5 Tips for Your New Year’s Resolutions

New Year's in Costa Rica

New Year’s in Costa Rica

As we were preparing to ring in the New Year last week, my niece observed that the gym would be extra crowded for the next few weeks, filled with people looking to make a fresh start. If you work out at a fitness center regularly, you know the drill, too: a full parking lot, lines for the popular machines, and over-crowded classes. You also know that by mid-February you won’t have to wait for a treadmill, and you’ll have more elbow room in your Zumba class. Sadly, the good intentions of January 1st will be guilt-ridden memories.

I actually don’t make New Year’s resolutions because I believe you should assess your lifestyle more often. You can decide to change your life 365 days a year, so why wait? I understand, however, the symbolism of the New Year for turning over a new leaf, so here are some suggestions for making your resolutions stick.

Set a concrete goal.

Most resolutions are too vague to be successful. “Get fit” or “eat better” or “lose weight” capture the spirit of your intentions but they don’t provide enough direction to stay on track. A specific target will help you make the right choices to turn your resolution into reality.

Here are some examples of what I mean:

  • Exercise 5-6 days a week.
  • Run a 5k without stopping by April 1st.
  • Lose 5 pounds a month until reaching your goal weight of ______.
  • Eat “clean” (as you define “clean” – like “no sugar” or “no processed food”) on weekdays.    

Make Weekly Plans

Planning provides the how-to for achieving your goal. However, schedules change, life happens, and the best-laid plans can be turned upside down. So the trick is to be specific but not plan too far in advance.

Every Sunday I size up my week and plan my workouts. I put what I’m going to do and when in my calendar. This helps me accommodate business travel (e.g., packing Beachbody DVDs that are easy for me to use in a hotel room). It also ensures that I achieve my desired mix of cardio, stretching, and strength training. I admit that a plan is motivating for me – I actually wake up looking forward to a particular workout.

Beachbody programs provide easy-to-follow plans

Beachbody programs provide easy-to-follow plans

When you have a thoughtful plan in place, it’s also easier to change your plan and stay on track toward your goal. Eisenhower said, “Plans are useless. Planning is everything.” So if an urgent pre-dawn overseas conference call threatens my scheduled workout, I can make appropriate decisions that attend to work and accommodate working out. For example, if I was planning to do 45 minutes of cardio, I can pop in a DVD that’s only 25 minutes long (like Focus T25), or adjust swap that day with my scheduled rest day, or block out lunch as busy on my calendar so I can squeeze in a noontime run.

While you’re sitting down to plan your workouts for the week, why not plan your meals, too? You’ll be less likely to buy food you don’t need or make impulse choices.

Go public.

This idea is built into the concept of a New Year’s resolution. A resolution, after all, is a “declaration” or a “promise.” When you say you are going to do something, you set

yourself up for public scrutiny. That’s great motivation when you want to hit the snooze button instead of lacing up your sneakers in the dark. So share your goal with family and friends.

Keep a journal (or use a fitness tracking app).

This blog post was going to contain only 4 tips until one of the people in my fitness accountability group posted her commitment to keep a food journal. It’s a great idea! Recording what you eat and what you do helps you:

  • Identify patterns in your decisions. (Do you snack more when you skip breakfast? Do you tend to skip workouts when they’re solo activities?)
  • Discourages less healthful choices. (Who wants to write down they ate an entire bag of potato chips?)
  • Gives you the chance to celebrate your accomplishments.
  • Make informed decisions if your plan doesn’t seem to be producing results. (The best salespeople track their sales-related activities, knowing that more prospecting or sales calls generate more revenue.)

Find an accountability partner(s).

Change is hard. Time management is hard. It helps to have someone to confide in, to share your struggles, to check in on your progress, to encourage you when you’ve lost your way or hit a plateau. I’m a big fan of online communities, where I can benefit from the ideas of a group of folks. I also have a coach who I rely on for advice. You may want to make a pact with your BFF and agree on a reward you can enjoy together when you achieve your goals. Just don’t go it alone.

