That motivational tidal wave moves so quickly, we often plunge into our usual resolutions without stopping to ask ourselves a very important question: What do I really want for myself this year? And not just this year, every year? The next question is just as important: How do I get it? Before setting the same old weight loss goals, make this the year you work for real, lasting change.
What Do You Really Want?
There's nothing wrong with having the goal to lose weight. Most of us could stand to lose a few pounds (or 10... or 20) and there's no doubt we would all look and feel better. The problem is, the motivation that drives us to lose weight, whether it's a new year or just a new season, inevitably fades once other things take priority. Suddenly, that intense urge to see the scale go down is replaced by real life -- Going to work, getting the kids to school, dealing with the cold you caught over the weekend, and so on.
The idea of losing weight is just that -- a lovely idea that lies somewhere in the future. You can do a workout today and you know that contributes to that future goal, but it's hard to think of what that workout is giving you right now. All you know is that you did it and your body still looks pretty much the same as before you did it.
There are some rather irritating truths about weight loss that are difficult to face:
- The weight loss process is slow - Usually slower than we expect and almost always slower than we want it to be. When our results don't measure up to all that hard work, that burst of motivation we felt on January 1 fades faster than a sneeze through a screen door.
- You can't make up for lost time - If you've spent the last 6 months in an exercise coma, coming back with 7 days of two-hour workouts is a recipe for soreness, burnout, injury and an intense dislike of exercise.
- You have to exercise more than you think - It's this third truth that is the most important. There's a certain amount of exercise you need to reach your goals and, for most of us, it's more than we think. Even more confusing is the fact that we each need a different amount of exercise based on a variety of factors -- Fitness level, age, gender, genetics, body type, body fat, weight, diet, lifestyle and planetary alignment, just to name a few.
These truths are hard to swallow but, once you understand them, it's easier to embrace the weight loss process with less guilt and frustration and more enjoyment as you focus on where you are in the process, not where you want to be or wish you were. Acknowledging these facts means understanding that:
- You have to be patient
- You have to take your time - Easing into exercise means setting aside the goal to lose weight fast and focusing more on giving your body, and mind, the time they need to get stronger.
- You have to experiment - If you haven't exercised in a long time (or ever), you aren't going to be perfect at it from day one. You may start a program only to realize it isn't working. Maybe the schedule isn't right, maybe the workouts aren't doing it for you, or maybe you're not even sure why they're not working. Allowing this time to experiment, assess your program and make changes can cut into your weight loss progress in the short term, but lead you to a solid program you can do for years to come in the long term.
- You have to find a way to keep going - Even when you're not losing weight or life gets busy. Even when you don't feel like it or you start doubting yourself. Whatever's going on in your mind, your life, your body, you have to find ways to keep exercising through it all.
New Goals - New Reality
Think of the questions posed at the beginning of this article: What do I really want for myself and how do I get it? Sometimes, knowing what you need to do to reach your goal can help you decide if that goal is really right for you.
With this in mind, I've created three 30-day sample exercise programs for different fitness and weight loss goals. These programs offer a snapshot of a typical exercise program over the course of 30 days. Take a look at each one and ask yourself, which one would work best for me?
- I Want to Be Healthy - This is a great place to start for beginners, people coming back from a long hiatus or anyone who wants to ease into exercise with a simple routine. See the 30-day sample exercise program for I Want to Be Healthy.
- I Want to Prevent Weight Gain - You may not think of preventing weight gain as a goal, but this is a good choice if you've struggled to keep up with the level of exercise needed to lose weight. It's a step up in intensity and frequency from the health program, so start there if you're a beginner. See the 30-day sample exercise program for I Want to Prevent Weight Gain.
- I Want to Lose Weight - This program requires the most time, intensity, energy and effort. You might want to start with the health program and work your way up if you're a beginner. See the 30-day sample exercise program for I Want to Lose Weight.
These programs are designed to work together, if you choose to do them that way. Each one builds on the previous one, allowing you to gradually build strength and endurance (not just in your body, but in your mind) so you're ready to move up to a more involved goal. Keep in mind, these are only sample programs and not all workouts or exercises will work for everyone. Feel free to modify the workouts, schedules or exercises to fit your needs.
Another important note is that these programs assume you're making no changes in your diet to create more of a calorie deficit. If you are eating less or are following a diet, you may need less exercise to reach your goals.
Making the Choice
This year, you have a choice. You can do what you've always done or you can do something different. Whether it's a new year or simply a new day, you always have this choice and, even better, you have the freedom to reevaluate your choices at any time. What works today may not work tomorrow. Recognizing that and responding to it with solutions, rather than kicking yourself over it, is the first step in creating lasting change.