Never mind resolutions; for 2016, strengthen your resolve instead


Resolutions are a tradition, and traditions can be a good thing. They form habits, of sort, and not all habits are bad.

But breaking our resolutions seems to be as much part of that tradition as making the resolutions.

You see, the problem is that a list of resolutions is just a wish list.

Without a formal plan of realistic actions, without concrete steps towards the goals, and with a list of dreams (“if only I could do this, I would be wonderful…”) that is often so long that it is daunting just figuring where to start, resolutions are actually a recipe for failure.

Make that a prediction of failure.

Take my list of resolutions for last year (2015), for instance. (It wasn’t very long, but it was still too long.)

On that list, there was an item that read “learn to juggle three balls.” Not four, not five; just three. Seemed reasonable enough.

So I started following the method to learn. Way back in January.

Then life took over (and all the other things on the list of objectives for the year, including major moves, trying to stay in shape, writing this blog mostly regularly, etc.). And now, in January 2016, I’m nowhere near being able to juggle.

No big deal, really, because I’m already juggling a lot of other things in my life. But it illustrates the point (and it is not the only objective on the list that did not get done, of course).

So what I am saying we should do about it?

Don’t wish, just do

Don’t make wish lists. Don’t indulge in wishful thinking. Don’t just dream what you would like to improve this year.

Get moving.

Strengthen your body.

Through better physical fitness you’ll be better equipped to cope with what life throws at you. And you’ll feel better. (Heck, you might even get to look better, though that should not be your first goal.)

Don’t just put “joining a zumba class” item on your list. Don’t write the vague (and tired) “exercise more” wishful thinking slogan.

Move. Every. Single. Day.

Just put the one item you need, the one that will take on many shapes and (better) forms over the year: Move today. (Or “Move today!” if you prefer; sometimes the exclamation mark helps.)

And repeat.

As opposed to resolutions, that you write down once and generally never read again for 12 months, a resolve is something you have on a daily basis.

So strengthen your resolve today. And tomorrow. And the day after that…

That one item is enough. You’ll find that, once you have been “moving today” for a while, you’ll have the energy to do more, and you’ll even find you have time to do more.

Your resolve to do more will be strengthened, and more things that you would normally have put on your list of resolutions will be within reach.

I’ve given you plenty of ideas already, and I’ll continue to do so this year (albeit at a resolutely slower pace). So no excuses. Start moving more today.

And a Happy New Orbit to you!

Pictures from Pixabay

Aim to be an Everyday Athlete

The timing for this blog could hardly be better, what with the Olympic Games in full swing…

For a while now, I had been meaning to write about a principle I firmly believe in:

We should all aim to be athletes.

But a particular kind of athlete: an Everyday Athlete!

This idea is an important part of why I created No-brainer Fitness, and why I started blogging about fitness. Simply put: every single one of us has the potential to be very active everyday. This is biological fact, due to our animal nature. We’ve just forgotten it.

To be sure, most of us cannot hope to achieve the levels of performance of the men and women currently competing in Sochi. Or of top Ironman finishers and elite marathoners. Or to become as muscular as Arnie in his prime.

Yet despite radically different amounts of training and undeniable differences in base talent and potential between, say, an Olympian and the next person you meet on the street, in fact we all have tremendous potential for physical activity. The differences are big enough to justify having only a small minority of “athletes” and a large population of “spectators”.

If all of us were more active, we would surely uncover a lot more exceptional athletes, and thus have even more exciting sporting events. But that’s not the intention. Instead, we should all be more active in general, seek more opportunities to move (walk, run, bike, swim, push stuff, pull stuff, lift stuff, throw stuff, you get the idea, just be careful where or at whom you throw stuff…); basically, spend less time watching, and more time doing.

I have seen enough couch potatoes become runners and triathletes already in my short career as a running and triathlon coach to confirm this to be the truth. I already felt it in my bones; I am now completely, positively, absolutely certain of it.

