With the end of summer fast approaching and Christmas starting to feel like a distant memory, I find now is usually a good time to ask clients how their New Year’s resolutions are going. You know, the ones you made in the haze of your New Year’s Day hangover when you promised to drink less/ quit smoking/ exercise more/ eat healthier/ lose weight etc, etc.
If you managed to ditch those resolutions before you’d even polished off the last of the Christmas ham leftovers, you’re not alone. Studies show 83 per cent of NY resolutions come undone within the first month.
OK so I totally made up that stat, but I reckon it wouldn’t be far off the mark. Here’s the thing, unlike some fitness gurus, I’m not against NY resolutions per se. If the start of a new year makes you take stock of your life and think about what it is you might want to change, then that can only be a good thing. The trick, as most people know, is deciding on something that’s actually achievable and, more importantly, making some sort of plan and following through with it. There’s not much point saying you’re going to lose weight if it’s just a vague notion with no actual plan to go with it. You’ll forget about it by February and vow to change next year.
But there’s no rule that says you can only make resolutions on January 1. And just because you haven’t stuck to yours to the letter from day one, doesn’t mean you should give up on it altogether.
A few years ago I did away with “resolutions” and decided instead that I’d use the start of the year to write down a few goals, mostly fitness-related, that I wanted to achieve throughout the year. They had to be specific and they were also designed to be staged throughout the year so I wasn’t trying to conquer the world in the first three weeks. For me they were things like train for and run a half-marathon, compete in a triathlon, make a representative touch football team or be at peak fitness for a tournament. Or even something as simple as being able to do 50 push-ups on my toes without a break or 10 unassisted pull-ups (those two are on my list for this year for reasons you’ll soon find out).
I recently had a major knee injury (at one of the aforementioned touch football tournaments – turns out being fit for a sport doesn’t make you immune to injury), followed by surgery, which totally threw out my training plans and forced me to look at my goals in a new light.
I tried to remember something that I constantly try to impress on my clients – an injury shouldn’t, in most cases, mean an end to training (unless a doctor or health professional tells you otherwise). So if you have, say a shoulder injury, you can see it as an opportunity to work on your leg strength or core. Similarly, if you suffer a calf injury, there are plenty of upper-body exercises you can do. The idea is that when you’ve recovered from your injury, not only are you are still in the habit of exercising regularly, but you haven’t undone all your previous good work by sitting on the couch for weeks or months at a time waiting for your injury to heal.
I see a lot of people who get injured and stop exercising altogether because they think that because they can’t do what they normally would, there’s no point in training at all.
So when I suffered my knee injury, I was determined that wouldn’t be me, not least of all because I struggle to go three days without exercising, let alone three months. Yes, it’s meant a massive adjustment, both in my training and my attitude, but seeing as I can’t run or play sport, I’m looking at it as an opportunity to work on other areas of my fitness such as my core and upper-body strength (hence the push-up and pull-up goals). Even more importantly, I’ve resolved to (for once) stick to my rehab program religiously so I give myself the best chance of getting back to full fitness as soon as possible.
It might not be an injury that’s derailed your goals or resolutions in the past. In fact, usually it’s just life that gets in the way – people are too busy with kids/ work/ family/ friends to eat well and exercise.
Or, in other cases it’s just too hard. People tire or get bored of the effort it takes – and it does take effort – when they don’t see results straight away or they don’t have a specific goal they’re working towards.
My attitude is to find a way to make it work, not a reason why it can’t. Because you’ll always find a reason why you can’t do something – probably more than one if you try hard enough. But if you’re working towards a goal that means something to you, you’re much more likely to find the time to achieve it and to keep going when it gets tough.
For me, right now, the ultimate goal is to get back on the touch football field. But that’s a long way off yet. So in the meantime, it’s back to those push-ups!