In a season of promises, some broken, start with small steps
It’s the first week of January, and legions of Americans are marching off to the gym, vowing once more to get fit, trim inches, shed extra pounds.
Call it January’s version of Groundhog Day.
And by the time the real Groundhog Day arrives, give or take a few weeks, resolve has gone the way of the holiday turkey. The shoes are off, the remote is out, and the chips are back.
“We definitely increase our volume in January,” said Angie Hill, senior exercise physiologist at HealthPoint. “People come in with a renewed commitment to start a new routine, eat healthier, exercise more and get into shape, but at least half fall off within the first few weeks,” she said.
Don’t despair. And don’t give up, said Hill and Alan Bremner, co-owner with his wife, Steele, of Winyah Fitness One on One in Pawleys Island. You can find a way around those hurdles, many of which are unwittingly self-imposed.
Classes, a personal trainer, a plan, and a buddy to hold you accountable can optimize your chances of reaching your goal, Hill and Bremner said. “If you’re having trouble staying motivated, a personal trainer and/or fitness classes are an excellent way to stay committed and be more accountable,” Hill said.
Bremner, a personal trainer who works individually with clients, said sticking to a schedule is essential. “If you have a regular appointment with a trainer, whether it’s weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, that reinforces your commitment,” he said. “The maintenance of fitness is the hardest thing to do. But keeping that appointment is a reminder of what is important.”
Bremner said surrounding yourself with visual cues such as messages and magazines highlighting nutrition and fitness help reinforce motivation.
Both Hill and Bremner advise setting reasonable goals. “Don’t expect to lose all those pounds and inches in a few weeks,” Hill said. “Be realistic and set incremental goals. Pick activities you enjoy.”
Bremner agreed. “Not everyone wants to play a sport or do weight training. However, every fitness routine should include stretching and exercises for strength and balance.”
The key is to not get discouraged if you have a bad week, Hill said. “Don’t give up. Just straighten up and start again the next week if you don’t lose weight as fast as you want to. It just depends on the person. Someone who is really overweight and makes small changes can lose weight really fast. Someone who doesn’t have as much to lose will take longer – a good eight weeks. It’s not as fast as everybody wants it to be.”
Start small and keep it simple, Hill said. “By that, I mean make a plan to go to the gym to work out three times a week and keep it small. Just get into the habit of going.”
Estimates on length of time for an activity to become a habit vary – from 21 days to six weeks.
Hill said to concentrate on the positive benefits. “Exercise lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, decreases risk for metabolic disease and osteoporosis increases bone density, improves joint issues, lowers stress and contributes to overall well-being.”
Ultimately, all that’s needed for exercise, she said, are loose-fitting clothing, comfortable shoes and a positive attitude.