Jan 09, 2018
The Eight Percent (The one about New Year’s Resolutions)
By Stacee Harris
I’ve been in and around the gym/fitness industry for more than twenty-five years and I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that January is my least favorite month of the year. Sure, when I was selling gym memberships and when I was a fitness director trying to make a budget, I took it for what it was – a cash cow. Revenues in January always rocked. And if I could get a year commitment out of someone (I knew I’d never see after January) even better. Maybe that sounds crass, but it’s reality. Exercise and people don’t exactly go hand in hand. I spent two years in graduate school studying exercise motivation. My thesis, as naïve as it may sound, focused on exercise motivation in women. I was looking for the Magic Bullet, that intangible as yet undiscovered something that would change the game completely. Think, the Thigh Master and Hydroxy Cut, only better. New flash - I never found it (and never finished my thesis).
So, January. Oy. It’s the month many Americans (well, a good 45%) get started on that nifty New Year’s Resolution they so confidently carved out of their souls sometime between the day after Christmas and drunken revelry on New Year’s Eve. Statistics show that more than 70% of those resolutions have something to do with getting healthier – ie. going to the gym, eating better. This means, for those of us that don’t need a Jan. 1 start date, our normal gym routines suddenly become, well… overcrowded. Instead of just Steve on his usual treadmill and Jim on his usual elliptical at 5am, we now have to fight for mirror space and wait for people we know we won’t see again after Valentine’s Day to clear out of the shower. And if you’re an “after work” regular? Go with God, my friend. I’ve actually skipped the gym for six weeks until the dust settles. More than once. Seriously.
The good thing for us year-round gym rats is that only 8% of New Year’s resolutions succeed. This means that if we bear with it - the overcrowding and the suspicious lack of gym ethic – everything will return to normal soon enough. It always does. It’s sad to think that we are here doing our thing 24/7/365, getting fitter and healthier, enjoying the benefits of a fitness-focused lifestyle, while so many fail year in year out. If only they could see what we see, feel what we feel, think how we think.
Once upon a time, maybe we were one of the 8%. Maybe we started the year with a brand-spanking new gym membership (or maybe we decided to start using the one we’d been paying for since the previous January) or hired a personal trainer or bought (and used) a new pair of running shoes. We started, much like a zillion others, we sweated, we endured, and come February 15, when so many had slid away, we kept on keepin’ on. We succeeded when so many fail. 92%, in fact (If you take the 8% above and subtract from 100%...). So what did we do that was so different? Why did we stick with it while so many (literally, ZILLIONS) don’t?
~ Hey, you there. Been one of the 92% in the past? Feel like you’re on the slippery slope to failure already in 2018? Read on! IT’S NOT TOO LATE TO BE SUCCESSFUL! ~
They may not be the Magic Bullet, but there are some tried and true methods that can increase the chances of success for ALL kinds of behavioral change, not just “exercising more” and “eating better”.
- Knock it off with the New Year’s Resolutions. It’s just a form of procrastination. There’s nothing that says you’ll be any more ready on January 1 than you will be on April 3 or August 21. And, really, being ready is the absolute key. It’s not easy to change “bad habits” or create “good habits”. Being ready mentally, physically, and even spiritually isn’t just important; it’s everything. Start when you are ready. Don’t wait for a new year.
- Creating a healthy habit won’t change every facet of your life. Eating right will not make your marriage better. Losing weight will not make your Tinder account more active or find you the perfect boyfriend. Running more will not make your kids do their homework the first time you ask. Life is life. Expecting global change is unrealistic and one reason why so many people fail. Be realistic about what that gym membership or hiring that personal trainer will do for you. On that note…
- Set realistic, specific, measurable goals. “Lose weight” isn’t measurable. “Lose 10lbs in two months” is. “Go to the gym three times per week” is better than “go to the gym more”, just as “eat five servings of fruit day” beats “eat healthier”. Let’s talk about the unrealistic part a moment. Is “stop eating fast food” realistic? It might be if you rarely do it now. However if the counter people at McDonald’s, P. Terry, and/or Taco Bell know you by name? It might be more realistic (and increase your chances of success) if you make it your goal to cut back to, say, three fast food meals out per week. On that note…
- Take small steps. What’s the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time, right? The hare may look speedy at the starting line, but often it’s the tortoise that makes it to the finish line first. Rather than setting yourself up for failure with “go to the gym every day” start with “go to the gym three times a week.” Burnout and unrealistic expectations tend to go together. They also lead to injuries. And eating 1000 calories a day when you’re used to eating well over 2000 can lead to binge eating a box of Twinkies and a gallon of Blue Bell while waiting for Papa John’s to deliver a large pizza and bread sticks. Make a small change, be successful, make another small change, wash, rinse, repeat. And…
- Celebrate success along the way. A personal example. I’m a runner – begrudgingly. I say that because what I enjoy most is the calorie burn it provides. Tomorrow I have to do a long run (long runs make racing a half marathon incrementally more “enjoyable”). If I survive, I get to have chicken and waffles for brunch. Trust me, the moment I think about quitting, I’ll imagine that plate being set down in front of me and the smell of the maple syrup. Ok, you’ve decided to quit ice cream. After a week of success, splurge on a pint of Halo Top. Been to the gym three times a week for two weeks, get the extra special pedicure at your nail place. Your goal, your celebration. On that note…
- Focus on today, now. As in what can you do right now today that will make a difference? Let’s say it’s Sunday morning and you missed an entire week at the gym because work was crap and the kids were sick. You can lay around watching football and eating queso or you can get up and go to the gym. Memorize this mantra – 1 is better than nothing, 2 is better than 1, 3 is better than 2, and so on (keeping moderation in mind). Meaning don’t catastrophize and think you’re a failure because you backslid a little. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and know that right now is what counts. The past is the past and the future, well… that’s still to be decided.
This is where success lives - ready, set, oops, focus, go, oops, refocus, celebrate, redefine. We’ve all been there, even those of us that seem successful. Look, change isn’t easy and “oops” moments are nearly a given, but there isn’t much that’s impossible. With the right mindset. Maybe you think “you can’t even”. I’m here to tell you, you can. Seriously.
Want to check facts, go directly to the source? Check out the links below.