As evidence, I offer the immense popularity of running races, cycling events, and triathlons. Participation in marathons has never been more popular, and it has become a sport in its own right to register for most Ironman races because of the demand (many races sell out in an hour, a year before the actual race is scheduled to take place).

Some of the runners at the 2013 ING New York Marathon

Some of the runners at the 2013 ING New York Marathon

Don’t for a moment imagine that all those runners and triathletes are elite competitors. The vast majority of those participants are NOT trying to win. They are doing it for themselves. More and more people are realizing that “competing” in such events is really more about improving their own fitness level, being more healthy, and going beyond their perceived limits. (Also, you get cool t-shirts and finishers’ medals, but I digress.)

Yet their achievements are showing the way forward, and are worthy of praise. At those races, typically, there are no prouder finishers than those who finish last, because they have typically come a really long way to get there.

I am not saying everyone should run marathons. By all means, run if you like to run! More importantly, and to the point: do what activities you enjoy, frequently.  In general, use your body as much as possible every day. Because that’s what your body needs, and deserves.

An Everyday Athlete is a person who thinks of his or her body as the body of an athlete, and gives it what an athlete’s body needs: a lot of physical activity, good food, good rest, repeated every day…

So aim higher, faster, longer, because ’tis the season for it, and instead of watching the games, aim to be an Everyday Athlete.

Photo by Sacha Veillette (taken at the 2013 ING New York Marathon)

What is “fitness”? (Part 3)

If you’ve read parts 1 and 2, your patience will now be rewarded.

(If you haven’t read the previous posts, well, too bad, but before judging this one, perhaps you should read the others.)

In the first two posts of this series, I covered some definitions of fitness that I feel should be rejected as inadequate for today’s reality.

We remain animals, but the measures of fitness that come from biology are probably not the best we can use given all that we’ve done to ease our lives, mostly by changing our immediate environment and the conditions of our lives.

Training too hard, which I feel is in compensation for feeling like something is wrong with our current lifestyle, is fraught with perils. It may work for a small portion of the population, but not for the majority. Also, all too often it focuses on the visual aspect of our bodies, which in itself is a bad idea. Those forms of obsessions are damaging to our health.

So my key point, the conclusion I’m proposing, is that we need a new definition of fitness. One that makes sense today, and for everyone. Let me give it to you without further ado:

Fitness = Sustainable Activity

Think of it this way: Fitness should be about our ability to go about our regular activities without undue difficulties. It should be about being able to handle the variable demands placed on us by life. It should also be about being able to do so for a good long time. You know, as in living a healthy, active life, well into Old Age.

In essence, we need to do enough physical activity, train ourselves through movement, to enable our bodies to be healthy without negative consequences. If our occasional exercise regimen causes us to have problems functioning through the rest of our daily activities, we are not really being fit: We’re being extreme once again.

It is a fine balance, but one that is well worth seeking. And one that requires constant vigilance, not just the occasional bout of intense training and/or dieting as compensatory measures for too much time spent watching TV and eating nachos…

It has been repeatedly demonstrated that physical activity is the key to health, both physical and mental. This is a topic we will explore at length in No-brainer Fitness. For now, please accept it as a factual premise.

Incidentally, the sustainable level of activity that is fitness is highly individual. Some can, and will, do more than others. You like running marathons, and are doing so in such a way as to remain healthy, then by all means, go ahead! In fact, and I’ll come back to that in other posts, you’d be surprised at what each and everyone of us is capable of.

Some, therefore, will be very active; others, less so, yet much more than they currently are. Some will lose a lot of weight, over time, while others may lose less. What matters most is to seek one’s own balance, without falling into the trap of obsession and extremes.

In fact, the only obsession that makes sense, is that of seeking balance.

How do we get there? How do we build this fitness we’ve just defined? That will be the subject of my next post, and probably many more after that, outside of this series, which is now at an end…