Ah, welcome to January. The gym is suddenly busy, the shops are full of workout equipment and protein bars, and by Valentines Day everyone is back on the chocolate and wine.
This year, for possibly the first time in my adult life, I honestly want to carry on into January exactly the same as I did for most of 2015. Maybe not December specifically, but I don’t feel guilty about what I ate and drank in December. I lived my life, enjoyed some good things, and now I can simply return to previously scheduled programming. I went for a couple of runs over Christmas, I went to the gym on all the scheduled days it was open. I kept my weights the same rather than upping them, and I feel in a good position to start 2016 and continue on my journey. When I actually think about that, it’s pretty amazing. Sure, I have goals for 2016, I have LOTS of things I want to keep working on, but I’m not feeling the need to completely overhaul my entire life right now.
I’ve been thinking about what made this year different from all the other years, because there were a lot of them!
I think my key thing this year was that I had a motivation outside of “Oh crap I put on weight over Christmas and all my clothes have mysteriously shrunk”. I had Roller Derby, a thing I enjoyed and I wanted to get better at. I’m not saying that you have to take up Roller Derby to stick to your New Years Fitness Resolutions, though you should, it’s awesome. But it might be worth looking at your motivations a little closer before you leap onto that diet and exercise Roller Coaster. You want to wear smaller clothes? Why? Are you sure you don’t just want the old ones to fit again? Who are you wearing smaller clothes for? This motivation will dictate how you measure progress, if you just want to wear smaller clothes, then the number on the tape measure and how you eat is most important, if you want to be fit and strong then tracking your speed and how heavy the weights you lift are will be more important.
Once you’ve established your real motivation, there are a few more tips that I think helped me in 2015. Most of them seem to be the total opposite of what every one else says. So just bear in mind, life is an experiment and the same things don’t work for everyone!
People talk about this all the time. Making your goals measurable, achievable and all that. Actually I think if you’re starting a major lifestyle change then focusing too much on actual goals can seem like a bit of a mountain to climb.
If your goal is “Lose 2 stone” and your short term goal is “lose 4lb in January” that should seem pretty achievable. It’s easily measurable and fits all the criteria, but actually it’s outside your control, you could stick to your new diet everyday, but you can’t control if your body loses 1lb or 2lb that week, any number of outside influences can affect that number. Equally “Stick to my calorie target at least 5 days out of 7” is a goal that only needs to go wrong once for your brain to decide you’ve failed. Keep failure to a minimum is my advice!
I generally have some vague targets in mind, but I don’t write anything down solid that I can fail at. Start slow, keep a vague, “get healthy” goal in mind, and when you accidentally order pizza this weekend you won’t have failed. If you want to set a goal, make it something with a date. Sign up for a race, or enter yourself into a figure competition or cross fit competition, whatever fits your long term targets. You’re going to want to keep improving so you don’t feel like an idiot when you get there. Alternatively keep goals super short term, but with no performance aspect. Janathon helped me start the year well, but my only goal was “some exercise every day” so that included some nice relaxing yoga, a 10 minute run, or even just a few push ups and a plank, it also ended, I wasn’t promising to do that for all of 2015, just for 4 weeks.
I’m not saying goals are bad, just be wary about making them the focus rather than the process of getting there.
If you want 2016 to be the year you get fit, lose weight, or whatever, then there’s no point leaping into January all enthusiastic, going to the gym every day and then not going at all in February because you’re bored and you just can’t devote that much time to it. Stay flexible. Go once a week for half an hour, do a bit more if you can manage it, then layer on the time and the frequency as time goes on. It might be that in March you can barely make it to the gym, so you switch to promising 2 30 minute home workouts a week. It’s a Marathon, not a sprint. Ingrain these new habits in your being, slowly change the way you think of yourself and you’re more likely to stick with it and be going to the gym every day by December 2016.
Again, this goes against a lot of established wisdom which says you should tell all your friends and family who will support and encourage you. Yeah, right.
I find that making a grand announcement generally sets you up to fail. Failing at New Years Resolutions is such an expected thing that when your friend asks how that running every day thing is going you can all just laugh at the silliness of New Years Resolutions when you missed a day, and suddenly missing another day doesn’t seem so bad. I’m my own worst critic, if I miss a day I’m going to feel bad about it, I don’t need other people to make me feel better, that just makes it easier. Make your resolutions small and quiet, don’t make a big song and dance about skipping the cakes at work because you’re on a diet, just don’t eat them, or eat a small one and make it fit your macros that day, or if they’re really good cakes just eat them anyway and call it a blip and move on. By the time anyone notices, you’ll have made all this stuff into a habit and by that time the opinions of others won’t matter anyway. Tell the people who need to know, ask your partner not to buy you sweets unless you ask for them, if you want a buddy then ask someone quietly if they want to workout with you to keep each other accountable, but announcing your grand goals on Social Media will bring the snarky disbelievers out before you can say “salad”.
I know, it’s a New Year Resolution and you want to start RIGHT AWAY. But January is a sucky month, it’s cold, no one has any money, we all have to go back to work. You’re already trying to re-establish a regular routine after the lounge fest that is Christmas, so go easy on yourself!
January is a month to tread water, maybe spend the month establishing your starting point. Keep a food diary so you can see how you really eat. Ease yourself back into whatever workout routines you were doing last year, or start gently testing your limits, by the time you get to February, you’ll feel a bit more back in a routine, you’ll have a good start point that isn’t dwarfed by Christmas over indulgence and you can start measuring progress.
Last year I didn’t really get going on anything till the end of February. I did Janathon, but I didn’t really start giving it that extra push till a bit later on, by then I’d settled into the year a bit and it wasn’t such a shock to the system when I started the Kayla Itsines program, which was ultimately helped me start getting a little fitter.
Never be afraid to mix it up and try something new. Running and weights aren’t the only exercise out there. Keep trying new things till you find something that sticks. Just because you loved swimming 10 years ago, doesn’t mean it’s going to feel right for your now. Go to Zumba, try Cross Fit, book a Pilates class keep trying until you find something that sticks, you’re not a failure if you don’t like street dance, or if running on a treadmill makes you so bored you want to cry, just do something else instead! Last year I tried Zumba, weights, Kayla Itsines BBG, running and Roller Derby (of course!), I did group classes with friends and I joined a gym. I spent a week on a Body Chef diet (which was a great kick start and helped me get my head around the idea of planning and meal prep), I tried and stuck with IIFYM and started ordering Gousto boxes which helped with weekend meal prep. Some of those things stuck, others didn’t, and some gave me a foundation to work from to try something else new until I found what worked for me.
P.S. Code GEMMA81995 gets you £20 off your first box at Gousto!
So those are my best tips on how to make 2016 the year it all finally comes together, so that by this time next year you won’t need to make New Years Resolutions, because you’ll still be living the ones you set in 2016.