If you’d like to join one of my online health accountability groups, let me know by filling out the form below. Happy New Year!

Give and get support!

Give and get support!

Give the Gift of Strength

charles_atlas1You don’t have to look like Charles Atlas to be fit.

You do need strong muscles. Toned muscles help you complete household chores without injury, survive your workday, walk without falling, and right yourself when you are thrown off balance. Increased muscle leads to increased metabolism, which is great for weight loss (you burn more calories while sitting!). And who doesn’t secretly want arms like Michelle Obama?

You probably know someone in your family or circle of friends who has taken positive steps toward a healthier lifestyle. They may be doing cardio workouts but have misconceptions about getting bulky muscles. They may also be Baby Boomers who do not realize that they are experiencing muscle loss as they age. Here’s what Chris Crowley, author of Younger Next Year has to say about that last point:  “Regular strength training for life sounds stupid, nasty and scary. And we wouldn’t even mention it if it were not one of the best pieces of advice in the whole damn book.” 

So here are a few gift ideas that can help your loved ones embrace strength training in 2015.

WeightsWeights

Gone are the days of boring black. Sets of 3-, 5-, and 8-pound dumbbells (perfect for beginners) are now available in fashion colors.

There are plenty of guidelines for proper lifting online (e.g., breathe, align, don’t rush). Why not print out an article and include it in the package?

 

To avoid boredom or my tendency to quit before fatigue, I rely on DVD workouts that feature weights. p90x is my go-to, which may be a bit extreme for your Aunt Anna, who’s in her 60s (and still needs to do strength training!). More manageable programs include p90 and 21-Day Fix. They’re great options.

Tony Horton…Today’s Charles Atlas?

P90_COO_728x90-2Resistance BandsBands

Does Cousin Sam travel a lot? Resistance bands would allow Sam to work out anywhere. They don’t take up much space in a suitcase, and don’t add much weight.  No need for a hotel gym (which, in my experience, often lacks a decent selection of weights anyway).

And.. resistance bands with door attachments are useful for back exercises if you don’t have interest or room for a pull-up bar.

Workouts that Leverage Body Weight

It is possible to do strength training without equipment. Push-ups and squats are examples of exercises that you can do anywhere. Again, I rely on DVD programs to provide variety and rigor. Insanity is a favorite of mine (although when I first started, I popped 4 post-workout ibuprofens).

PiYo takes a calmer approach that is inspired by yoga and pilates — but your muscles will know they’re working! In the video below Chalene Johnson demonstrates some PiYo moves.

If you want additional guidance on workout programs might work for you — or your Cousin Joe or Aunt Elsa — fill in the fields below!

 

Give the Gift of Water

This is the first of a series of short posts to encourage holiday shopping with health in mind.

Water makes up about 60% of your body weight. It’s an essential component of a fit lifestyle.  Yet most people don’t drink enough. Do you? Probably not. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you’re not peeing colorless or light yellow urine, you’re not getting enough fluids. So before you head out to buy a gift for Cousin Alice, check out Tony Horton’s sometimes silly tips for drinking more water.

And why not get Cousin Alice a gift that can help her stay hydrated and healthy? Chances she isn’t drinking enough, either.

Brita Water Filter Pitcher

Who wants to drink water straight from the tap? Cousin Alice will be more likely to consume at least 8 glasses of water each day if she has a 10-cup pitcher of icy cold, filtered water in the fridge.

SodaStream

For the longest time, I resisted this gadget with protests of “it’s called counter space for a reason!” I relented last year, and can’t imagine what we did without one in our kitchen. This is a great gift if Cousin Alice is trying to kick her soda habit. Why not help her say no to the extra 8+ teaspoons of sugar she’d consume with just one can of cola-flavored beverage? Seltzer with a squeeze of lemon or lime is a much better alternative. Cheaper, too.

