The last mouthful of Christmas pudding is typically accompanied by the realization that the past few days (or weeks) of indulgence have not been so kind to your waistline.
And with the New Year just around the corner, there seems like no better time to hit the reset button on your lifestyle and recommit to the idea of exercise.
Except… it’s been your New Year’s Resolution to exercise every year. And despite your best intentions, you invariably end up canceling your gym membership within a week and reverting back to your old couch-potato ways.
This used to be me, every single January.
And it’s the same sad same story for millions of people. (Hense the annual plight of “gympocolypse”.)
But the truth is, it’s not a bad resolution if you’re serious about making a lifestyle change. And you are NOT doomed to fail your New Year’s Resolution to exercise this year just because you’ve failed in past years.
You CAN use the New Year as a platform to live a healthier life, and succeed at it.
But you need to go about it the right way. And you need to have a plan.
Here’s how I broke free of my annual fitness fail and how you can too.
** My blog posts contain affiliate links, which means that I may earn a commission on purchases you make after clicking on those links. (At no extra cost to you!) Full disclosure here. **
(Disclaimer: I am not a professional trainer, dietician, or medical professional. These are my personal opinions for informational purposes only. What I have found works for me may not necessarily work for you. You should always get the green light from your doctor before you make changes to your diet and fitness routine.)
Examine Your Motivation
Most people think this is the easy part; especially if you have that winter vacation coming up in a few weeks and you need to don a bathing suit for the first time in six months.
But if your only motivation to lose weight is because you hate the way you look, you’re building the foundation of your lifestyle change on extremely shaky ground. It’s not going to provide you with the positive, sustainable mental energy you need to achieve your goals.
Exercise has a crap-ton of benefits that don’t even have to do with your weight. It gives you more energy, a better outlook, increased confidence, higher-quality sleep, and a boosted immune system.
And these are benefits that you get to see almost immediately after you start exercising.
So if you can ground your motivation in the immediate benefits of exercise, then each day you workout is achieving your goal. And you’ll feel encouraged to keep going.
In other words, you’re focusing on what you can achieve today, not what you’re trying to achieve two weeks or two months from now.
Rethink the Gym Membership
Some people love the gym for the specialized equipment and group fitness classes. And if that’s your thing then by all means, don’t let me deter you from getting a gym membership.
Just understand that because you spent money on a gym membership doesn’t mean you’re going to use it.
And if you do make it to the gym as a newbie at the beginning of January, chances are you’re not going to have the most pleasant of experiences. (Remember the gympocolypse?)
Honestly, I find that gyms are kind of inconvenient even at the best of times. You need to plan for the time it takes to drive there, shower in front of strangers, and share gym equipment.
It’s so easy to turn the gym itself into an excuse not to work out.
If you have similar hangups, consider eliminating these obstacles by working out at home – at least to start. Because you can get in shape without gym equipment. Gym shoes, a quality exercise mat, and a good workout app are all you need.
(New to workout apps? Check out this list of my top five and pick one! )
Set Specific (and Realistic) Goals
Another common pitfall is setting fitness goals that aren’t specific enough.
“I want to get in shape” doesn’t mean anything.
You need to set goals that are going to help you get the desired results.
Decide when, where, and how often.
And start small. Because if you decide you’re going to start working out for an hour five days a week when you’ve been sedentary for months, you’re setting yourself up for failure – or worse, injury.
Start with either fewer workout sessions, or shorter duration, and build them up over time.
For example, in January you could plan to start with 3 exercise sessions at 15 minutes each. Then the following week bump the durations up to 20 minutes per session.
By the 3rd week, maybe you add in a 4th session at 20 minutes.
20 minutes doesn’t sound like much, but with the right exercises, it’s plenty. (This is another reason why I like home workout apps like this one that specializes in HIIT workouts!)
Don’t Go Nuts with Diet Changes
Some people are not going to agree with me on this, and that’s fine. Diet is a bit of a hot topic! And honestly, it really depends on what your goals are.
But if you’ve been sedentary a long time then I stick by what I’m about to say here.
My viewpoint is: If your plan is to focus on exercise, then focus on exercise.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t try to make healthier food choices. But don’t get extreme with restrictive fad diets.
I’m not a fan of restricting foods to begin with, but starting an intense diet at the same time as a new workout regime is going to feel like pushing a tofu boulder up a mountain of carrot sticks. And then the first time you eat a donut and let that boulder roll back down the hill, you’re going to feel super discouraged.
Now, it’s not a bad idea to track calories and macros just so you have an idea of input vs. output, especially at the beginning. (Cronometer is my favorite app for this!) But eating the odd french fry isn’t going to devastate your fitness efforts.
If you do want to revamp your diet, do so gradually by eliminating one “calorie bomb” at a time. Then focus on putting more fruits, veggies, and lean proteins into your diet rather than taking things out of your diet.
Get a Fitness Tracker
If you got a fitness tracker for Christmas, you’re all set. If not, why not use some of those Amazon gift cards you don’t know what to do with to pick one up?
I got one three years ago and it made a life-changing difference. Not only does it help you easily keep track of how many calories you’re burning per day, it also gamifies your New Year’s Resolution to exercise and you get addicted to reaching your daily goals.
If you can spring for it, the Apple Watch is fantastic, but FitBits are a bit more affordable and every bit as useful. Opt for the waterproof variety and you’ll never need to take it off except to charge it!
Yes, you can even sleep with it on to make sure that getting enough quality sleep. (That’s another New Year’s resolution goal it can help with!)
Cut Yourself Some Slack… But Don’t Give Up
Look, you’re going to miss a workout or two sooner or later. It’s okay, honestly. The exercise police aren’t going to kick down the door and shame you for binge-watching The Witcher on Netflix instead of getting your squats in.
But you’ll be tempted to shame yourself.
And feel like a failure.
And use that feeling as an excuse to give up.
I know because I used to think like that all the time.
Remember that every single time you exercise is a win. If you miss a workout, it doesn’t negate the earlier workouts or your future ones.
Cut yourself some slack and just reassure yourself that you’ll do better tomorrow.
Likewise, if you are showing up to your workouts but struggling to finish them or keep up with your exercise program, it’s okay.
Even, dare I say it, normal.
So if a certain exercise is too hard, just swap it out for something you can manage.
Exercise is not about perfection. It’s about getting healthier. As long as you are doing your best and sweating at the end of it, you did it right.
Take Responsibility for Your Success
At the end of the day, whether or not you stick to your New Year’s Resolution to exercise is totally up to you.
Because it’s not about your fitness program, your diet, or where you work out.
It’s about your mindset.
And it’s about staying focused on what you can do today.
If you’re struggling with mindset, download my free fitness motivation guide which is designed to take you from exercise-hater to exercise-doer.
Over to you! Is your New Year’s Resolution to exercise this year? What apps or tools will you use to help you stick to it? Where there any tips you found helpful that weren’t on the list? Discuss in the comments!