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The party’s over, 2016 is here, and it is time to begin the long and treacherous journey toward the first days of shorts season. Most Americans, on some level or another, are arduously planning the coming year’s hopes and aspirations. Some lean toward the financial side, some teeter toward generalities like “be happier,” and some are just downright unrealistic. However, if you happen to fall within the 60-70% of those who made some fitness/health related goals for 2016, odds are you are entering relatively unfamiliar territory. I only assume this because: If achieving high levels of health and fitness is already a familiar habit, you likely aren’t adding that to your list of “Things to do in 2016.” That said, just as with any other way of life, fitness and health must become a daily habit and manner of thought. You know that, though, don’t you? You’ve heard for the last 20 years that a healthy lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight and that you need to make a habit to break a habit. Why, then, do 50% of people drop out of an exercise program after the first 6 months? There are thousands of reasons that an individual might fail at his/her health aspirations, but they generally fall within three distinct categories: physical, psychological, and environmental factors. The same factors influence every goal we set in life. There may be a bit of overlap within each category, but I’ll try to outfit each factor with the most applicable examples.

  1. Physical

“Gym-timidation” is a growing term lately. While it is a real phenomenon, letting this excuse keep you from achieving your goals is unacceptable. You should always feel proud while (working hard) at the gym, regardless of your fitness level, because you gotta start somewhere. Everybody has that “first workout.” However, the physical limitations of each person are vastly different, even if not obviously so at first glance. This is why it is always vital to consult with a doctor or healthcare professional before you start an exercise program, especially if you have any uncertainties. The professionals within our office are always open to questions, so please feel free to drop by to pick our brains! You should always feel comfortable and confident with your physician/trainer/professional and the information they are relaying. Always ask why. If they can’t explain it logically and simply, maybe there’s no good reason for the advice. For example, if your personal trainer doesn’t evaluate your fitness level, flexibility, and movement quality, how could they possibly know what the best plan of action is? Again, every individual has their own set of strengths and limitations, so any programs that are “cookie cutter” will never benefit you as much as a preplanned, predetermined set of goals and outcomes desired by the client or patient. You should always feel confident that you can achieve your goals, and much of that lies within the trainer’s responsibility of encouragement and feedback. However, we also tend to stick to what we want to do, as opposed to what we should do. Part of overcoming any obstacle is being placed outside of your comfort zone enough that you realize “Hey! I really can do this!” So to summarize, every program should be tailored to exactly what you need based on your goals, strengths, and weaknesses, and part of that program will require you to go above and beyond what your thought you could do previously. That last part is what keeps you driven to achieve more an more.

  1. Psychological

It’s all in your head! Execution of any task is primarily influenced by your mindset. Not only the completion, but also the quality of work is extremely influenced by your quality of thought and focus. Obtaining and then maintaining a healthy lifestyle is no different than venturing out to create any other good habit; it takes motivation to get you started, but only habit will maintain your choices. Researchers in the field of Psychology have spent years and years analyzing effective methods of creating and/or eliminating habits. I’m no psychiatrist, but my background in Psychology has instilled at least one simple truth about the subject: set goals and receive feedback. Studies have shown that combining a long term (3+ months) goal with several short term (1-2 weeks or less) goals will afford you the best opportunity to reach your ultimate goal. This allows you to have immediate feedback every so often in order to keep you motivated toward achieving your long term goal. If you set a goal of losing 20 lbs this year and don’t weigh yourself every day, how can you be sure how much progress you’re making, if any? Make sure you write your goals down and keep them in a highly visible spot so you can have a constant reminder of what you’re supposed to be doing. So if you’re wanting to be more fit, sign up for a fun run or obstacle race and make sure to pay ahead of time. Nothing will motivate you like the thought of wasting that entry fee!

There are a number of other psychological influences on habit forming, however I will oversimplify them into a general category of “insecurity.” One of the most common resistances to starting an exercise program is the feeling of being “unathletic” or feeling too embarrassed about your current health status to go to a gym. Luckily, with the explosion of the internet you have virtually unlimited resources at our fingertips every time you log online. With a critical eye, you can sift through the bad advice and find the quality information from reputable sources. My last post touched on some tips as to how to do this, and can be found by clicking here. My best advice, however, is simply to evaluate the source/organization for reputation.

  1. Environmental

This category only contains factors that are out of your control. This includes the weather, gym location/affordability, and many others, but above all else is time. Between working 8-10 hours, sleeping 6-8 hours, eating for another 2-3 hours, plus a couple more for grooming, travel, etc., when do you even have time to yourself? I understand the feeling that you have no access to equipment or information, even though there are plenty of ways around that. However, I will never accept an excuse about a lack of time. Some of the hardest working, most successful CEOs and businessmen, and even our president, not only make time for staying fit and healthy, but attribute their success and energy level to their fitness regimen. Now you may be thinking, “Yeah, but they have unlimited resources and personnel at their disposal. I’m on a fixed income!” Excellent observation, but exercise is the one thing in life (besides time) that can be absolutely free. Regardless of what you may hear, neither a gym membership nor all the fancy equipment in the world will substitute consistent hard work. You already have the resistance built in with your own bodyweight. Below I’ve listed a few quality resources from respected sources you can use to get the ball rolling on bodyweight exercises:

From the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM):

http://www.nasm.org/the-training-edge-magazine/issues/jan-feb-2015/body-weight-training

From the American Council on Exercise (ACE):

https://www.acefitness.org/acefit/healthy-living-article/60/5309/the-no-equipment-needed-workout/

and finally, from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA):

https://www.nsca.com/Education/Articles/The-Often-Forgotten-Exercises-Isometric-Training/

 

While researching for this article, I found a wonderful quote from John F. Kennedy about fitness: “Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.” From this perspective, it’s not the exercise that is taking time away from your creativity and intelligence, rather your lack of optimal wellness that is becoming detrimental to your ability to maintain a quality level of focus every day.

Using some simple goal-setting strategies and helpful hints, you can easily overcome these factors and quickly be on your way to a more holistic and fruitful existence! We all hope the New Year treats you well. Thanks for stopping by, and come back soon.