BPA-Free Water Bottle

Cousin Alice can save a lot of  money — and the planet — if she totes her own water bottle instead of buying water when traveling. There are a lot of stylish models available (stocking stuffer perhaps?). Just remind her to pour out the contents before she goes through security for her flight home.

Find Your Purpose

Recent pre-birthday fun.

My birthday is approaching. I’m moving right along through my 50s. Happily so. I’ve never been one to complain about birthdays. I truly don’t get the whole “I’m still 29” thing.

I’m also not one of those “college was the best time of my life” people. Some day I might write a blog about surviving the misery and self-doubt of high school and college. But today I want to talk about how life can (and should) get better.

The Purpose of Purpose

We are here for a reason. Years ago, my friend Diana told me that she took birthdays very seriously. The conversation stuck with me, and I now find myself sharing a similar message: Birthdays remind us that we have been put on this earth to make a difference.

Identify the Impact You Want to Make on the World

What’s your purpose? Don’t fret if you don’t want to cure cancer or eradicate poverty! Your impact doesn’t have to be so grand. I’m a firm believer in the compound effect — where consistent small actions can generate an enormous impact over time. Think instead of what your unique gifts can do. What impact can you have just the way you are if you focus your time and talents? Commit to a purpose. And see how you bounce out of bed tomorrow morning.

When in Doubt, Trust  “The Plan”

You can have a sense of purpose even if you don’t exactly know what you want your purpose to be. I am convinced that the world is better because you were born. You may not know the details. Just trust me.

Me? I Want to Help People Thrive Until They Die

I didn’t figure this out until recently. At my day job I help organizations increase employee engagement (which is really about people having great days at work). I write about personal accountability for success on the job. I’ve seen magic happen when people understand what matters most to them — and to their employer. Most nights I can fall asleep knowing I’ve made a difference in supporting work environments where people can thrive.

For the last year or so. in my spare time, I’ve also been trying to help people to become healthier through fitness and food. So many of the ailments that people experience as they age are preventable or manageable through activity and nutrition! That’s the point of the blog’s tagline: Decay is optional. (I didn’t think of the phrase. Chris Crowley did in Younger Next Year.)

I welcome the chance to support your improved health. There are still openings in my p90 Challenge Group. To learn more, check out the video below.

It’s Not All or Nothing

We all know the slippery slope. You know, that path from “I’m on a roll toward my goal” to Slippery Slope“I’ve lost my way and boy do I need to get back on track”? Despite the very best intentions with exercise, healthier eating, continuous learning, a more organized home, or even a new work project, something happens. “Life intervenes,” we sometimes say. “I have no time.” “I totally messed up once, so I give up.” “I just can’t do it now.” “If I can’t do it right I’m not going to do it.” “I’ll try later.”

I see this mental slide when it comes to health and fitness in particular. I’ve done it myself: “I can’t do my 60-minute, sweat-up-a-storm workout so I won’t be able to do anything today.” A few days like that, and I’m off my routine, disappointed with myself, and scared that the next workout will feel really awful. So I find a reason not to do it again.

Just Do Something

Activity is important. If you can’t do an entire workout, do half. Walk up and down the stairs for 15 minutes. Add an extra block to your route when you walk the dog. Do 10 push-ups before you go to bed. Or 5 if that’s all you can do. (And check out Kit Horton Caldicott’s push-up tips for women.) Maybe you won’t hit your target heart rate. Something is better than nothing.

Healthy eating is important. If you’re going to eat dessert, share it (and the calories!). Add frozen kale into that decadent soup recipe you want to try. Eat at least one clean meal a day if you can’t manage all three. Grab a nutritional drink like Shakeology if you think you have no time for a healthy breakfast.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect

I recently experienced the slippery slope with this blog! After months of weekly posts, I lost momentum. My day job was bonkers. The holidays were upon us. I didn’t have the time to research the type of carefully crafted message I wanted to share so I posted no message at all. I sheepishly told my Beachbody colleagues Eileen and Anu on our weekly calls, “No blog this weekend. Next weekend for sure.” Ugh.

