Live Right Live Well: Rejuvenation
Keeping New Year’s Resolutions All Year Long
By Mary Jane Horton for Live Right Live Well
Last January, you resolved to get your weight under control, starting with a new fitness regimen. You started the year off with a bang. Then life happened, and you haven’t worked out in weeks. Sound familiar? The truth is, only about 40 percent of people are successful at changing ingrained habits on the first attempt, according to G. Alan Marlatt, Ph.D., who, as director of the Addictive Behaviors Research Center at the University of Washington, has studied resolutions for more than 20 years and specializes in helping people alter their daily routine.
The secret to successfully keeping your resolutions? Try and try again, says Marlatt. This is especially true when it comes to improving your health. So if your New Year's resolution to exercise has fallen flat, consider the following:
Try something different When you fall off the fitness wagon, three simple words do the trick: "Mix it up," says Michael George, a Hollywood trainer who has worked with starlets Reese Witherspoon, Julianne Moore and Meg Ryan, among others. Nothing beats the excitement of starting something new. So if you can't drum up enthusiasm for your usual workout, "go back to the drawing board," says George. "Set new goals, change your music, do different activities, go to a different gym, take it outside."
Add a new resolution Let's face it. Change can be difficult. And while it may seem that making two changes would be twice as hard, that's actually not the case. Marlatt has found that having a second resolution helps by taking the intense focus off the first. So if you're having trouble staying committed to exercise, try adding a second commitment, like eating more healthfully. That way you'll have something else to cogitate on and exercise won't loom so large in your mind.
Hire a personal trainer, even if it's just for a few sessions, or ask a reliable friend to be your workout partner, suggests Melissa O'Brien, a certified life coach in Thousand Oaks, Calif. It's harder to blow off a workout when someone's counting on you and doubly difficult if you're paying them!
Don't torture yourself All of the experts agree that you should do activities that you like. If a gym isn't for you, try a Tai Chi or pilates class. Keep trying until you find something you enjoy enough to do regularly.
Make appointments with yourself Rather than squeezing in a workout whenever you're free (who has free time?), set aside an hour specifically for exercise by marking it on your calendar or putting it in your to-do list or entering it into your BlackBerry, advises O'Brien.
Time it right If you're a morning person, lay out your gym clothes the night before so there's nothing to stop you from working out as soon as you wake up, suggests O'Brien. Not a morning person? Don't try to drag yourself out of bed an hour early to go to the gym. Instead, take a yoga class on your way home from work or go for an after-dinner power walk.
Put it in writing Post your daily goals someplace you can see them, like the bathroom mirror or refrigerator, says O'Brien. Add a power slogan like “No more heartburn” or "Remember swimsuit season" to keep yourself motivated.
Avoid the blame game Berating yourself for lack of willpower “just leads to a negative emotional state, which doesn't help,” says Marlatt. “If you can't do an hour workout, take a 20-minute walk. It's a continuum. You can say, I didn't do that, but I did do this!”’ Focusing on your successes will help keep your New Year's resolution going strong all year long.
Mary Jane Horton, contributing writer at Live Right Live Well, has written for Shape, Prevention, Living Fit and Vegetarian Times. A former editor at Fit Pregnancy and Living Fit magazines, she is now editor in chief of Plum, a lifestyle magazine for pregnant women over 35.
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