Sunday 21 December 2014

How To Stick To Your New Year's Resolution

   Next year, I'm going to exercise every day. I'm going to exercise for an hour every day. I'm going on a diet. I'm cutting out sugar.
   Sound familiar?
   New year's resolutions are a tricky thing. People have a goal in mind, but quite often don't go about presenting it to themselves in the right way. Losing weight is the most typical goal because it's hard work with great rewards and is very slow-going - the sort of thing that would fit a new year's resolution very well - but the actual wording of the resolution, the promise they effectively make to themselves, is crucial.
   It's made worse by the fact that these resolutions are usually made by people who are new to fitness and have little idea how weightloss works - plateaus and things like that which present roadblocks that, to someone inexperienced, can seem impossible to overcome and lead to broken resolutions.

   So what can you do to stick to your new year's resolution, whatever it might be, weight-loss-related or not? It's simple: word and plan your resolution so that you can actually achieve it. A year to drop a dress size, yes that works, but if you're new to fitness that can still be a huge and daunting challenge. What you really need is something with milestones you can tick off. For example, if you wanted to lose 24lbs, aim to lose 2lbs a month, minimum. So instead of saying "I want to lose 24lbs by the end of the year", say "I want to lose 2lbs a month" - these bite-sized goals are far easier to maintain, and with the significantly quicker results, it gives a great boost of confidence to the individual because it feels like the end goal is much more achievable.

   For this post I'm going to stick to weightloss resolutions. While the above advice can be applied to any new year's resolution, I've got a better idea of what I'm talking about in this area because it's what I've done myself.

Mistakes I made:

   I always used to say I'd cut out chocolate or sugar. After a week, the resolution was broken. The fact that I'd outright denied myself these things I moved made them more desirable, and if I finally did give in to 'just a little bit' it always turned into more. You should never cut things out of your diet point blank. Reduce them instead. Sugary things are delicious, and cutting those out are more likely to lead to bingeing and that won't do much for the confidence of the individual. It's more of a psychological thing than physical, but it's also true that suddenly cutting things out can give your body a little bit of a shock, too. Flash diets are the same. There's a popular belief that cutting out carbs will help you lose weight, but that's not really true. You need carbs, the thing is that the foods heavy in carbohydrates are usually denser, more filling and, when eaten in abundance, do indeed result in weight-gain. The key is eating in moderation and making sure you get all of your food groups rather than lots of some and none of others. It goes both ways, too - you can get fat from eating too much fruit, for example. The keywords here are 'too' and 'much'.

   When I stopped making resolutions to cut things out I would make resolutions to exercise every week. I would put on a CD and dance in my bedroom for half an hour every Sunday when I was younger. That was it. It didn't work. I didn't know what I was doing, that was the problem, I mostly just moved my arms and waist, and while I was sweating, I didn't change my eating habits. I continued to buy full-sized cakes and eat them by myself. I thought half an hour of exercise a day was enough, and it wasn't.
   On the flip side of that, a mistake other people make is going from nothing to too much. "I'm going to exercise for an hour every day". There are two problems with this: first is that working out every day isn't good. It's just as important to rest and recover as it is to work out, be it cardio, strength or a mixture of both, and you should aim to take one to two rest days a week, ideally spread out (ie Wednesday and Sunday). The second problem is that while an hour doesn't seem like much when you're not doing it, it's actually a very long time. You're more likely to exhaust yourself in 20 minutes if you're new to it and phone the remaining 40 minutes in, which is about effective as exercising for just 30 minutes. Instead you should aim to start out at 30 minutes a day 3-4 days a week and ease yourself in, putting all your effort into those 30 minutes. Also realise that it's not the time spent working out but rather the intensity at which you do it. A 20 minute workout consisting of weights and cardio is about as effective as double the time spent on cardio alone.

   I've already stated that not knowing what I was doing was a damaging aspect, and it's what causes a lot of people to fail. It's best, if you're just starting out, to buy a DVD to use in your living room, preferrably dance. I say dance because it's fun. It doesn't feel like work. It's true that it can be frustrating when trying to learn the moves and keep up with the instructor, but it's equally true, if not moreso, that the more you use the DVD (they're designed to be repeated, not used just once, after all) the easier the moves will come to you. I recommend any 10 Minute Solutions dance DVD. These DVDs feature 5 seperate 10 minute routines. It's a brilliant place to start, and each 10 minute routine differs from the rest on the disc. You can line up anywhere frm 2 to 5 routines in whatever order you want, even repeating some and skipping others.
   By starting out with a dance DVD you can exercise without it feeling like work, you can do it in the privacy of your own home and eliminate any embarressment and confidence issues, and you can easily keep track of time without clock-watching. You can build up your stamina and start to see changes in your body, as even this cardio will be a sudden challenge for your body and will deliver results. In time you'll build up confidence and even grow to love exercise (I know that can sound insane when you're just starting out, but it's true), at which point you can move on and try other workouts. You'll learn about muscles and bodies from these DVDs as you go along, too, and that in turn will help you to shed weight and tone up because you'll understand that purpose and action of each movement better.

My Most Successful New Year's Resolution:

   This year's. To try something new fitness-related every month, which, from March, changed into 'changing my workout every month'. Why did I choose to make a resolution like that rather than create a goal for my weightloss? Well, for starters, I have a long way to go to get the body I want, it's not a quick thing. The second reason is that it has very clear monthly milestones - namely to begin and subsequently complete a workout for 4-5 weeks straight, before completely changing it the following month. The third reason was because I finally understood plateaus, and that they usually come about after 4-6 weeks of no change in workout or diet. In theory, by changing my workout every month, I could completely avoid plateaus and lose weight consistantly as well as finding what kind of workout works best for me.
   All of this worked out for me, and this year I've lost more weight more consistently than before, and transformed my body by strengthening muscles. Not only am I slimming down, but I'm becoming more defined with every passing month rather than just becoming skinny, and that's exactly what I want.
   As a result, this year I've decided to make the same resolution. I still have a long way to go to get the figure I want, but if I do as well as I did this year (if not better considering everything I've learned), by the end of 2015 I could be a hell of a lot closer.


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