation, or go solo if that better fits your schedule.
- It’s OK to miss a workout. Unless you’re training for the Olympics, you can miss a workout. If one missed day turns into a month, then you’ll probably lose some ground, but don’t feel like it’s time to throw in the towel. Get back in the game!
Most importantly, when you decide to start exercising, make “health” your goal, not “skinny.” Adopt a balance of a healthy diet and exercise that fits your lifestyle as your new normal instead of something you do for a month to lose holiday weight.
I know, diet is a strong word, and people often associate it with no fat, no carbs, no sugar and no fun. Unless otherwise directed by a physician, just let your diet be a balance of all of the good stuff, like lean protein, fruits, vegetables and whole grains and less of the bad. Avoid those “crash” diets and don’t torture yourself by skipping meals or resorting to harshly restrictive diets. Remember that if you’re both eating healthy and exercising, you’re going to need those good calories to give you the fuel to keep up the good work.
Deciding to get healthy may not be an easy choice, but it is the right choice. There will be temptations to skip the gym, splurge on sweets or be lazy instead of active. Results will take time, but with a little patience, willpower and commitment you’ll begin to feel better and (drumroll, please) have more energy! And honestly, who couldn’t use more energy?