HEALTH + FITNESS

In the hope that we won’t be having this conversation come this time next year, some easy-to-follow advice on how to make those New Year’s Resolutions stick.

By Todd Soura

With all due respect to your desire to improve yourself, a resolution’s only as good as your commitment to it. So my aim here is for us to avoid having this conversation come this time next year. I want to channel all of your enthusiasm toward making this not only a worthwhile experience, but an enjoyable one. After all, if leading a healthier, fitter life doesn’t hook you on some deep personal level, you’re just going through the motions, and we both know where that’ll lead.

Be the tortoise
Whether you’re coming off a long layoff or you’re starting from scratch, begin slowly and you’ll greatly enhance the likelihood that you’ll remain consistent. And consistency is the most important thing here. I know everything you’ve churned up online over the last couple of weeks has harped on intensity—and that is a close runner-up—but until you get your legs beneath you, it’s better to imagine yourself as the tortoise rather than the hare.

A big part of that is being realistic in your initial expectations. Don’t plan to workout six days a week when you hardly know what once or twice feels like. Two to three sessions a week is a safe place to start. And try to schedule them for a time you know you’ll always be available, even if it means getting up a half-hour earlier. When the enthusiasm starts to wane, and it will, the last thing you’ll want is built-in excuses, which is pretty much all of life.

Suffer with pride
Look, this is never going to be easy. And if it is, you’re not doing it right. If you’re expecting to reach a place a month from now where you’ll be able to run for miles and miles and do 100 burpees consecutively without breathing all that hard, you better check yourself before you wreck yourself.

Exercise is hard even for the fittest among us, and that would be pro athletes and Olympians. When it stops being hard, they set a new set of goals and adjust their training regimens accordingly. For the rest of us, exercise is the most unpleasant hour of our days. But, on the flipside, you’ll feel like you can get through anything else the day throws at you once you’re done. So put in the work, breathe hard, sweat profusely and suffer with pride, because you’re going to come out of that hole and meet a far sunnier day.

Subtract by addition
As far as your diet goes, I’m sure you’re already well aware of the ultimate goal: to delete as many of the bad foods on a daily basis as you can manage. Which is probably why you’ve avoided doing so until now. In drawing such a line in the sand, we tend to color our foods in extremes. What isn’t healthy is going to kill us. And that, of course, gives a really sour flavor to all the good stuff and a sweet one to everything we’re forsaking. In other words, we’re setting ourselves up to fail.

Instead, don’t be so intentional in revising your diet. Yes, of course, you’ll want to pass on that bagel smothered in half a pound of cream cheese at breakfast. But you’re only going to end up romanticizing it if you sit down tomorrow morning to a bowl of oatmeal. So try this instead: Make yourself the oatmeal, along with a hard-boiled egg and the bagel. Eat the oatmeal and the egg first and, if you still have room, eat the bagel, too. Give it some time. The better you feel and the more you see the connection between what you eat and how you move through your day, including your performance during your workouts, the less you’ll want the bagel. And when the day comes that you finally eliminate it altogether, you won’t even miss it.

The overriding theme here is patience. Be persistent in your workouts, your recovery and your nutrition, but give yourself a wide berth. Start slowly, accept the missteps with the progress and focus on what’s in front of you. That’s all you can control anyway.

Todd Soura is the owner of the Doylestown-based Action Personal Training.


Walk (Run, Preferably) This Way

A template for your first two months. —TS

Weeks 1 and 2
Workout: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
Exercise: 20 minutes of resistance (weight) training and 10 minutes of interval (cardio) training
Intensity: 2 out of 5 (1 = a casual, easy-to-maintain pace; 5 = an all-out effort that you can hold only for short bursts at a time.)

Weeks 3 and 4
Workout: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
Exercise: 30 minutes of resistance training and 15 minutes of intervals
Intensity: 3 out of 5

Weeks 5 and 6
Workout: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
Exercise: 30 minutes of resistance training and 20 minutes of intervals
Intensity: 4 out of 5

Weeks 7 and 8
Workout: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
Exercise: 30 to 40 minutes of resistance training and 10 minutes of intervals
Intensity: 5 out of 5