MISHAWAKA — You have seen it—the gym parking lot packed to maximum all day for the two to three weeks following the New Year festivities. Then, all of a sudden, the gym is back to being a ghost town. Why does this happen? Perhaps you may be one of those “resolutioners” who put in their best effort for a few weeks, then begin to realize it is not sustainable for you. Thoughts in your head quickly turn to: “I don’t have time to get in shape,” or “People who do this must have no life,” and even “They’re just genetically gifted.”
Those are common and completely understandable thoughts. Yet, they are extremely damaging and not completely true. Yet there is some truth in the thoughts that some of those people have no lives. Some dedicated student athletes, fitness icons, and even people for whom fitness is a hobby do spend a majority of their time dedicating how they eat, sleep, and exercise to the goal of being in the best shape they possibly can. Some others actually are genetically gifted to carry less fat or to have slightly higher muscle mass than average. However, if that is not you, then quit comparing yourself to those people.
To prevent yourself from becoming a resolutioner, you must change your thinking about fitness and how to achieve it. Here are two ways to keep yourself from burning out while trying to better yourself this year.
First, do not expect a fast change. The human body is designed to remain in something known as “homeostasis.” This means that the body wants the internal environment to remain as constant as possible. If you have been in your current physical shape for a while, odds are that your body is currently programed to stay there. But there is hope! The human body is amazing at adapting to change, but you have to trick it. Change things too fast, and your body will fight back and try to remain in that previous state. However, if you find that place where each day you push yourself just a little further, your body will adapt and change to meet the new demands. It will not always be fun, and some days it will even seem like you are going backwards; but remain consistent and results will show.
Second, start small. This is perhaps the biggest reason so many people struggle come New Year’s Day. They want to change their lives for the better, so they think “Go big or go home!” Inevitably, they go home. They never counted on the fact that spending hundreds of dollars on expensive supplements (many of which don’t really work), totally changing their diet, and spending hours every day in the gym or on the treadmill would be hard to sustain long term. It might seem silly, but at first, don’t do any of that. Do not totally change anything. Start small and continue forward each day. Set small, achievable goals for yourself and have friends and family hold you accountable to those goals. Instead of tossing out your whole refrigerator, cut out French fries and add rice to start. Then the next week make another change! Instead of going to the gym every day for two hours, go two or three times a week for 45 minutes. Then add a little more the next week if you want to. Instead of buying expensive supplements, focus on getting good sleep and drinking plenty of water. Getting in shape requires small changes each day and week to keep yourself moving forward. Do not fall into the trap of diet pills and highly restrictive diets as they often do more harm than good.
Lastly, do not hold yourself to anyone else’s standards. You are not them, so do not try to be them. If you want to improve yourself, use you the day, the week, the month before as your standard. What do you want to do? Gain a bit of muscle? Lose a bit of fat? Be able to run 5k with your friends? Go on that spring break trip and feel confident in yourself? Find your reason and stick to it.
The wonderful thing about being on this journey is that you are never in it alone. There are millions of people around the world who are trying to better themselves as well. Along the way, you might just discover some new foods you really like, new activities that you want to keep doing, new places you’ve never been, and new things about yourself that you never would have realized otherwise. Bettering yourself is not about feeling bad now, it is about improving yourself so you can grow into the person you want to be later.