New Year, New You.
January is the month we hear this annually – the opportunity to start fresh, conquer resolutions to get fit, and commit to a new schedule. Yet so many die hard gym goers drop that post-holiday fire by February. How can you create a workout routine you can stick to all year long?
The idea of intensity is tricky. The New York Times recently wrote about the fitness trend of comparing heart rates and calories burned with other people in a workout class. Describing a new indoor cycling studio, the article writes, “The program stresses that your best effort is good enough, but competition, or rather the terror of winding up with the lowest scores in the class, keeps you breathlessly pushing forward.”
Keeping track of your own statistics can be helpful to monitor your progress over time and motivate you to reach new goals. But competing with people next to you, who have entirely different bodies and levels of fitness? That can be punishing.
When planning your physical objectives for the new year, it’s important to set reasonable and attainable goals. As you accomplish them, you can add more rather than falling into a rut of dreaming too big without taking the steps to get there. If Pilates is part of your routine, consider trying to master one new exercise or adding more seconds to your plank each week to up the intensity. For runners, add distance gradually. Strength training repetitions can increase slowly.
Classes mentioned in this Washington Post article try to attract new year’s workout fanatics with “intimidating” descriptions like “yoga on steroids.” The article says, “It’s all part of the allure, leading people to pay willingly and dearly to exercise until their legs are on fire and their abs are screaming.”
This attitude of wearing out the body can lead to disaster. Burnout, mentally and physically, and injury are the two most common reasons to drop a new fitness regime. Especially if you are going from zero to 60, jumping into these heavy workouts after months of only sitting at a desk, your risk of injury is huge. This Chicago Tribune article recommends more ways to prevent burnout.
A balanced routine includes a proper warm up (ie. not running into a class 10 minutes late from work and starting with the hard stuff) and cool down (adequate stretching, particularly after an intense cycling or weight training class). The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 150 minutes of cardio per week to be most effective. Pilates can help lengthen and tone muscles after cardio. A day of rest for your muscles to fully recover must be included.
Our two cents worth:
Forgive the platitudes, but here are (appropriately) two.
1) Rome was not built in a day
2) It's a marathon, not a sprint
Let's tackle the first:
1) Rome was not built in a day!
Just think about a building being built: do the builders start with the fancy windows or do they start with the foundations? In this scenario, we intuitively know that it would make no sense to try to install fancy windows before creating a strong foundation. But our bodies are not all that different ..... Applying the same logic, we should not focus on the vanity muscles (sometimes called mirror muscles) before we focus on the core musculature and structure for a strong frame. But, building a strong frame takes TIME, but it is a necessary basis for the rest of the building (in this case, your body!)
2) It's a marathon, not a sprint! Many people at the beginning of the new year rush out of the proverbial gate as if the fruits of their labors will be reaped by the end of January. However, deep down inside we ALL know that this is not the case! Any goal for better fitness on any level should be approached like a marathon and NOT a sprint.... In other words, don't max yourself out in the first leg of the race -- you'll have no juice left to continue. Budget your time and energy wisely so that you can create a program that you can sustain for the whole marathon.
And finally, FIND SOMETHING YOU LOVE LOVE LOVE to do! Movement should be joyous. It should make you happy. It should make you feel ALIVE. It should make you smile.
Make 2016 the year you stick to a healthy and CONSISTENT fitness routine so you can continue moving for years to come.
If you have time, take a look at THE DESPERATE PERSON'S GUIDE TO GETTING AND STAYING FREE FROM BURNOUT.