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Have You Given up on Your New Year's Resolutions?

Learn how to get back on track


Updated January 19, 2012

Walking into the gym recently, I noticed something odd. There were no lines for the treadmills, no crowds milling about, waiting for the leg press machine and, best of all, there was an honest-to-goodness parking space that wasn't several country miles away. That can only mean one thing--Our New Year's Resolutions are toast.

If your enthusiasm is waning, find comfort in the fact that it's very common for our resolutions to lose their luster a few weeks or months into the new year. The question is, why? You may think it's because there's something wrong with you, that you don't have the willpower to stick with it. But, take heart...your failure may be just what you need to reach your goal.

The Thrill is Gone

Resolutions sound so good when you make them, but the reality of reaching those goals is often a far cry from what you imagine.

One reason we fail is because we make resolutions during the holidays, a time of stress, overindulgence and guilt. In How to Make New Year's Resolutions Stick, author Pauline Wallin states:

"During the month of December people tend to overindulge...we promise ourselves that after the holiday season is over, we will definitely take control...we feel confident about our New Year's resolutions because we have not yet confronted any prolonged physical deprivation or discomfort."

Not only do we make resolutions out of guilt, there are other obstacles that frustrate us such as:

  • Lack of results. Not losing weight fast enough? Maybe your weight loss timeline is off-base. There are many factors involved in your body's response to exercise, some of which you can't control: Gender, age, goals, intensity of workouts, diet, genetics, sleep, stress and more. It also depends on how you're measuring progress. A scale can't tell you what you're losing or gaining and it could take weeks or months to see significant changes, even as those changes are happening in tiny increments every day that you make healthy choices. Many people give up before they see these results, thinking they're doing something wrong.
  • Lack of planning. Making permanent changes in life requires planning. Going from a sedentary lifestyle to an active one involves much more than scheduling a few gym workouts...the rest of your life may have to change to support your goals. Another problem is hitting the gym without a clear idea of what to do. Learning how to plan for your workouts can make the process easier.
  • Setting unrealistic goals. Your goals should be realistic, meaning they are: Specific, measurable, achievable, reasonable and trackable. If the goal you set doesn't fit all of those criteria, keeping working on it until it does. Many exercisers set goals to look like celebrities or fit into clothes they wore 30 years ago, but is this reasonable? Stick with goals that work for your body, your lifestyle and what you're really willing and able to do with your exercise time.
  • Reality sets in. It's fun to imagine yourself exercising, but actually doing it is a whole other matter, isn't it? The first time you break into a run may leave you gasping. Hefting a set of dumbbells for the first time may feel as foreign to you as sprouting wings and flying. It takes time to build strength, power and endurance and allowing your body the time it needs to get used to it is essential for permanent change. That means starting slowly and adding small challenges each week to progress.
  • Too much too soon. Going from sitting in a chair all day to 5 days at the gym is a big change, perhaps too much of a change. Your body needs time to get used to exercise and your mind does too. When you do too much, you'll experience soreness, fatigue, burnout and, possibly, an injury. Ease into exercise to give yourself time to settle into your new lifestyle and avoid pain and injury.

Next: What to do when the going gets tough

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