The holiday season is just around the corner. And then it will be a New Year.
So many of us take the New Year as a signal to start an exercise program it has become a cliché. A tired one at that.
Part of the reason we want to start an exercise program in the new year, of course, is the abusive regimen we put our bodies through during the festive season. Another part of it is the logical attractiveness of a new calendar, with all the associated renewal and new beginning.
But those are illusions, and contribute to the very high rate of failure of those very same resolutions.
Simply put, if you really mean it, there is no point in waiting for January 1st. Why wait? The best time to start a new set of good habits that will lead you to better fitness is today.
As an additional bonus for starting today, having the “excuse” of being on a new tract towards better fitness is an excellent way to limit the damage of over-indulging during the holidays. And it also an excellent conversation topic, and may spread much more joy around by being more reasonable (and limit the spread of mid sections in your entire family).
“But, wait, in order to start now, don’t I need to join a gym, or buy expensive equipment?” I imagine some of you asking.
No. Not really. Not at all, as I’m about to show.
(Though asking for a few useful pieces of equipment as Christmas gifts can also be a very good idea, by the way.)
Here’s the recipe I’ve come up with, based on all my reading and experience, to get you going immediately and have a much more healthy holiday experience and a head start on your fitness for years to come:
1) Start using your body more to move around
You don’t need any special equipment. Just look for opportunities to walk more, take stairs more, not sit as long as you normally do. Every time you move, you score a small victory: make it a game and keep score. As you graduate through the levels of moving around, you might want to reward yourself with a pedometer (to keep a more accurate count) or a FitBit, or just start using your smartphone for much better purposes than reading Facebook updates… After 3-4 weeks on this stage, with new habits in place, move on to the next phase.
2) Start re-building your muscle mass
Yeah, this is the not-as-much-fun part, I must admit, at least at first. But it is oh so important. What is often neglected when talking about reduced metabolism as we age is the fact that we lose muscle mass, and that it is muscle mass that burns the most calories. The best use you can make of a few minutes in the morning is to do some simple exercises like squats, push-ups, sit-ups, etc. Look into the 7-minute Workout and adopt it on a daily basis. Then reward yourself, perhaps with a set of shiny weights or kettle bells, or a very nice dinner out. After this becomes a habit, 3-4 weeks of focused effort, move on to the next phase.
3) Put a sport in your schedule
Play is the best way to spend energy without noticing. And it is fun. If you’ve ever played a sport competitively, or just for fun, when you were younger, pick it up again. If you never did, then become a “big kid” and pick one up. Not competition, just playing. You’ll soon come to realize that it is better to do something than to watch it on TV. Do it with your spouse, with your kids even; a family that plays together, spends quality time together. A brand new badminton racket, or new court shoes, make very nice rewards for being more active. Again, take a good 3-4 weeks to make this a new habit before moving on to the next one, and keep room in your schedule for this from now on.
4) Sign-up for a walking, running, or cycling event
By this point it will be spring time, or very close to it. There are many running shops and fundraising programs that offer training for various local events to be held during the summer; in those events you can walk or run, or bike through various distances. These are great ways to get with a group of people working towards a fitness goal, even as you all work together to help others. And you can do this at your own pace, quite often with coaches that are eager to help you at no charge. The event t-shirt and/or finisher medal make rewards enough for your achievements, though I know a lot of people who conclude such event with a bottle of bubbly… I don’t even need to tell you to do this again each year, or multiple time per year, because once you try it, you’ll adopt it.
You notice a pattern of “effort and reward” emerging? Nowhere am I suggesting you need to spend first, and then exercise: That’s often why people feel particularly bad about failing in their resolutions.
What I’m hinting at is that you can start doing the right thing, right now, with a future reward in mind. When you get to the reward, you can set the next goal. It comes from within yourself, not from feeling bad about having spent money.
Also, note how I’ve not told you to join a gym. You don’t need to. But it could come later, if you feel like it. However, getting fitter right now begins at home and in your daily activities. Again, with minimal expenditure.
One final note about the coming holidays
It is part of the recipe in general, but not a specific step in the program, or it would be “step 0”: Consult the list of NOT FOOD items and make a conscious effort to remove them from your habits.
Do this gradually, not all at once, but do it. Just removing liquid sugars (pops, fruit juices, etc.) makes a HUGE difference. With each step (1-4) outlined above, pick a NOT FOOD item you want to work on reducing and eventually eliminating from your life. Your body will thank you for it by getting fitter faster, and, incidentally, getting leaner in the process.
So, instead of indulging and feeling bad this holiday season, spread the cheers and the word about getting fit. Get a head start on the holidays by starting today.
There’s nothing stopping you from having the best holiday season ever.
Pictures from Pixabay.