We're a few days into the new year now. How's that resolution going? Not so great, huh? Look, some resolutions are just bad. Yours is probably one of them.
Photo by Sam D.
If you were relying on the magic of a resolution to get you into the gym or help you lose weight, you're a sucker and you should have given yourself a solid, realistic plan instead. But you didn't. So now let's try to fix the resolution you're struggling with, so you don't have to give up the idea entirely.
If You Can't Stick to Your Diet Plan
Congratulations on getting past the first pitfall, the temptation to say something vague like "I want to lose weight" or something ambitious like "I want to lose 20kg". You picked a diet or a challenge or a "detox" and figure if you can stick with it for January you'll come out of the month a little lighter and leaner.
But if you're reading this, it must not be working. The problem is that willpower and wishful thinking can't overcome the realities of your life (no time to pack lunch?) and your body (hey, when you're hungry, you're hungry).
Compounding this, a lot of diet challenges are super restrictive for no good reason. There's nothing so wrong with grains or tomatoes or sugar that you need a religious conviction about avoiding them.
Eating less sugar is good; trying to eat zero sugar can make you crazy. There's a smidge of sugar in just about every store bought pasta sauce, for example. I remember spending about ten minutes in the supermarket once — hungry, of course — looking for a sugarless sauce. Sticking to a strict diet is exhausting. Most of us will give up, soon enough.
It's also pointless. What did I think a teaspoon of sugar in an otherwise healthy diet would do? Make me gain 2g of fat?
What to do instead: Pick some reasonable guidelines. Instead of swearing off sugar, set a doable limit like the World Health Organisation's recommendation to keep sugar under 10 per cent of calories — or if you've already mastered that, go for five per cent. Instead of going gluten-free or grain-free, flip that around to a positive goal that pushes carbs to the sidelines: maybe make half your plate vegetables.
If You Haven't Been to the Gym
If you only made it to the gym once this week (or zero times), take that as a sign that you didn't set yourself up for success. Most likely you either didn't have a plan at all, or you gave yourself such an ambitious plan that you're putting it off because it's really hard.
It's ok to do exercise that feels easy! It's essential, even. If you don't like running, or if you find it hard to get started, think of how you could scale that down into something you won't hate. Maybe you'd like to go for walks, and you wouldn't mind mixing in a few intervals where you jog for 30 seconds at a time. Do that. Maybe you theoretically could run three miles, but sitting on the couch theorising is not helping you. Somebody who goes walking a few times a week is doing better than somebody who intends to run but never gets around to it.
You can do the same with your unrealistic schedule of killer gym workouts. Start by making a list of exercises that you find easy and fun. Do those, and then leave yourself the option to tack on a few tougher exercises at the end. Over time, you'll do more of the hard stuff and less of the easy stuff, but no need to rush it.
What to do instead: Pick exercises you like, and then carve out the time to do them. Seriously, put an appointment on your calendar, mark yourself as busy, and make it your first priority for the day. That's why a lot of people exercise in the morning, but you can do it in the evening if you protect that time with mama wolf level ferocity.
If you did make it there once, and you're still aching, get back on that horse but take it easy, ok?
If It's Too Hot
If you meant to start running, this has been a heck of a week to get into the habit. A good chunk of the country is either boiling in or experiencing 30°C+ temperatures. I love running in the sun, but not when it's sweltering.
You have two good options and flaking out on your goal isn't one of them. Either you prepare as best you can and run anyway — which may require a trip to the store — or you make an alternate plan.
What to do instead: Treadmills suck, but it's good to know how to survive a treadmill run, especially if you're training for a marathon and can't afford to take too many days off running. Otherwise, view January as a time for building strength and endurance in other ways. Commit to a series of Zumba classes or a twice-a-week weightlifting workout. (Better yet, both.) Then, when the heat subsides, you'll be be raring to go.