When it comes to New Year’s Resolutions all I have to say is “Bah, humbug,” especially when such empty promises are diet and exercise related.

I have no patience for New Year’s Resolutions, and have a particularly low tolerance for any of these fitness-related empty promises.  Making plans for the future is a great idea.  Set goals for yourself, but keep them to yourself.  And certainly don’t arbitrarily pick January as the starting point to do anything, except maybe watch college hoops or shovel snow.

When it comes to people who want to get themselves into shape, eat better, start strength training, hire a personal trainer or whatever else, the more people talk about it, the less action they actually take.  There’s an inverse relationship between talking and doing.

The old adage, “Actions speaks louder than words,” really is true.  When people talk about what they’re going to do and what their resolutions are it’s like they are trying to convince themselves that they are going to do something.   That somehow by telling others they will gain the strength or whatever they lack, to actually follow through. IMHO, NYRs just set people up for failure and disappointment. Kind of like diets.

Gyms love the “New Year’s Resolutioners” as they are the folks who sign up for the yearly memberships only to stop showing up after a month or two.  This is a great way for gyms to increase business without really increasing the demands on the business.  Sure, the gyms are packed for the first few weeks of January and maybe into February, but before long people stop coming in, even though the membership dues continue to flow.

One of the major problems with these resolutions is their grandiose nature.  People pledge to change their diets, to start strength training, to stop drinking and smoking all at once.  For every person who can conceivably handle all of this change, there are 99,999 people who cannot.  If it were so easy to throw a switch and make these changes, people wouldn’t have so much to have to change. But I’m not just going to trash New Year’s Resolutions without giving you some kind of help.

Here’s a suggestion that will allow you to be proactive while keeping you out of the dreaded “Resolution Land.” For all of you who may be tempted to come up with a laundry list of things to do to get yourself into shape this year, and want to start Wednesday, here’s some advice.  Don’t do anything.

Actually sit around on your butt until January 7th or so.  Then get up and go for a 20-minute walk.  Start slow.  Don’t talk about it, don’t tell anyone about it.  Forgive me for the use of a hackneyed advertising cliché but “Just Do It.” Then in a day or two, go out for another walk.  If the weather’s lousy, set 5 or 10-minutes aside to walk the steps in your house or a flight or two in your apartment building.  Go up and down, take 30 seconds or so, and do it again.  Follow the pattern.

You might find this hard to believe, but before long you’ll know what to do next.  The regular walks – not every day, but every other day – will make you feel better.  Maybe you’ll feel like learning how to do calisthenics, or maybe you’ll realize that you don’t need to stop eating certain foods in order to lose weight.  You might start strength training, you may go out and by an iPod to keep you company during your walks and workouts. As time passes and as you feel better, you’ll want to continue to feel better.

Since you won’t be burning the candle at both ends you’ll be able to keep up the pace that you’ve established, and as a result you will have made positive changes to your lifestyle that you will be able to maintain. And you’ll be healthier and happier for it. You don’t need to tell anyone about it.  You don’t need to keep a journal and record every set and rep and stride.  You don’t have to make exercise and diet the centerpiece of your life.  You won’t make the mistake of thinking that somehow an exercise routine or commitment to exercise is a reflection of a person’s inner character.

So don’t make any major promises to yourself and don’t go telling other people what you plan to do.  Enjoy the college bowl games, the NFL, the New Year’s parties and the short workweek.  Then go for a walk in a week or so.  Don’t say it, do it.


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