Then in the middle of a p90x3 workout this week, Tony Horton said something like, “Having a rough workout? Not meeting your goals? At least you are in the room. You showed up. You’re trying.” Well hello! Yes I am! You can too! I’m back online today. Even if it is for 30 minutes. Even if it is for a message that I believe you already know.

So now it’s your turn. This is not an all-or-nothing journey. What will you do today?

Who’s in Your Closet?

grandpa and grandma masarech croppedEvery few years, I drive to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery around All Saints’ Day to visit my grandparents’ graves, explore the gorgeous grounds, and search out the resting spots of some of the more famous residents, like Washington Irving, Brooke Astor, and Andrew Carnegie. I didn’t make the trip this weekend, but I did think a lot about my deceased friends and
relatives.

They are sources of motivation as I strive for a healthier lifestyle.

Some I remember for inspiration and strength; others are sober reminders of the health challenges hiding in the shadows.

My Cheerleaders

I am pretty lucky on the friends and family front. There are plenty of people who believed in me through the years: dad, mom, Aunt Betty, Nana, and our neighbor Marie are just a few. I carry their words of wisdom with me and hold them up as role models for living a vibrant life. My dad, in particular, enjoyed 20+ very full years of retirement after two careers.

My Skeletons

I have to admit, though, that the skeletons that lurk in the family closet are even bigger motivators. Type 2 diabetes, dementia, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and stroke, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), can run in a family.

Lifestyle choices can reduce my odds of getting these diseases. So I run. I do strength training. I pop in my Beachbody DVDs. I don’t smoke. I try to eat “clean.” I try to break up my workdays with walks.

Who’s in your closet? Who are the people who cheered you on to do things you thought you couldn’t do? Tap them for inspiration. And what about those skeletons? Face your fears. Claim your health. Take control of those things that fuel a vibrant life.

Do It with a Friend

Years ago, I used to run with my boss, Ed. He would pop his head in my office around lunch time, and we’d brave the streets of Stamford, CT, at a brisk pace, talking about work and family when we weren’t huffing and puffing up a hill. One year our team had a huge project in Chicago. In the winter. When the temperatures on Lake Michigan were single digits. And the hawk (aka the wind) was out. Geez. Knowing that Ed would be waiting in the lobby of the hotel at 6 a.m. was all the motivation I needed to lace up my running shoes and put on gloves. I was not going to disappoint the boss.

RunwithCooper

Ready for a run.

Earlier this month I started running with Cooper. He seems to know the difference between my running shoes and my cross-trainers, which I wear when I join my DVD buddies Shaun T and Tony Horton for indoor workouts. Cooper wiggles his tail-less body in anticipation when he realizes a run is in his future. And although I don’t have the need to impress him the way I did Ed, his enthusiasm is enough to get me over the “should I go for a run?” hump.

Meanwhile, my friends Dede and Kiye have made the difference recently between my thinking about running a 5k and actually completing one. And as I look ahead to a NJ business trip this week, I know I can count on my colleague Lester to slow down enough to join me in a before-dark after-work run on a section of Princeton NJ’s beautiful towpath.

Just Ask

My email exchange with Lester went something like this: “Hey, I’ll be in the office Monday afternoon after the Philly meeting. Don’t know if I’ll stay over or not.” He replied, “I’ll bring my running stuff just in case.” Easy enough. If work hijacks the day, no harm no foul. But I’m hoping things aren’t too crazy so I can spend time with a colleague I don’t get to talk to a lot. Doing an activity we both enjoy.

So what do you like to do? Hike? Walk? Zumba? Cycle? What are you waiting for? Invite someone to join you. And although I like the accountability of making a date to exercise, I do appreciate the social aspect. Sometimes, it’s nice not to go solo. Share the experience. Your heart will benefit from cardio and your “heart” will benefit from connection.