New Year…..New Me?

Everyone has resolutions, right? I think it’s a requirement for a new year. To build a new improved you.

But, what if you don’t want a new you? I have worked hard over the last year to achieve my goals. I have goals for 2015.  They just build on the previous goals, I don’t have any actual resolutions.  I think perhaps that just makes me a lucky one. I know what I want to do and I just need to find the resolve to do it. Oh wait, that’s a resolution!

For those who are more in the  just getting started phase, I saw an interview* that had some good tips to get started and keep going. These are my takes on the steps:

#1: Make a Plan. Exercise, like everything else in our lives, doesn’t happen simply because we think about it. A week or more may go by after your make your resolution, and you have failed to actually follow through on that resolution. Deciding where you can fit exercise into your day is one of the most important points in following through on your plan.

I personally liked to exercise when I got home after work. But after my schedule changed, I couldn’t do that, plus pick up the house, plus make dinner, plus all the other myriad things we do. So I became a morning person. I didn’t like it, but now I am used to it (I am not sure I can say I like it, but I am getting very good at it). My dad would be proud: he complained most of my life about my lack of morning skills. I find it satisfying to get my exercise done early, it clears up the rest of the day. When I get home, drained, I feel good knowing that I won’t be skipping my exercise because I already did it.  You need to figure out what works best for you and put it in the calendar so you can’t avoid it.

Second part of the plan is gear. What do you need to accomplish the exercise? I always suggest trying something new that doesn’t need a lot of investment or the equipment can be rented easily. Why spend $150 on running shoes to find out you would really rather play tennis? If you don’t like the sport you won’t stick with it. This is meant to be fun, not torture. Even if it feels like it the first few times out.  My first running shoes cost $30, and my current only cost $65. Since you can run in just about any athletic clothes, it makes running a fairly inexpensive sport to try out.

Remember it’s not about the gear, it’s about the exercise. Getting dolled up in tennis shorts and shoes with an expensive racket and heading out to the club is great. Just don’t forget to play tennis long and hard while you are there.


#2: Track it. It’s hard to feel accomplished when you don’t know how you have improved. Conversely, you can feel accomplished if you don’t realize how little you are doing. I am sometimes surprised by how little I did when I look back at my week, although at the time I felt that I had a pretty good week going. I may have run five times, but if those runs were all “easy”, than I didn’t make any progress.

For anyone with a smart phone (which is pretty much everyone except my husband), there are a ton of free apps available. Nike, Endomondo,Fitness Buddy, Fitocracy, the possibilities are endless. And that is just the free ones. Then there are the bracelets that track everything from sleep to activity: Fitbit, iFit, Garmin Vivofit.

Of course, there is the good old pen and notebook method too.  When I started running, I counted how many telephone poles were in a half mile via the car (11 to 12, if you are curious). Then I just counted poles to track how far I had gone. While I admit my gps tracker is much easier,  my other method got the job done. I tracked my distance and times with an Excel sheet. More work, but just as effective.

Keeping it simple is sometimes the best way. Don’t get so bogged down in how cool your fitness tracker is and how many ways it shows what you do that it isn’t actually showing anything.  Again, not about the gear, just that you use it. Preparedness is great. But when you are prepared, get out there!

#3: Work up to It. Obviously one knows not to decide to run one day and run a marathon the next. But one also doesn’t decide to run and then run 5 miles the next day either. Unless you are in really good shape from whatever other exercising you may have been doing. Even then, different sports use different muscles and you might still regret it the following day.

When I got my first running injury, I thought “Whoohoo, I’m a real runner now!”. Fortunately, it didn’t take long to heal. And it wasn’t serious.  But overdoing can cause a multitude of problems–serious and otherwise. Not the least of which means that you will be discouraged and not able to go back out there any time soon.

#4: Keep it going. Cross training is an excellent way to increase your ability and prevent injuries. It is also is  fantastic way to avoid boredom. Doing the same exercise or sport five or six times a week is a great way to burn out. We are back to “make it fun” here. I rotate through yoga, kickboxing and sometimes even Wii to keep me from getting bored.  Try two or more rounds of tennis, boxing then bowling (switching hands in between rounds) if you don’t think Wii can be a good workout. Lunges and weights strengthen my legs and core to prevent injury when I am out running. When I don’t feel like getting out there to run or yoga doesn’t appeal, then I know it is time to do something else for a week or so.

Everyone has different goals: getting in shape, losing weight, running a marathon, having fun are all good reasons to tie on a pair of sneakers. The hard part is to continue putting on those sneakers. Find something you like, and it will be a lot easier.

* interview was on NBC Portland Me Channel 6 with owner of Back in Motion Physical Therapy, Gorham Me

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