‘New year, new you!’ I, for one, buy into this mantra on an annual basis, mentally and monetarily. Last January, I overspent on works of fiction of the self-help, clean-eating, yet-to-be-read variety. I made a pact with a Pilates reformer (something I should have done long ago because of a dodgy kneecap, not a time-sensitive promotional offer).
This January, my backside, like my bookcase, continues to bulge. Once again, I’ve found myself doing more bicycle crunches at the gym to burn off Christmas than in the whole of 2016. This year is The Year.
Except possibly not. According to data from the traffic and navigation app Waze, fellow idealists and I are doomed to lose motivation during the third week of January. Thursday 19, to be precise, is the day our planks will collapse, if this year is anything like the last. (Waze collects data on the to-ing and fro-ing of one million motorists. This apparently gives a good indication of population trends, including the calendar peaks and troughs of those picking up Buffalo wings versus working out their bingo wings.)
So how can we ensure our New Year’s resolutions actually last? To make sure I don’t throw in the gym towel I consulted a psychologist and a personal trainer to get my mind and body in sync.
Psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos says the problem is our lack of patience. With our ‘millennial instant gratification mindset’, we set ‘unrealistic goals’ and demand overnight success. When the glitter begins to fade and results haven’t been immediately achieved, many of us lose heart, berate ourselves and end up giving up or reverting to old habits.
She suggests that incremental approximations to where we want to be are the best way forward. ‘I’ll get off a stop before work and walk’ is more realistic than promising to go to the gym every day if you’re somebody who has never gone before. Another way to avoid making absolute promises could be by applying a buffer — for example, ‘This week, I’ll work out between one and three times.’
Dr Papadopoulos says negative rhetoric can be deadly to motivation. Putdowns like ‘I’m fat and need to lose weight’ are less productive than optimistic desires to ‘become healthier or eat more greens’.
Personal trainer Andy Pilides, meanwhile, suggests I think carefully about my goals, envisioning what I want to achieve and how I’ll feel after the lactic acid and sweat subsides. He encourages me to ‘write all mini milestones down somewhere you can see them every day. Being accountable will keep up your motivation and allow you to see where you are going wrong.’ So I’ll log my progress on the NoteBook app on my phone (‘body weight, workout frequency, exercise weights and volumes of work all provide valuable sources of data’, says Andy) and take a selfie at the start of each month.
Andy also suggests finding a workout buddy to push through those tougher sessions. ‘Knowing somebody is counting on you to turn up [at the gym] may give you that push you’ve always lacked and, if it’s a morning session, make sure you get out of bed in time.’
Boredom is a major reason I’ve gone MIA in the past. A quick natter between leg reps and a dose of healthy competition will certainly help with that. And, in preparation for the days I’m on my own, I’ve researched exercises to try and created playlists to keep me in the zone for longer. Now I can self-sculpt to my favourite tunes from Les Misérables (‘One Rep More!’)
It’s time to grab a friend and a set of dumbbells. Let’s hope I make it past January 19. And, if not — well, I suppose there’s always 2018.