Resolve in Your Resolution
This week’s guest post comes courtesy of my partner at The Carlisle UMedGym, Adam Knapp. Adam has a background in the health and fitness industry as a former YMCA manager and an athletic trainer. He has a degree in Sports Medicine, and he now works with me training and coaching clients at the gym. In his spare time, he enjoys getting beat up by his son Max (see photo). Read on to find out his take on New Year’s resolutions, and what most people’s problem is when it comes to sustaining them.
Sound the noise makers, a New Year is here! The next day a list is made: 1. Lose that gut! 2. Eat better! Yep, same as last year, but “life got in the way.” Not this year! Determination! Commitment! Discipline! Yes! This is the year!
Cut to: a shot of a quiet, uninhabited bedroom. We see a treadmill with clothes hanging on it and a close up of dust actually on the belt. The treadmill is one strange looking and expensive clothes hanger.
Cut to: A living room door opening, and a man coming in from work and sitting down on a couch. The kids run in, “Dinner then soccer tonight,” his wife yells from the kitchen. “Okay” he says with an obligatory and exhausted tone. “Just give me ten minutes of TV,” he thinks to himself. Thoughts of exercise are buried deep in the recesses of his mind.
I am not writing to paint a bleak picture. Actually, I think know there is hope! I am here to say that I understand. I’ve been on both sides of the coin (the other side is some guy in a gym who actually likes it! I know, some readers just sneered). As a health professional at the Carlisle UMedGym, every day I witness the negative cycle I just described being broken. I witness people using the abandoned treadmill for exercise, not just hanging clothes.
I first managed a YMCA back in the Year 2000, and noticed these same patterns back then. However, more recently, I feel that I have honed in on part of the problem and come across some better solutions. But you’ll have to put up with a few more paragraphs of my attempted cleverness to get the answer.
Most stats on the internet show that people only stick to their New Year’s Resolutions about 8% to 12% of the time. When I was at the YMCA we would be packed like sardines early in January due to New Year’s resolutions, and our regulars would come up to complain that we needed more equipment. Unfortunately, by about the third year I would calmly tell them, “Just wait a week or two. By early February we’ll be back to normal.”
Why is this the case? Here’s part of the mystery:
Many would say it’s just a lack of discipline, but I don’t think that is the problem. However, you have to take a new look at the word discipline (sort of like how Bill Clinton wondered about the definition of the word “is”). I want to stick up for people who’ve heard that they are not disciplined, or shall I even venture to say the horrible “L” word? No, not Love: Lazy.
I’ve seen people who are great moms/dads, very well read, highly educated, at the top of their fields, and yet they are not physically fit. I’ve seen gym rats, with no other interest than how to find a new way to “crush” their biceps. Yet they have many facets of their lives in disarray. Everybody has their own weakness.
I want to stick up for those who have been told they are lazy. I’m rather physically fit, but I seem to have some kind of learning disability when it comes to organizing papers. Still, you and I are not bad people.
So what’s the secret? Don’t beat yourself up! This has been proven not to work. It creates a “why even try?” attitude. In the Health and Wellness Coaching field (which our staff at the UMedGym are certified in) we talk about an “inner gremlin” voice that inhibits people from being their best; it’s one of self-doubt, sabotage, and fear. I used to think that self-deprecation would motivate me, but looking back it really just made me feel bad, and made it harder to find positive motivation to get going.
So if people aren’t lacking commitment or discipline, what is the problem? To figure that out, we need to talk about some things that people do every day, because healthy actions must become part of your everyday life. Understanding the following helps you understand the problem and the solution.
You probably get up and drive to work or a certain location most days of the week. Do you remember the first time you had to locate that place? You were looking at directions, you paid attention, you counted streets, and you wondered about that turn…was that the one? Now, you just jump in the car and suddenly you realize, “I’m here.” You don’t think about each turn. Your thoughts might drift off to the report that is due, which Star Wars is the best one, or whatever it is you think about, and then you are there. You don’t have to think about how to get to work; you just go on autopilot and end up there. This is called a habit.
This happens because your brain is efficient. Kudos to you; you have the most efficient and complex machine in the universe right there between your ears. But you know what? It can be part of the problem.
That brain of yours is really efficient. That autopilot thing, those habits you have, they are really hard to break. Some have described it as needing to re-wire the brain, and that is costly in regards to time, it does not happen overnight. Some habits might be great for your health, and some might not be so good.
If you let your body sit around too long, a not so good habit, it becomes murky and bogged down like stagnant water. This is unhealthy and can lead to things like diabetes, heart disease, loss of function, etc.
Now, think about the health and fitness paradigm. A Physician says, “You need to exercise, and eat better.” An individual honestly wants to do this, but months after an attempt or resolution they are back to old habits. They haven’t made new, healthy habits stick.
When someone enters a typical gym, this is the model: hand over money and get access to equipment. It doesn’t address the real need. Would you give a child a book and say, “Go learn that.” Then never give them help, check up on them a year later, and call it an educational system? Of course not! So why do we expect that someone attempting to make a massive lifestyle change will be successful when they are simply told: “Go exercise and eat better?” Especially when they have all kinds of obstacles against them, all kinds of ridiculous societal expectations, and virtually no support.
Why do that? Has it worked so far? The Center for Disease Control states that only 20% of the population gets the recommended exercise in this country. So…no, it hasn’t.
Our gym system is still a business. We all know that when a profit is involved, businesses always do what is right for the individual at the expense of profits (sarcasm here, in case there is any doubt). Most gyms just supply access to equipment with the illusion of real guidance.
Here’s the punchline of this article: most people need support in the pursuit of lifestyle and health changes. It clearly works better so let’s embrace it. The 20% already exercising may not need support, but I contend that the other 80% need more help making lifestyle changes. If they didn’t need it, more of the population would be doing it.
Here’s the shameless pitch: support is basically what we do at the UMedGym. The stats prove that a gym without a personalized plan or support leaves too much room for people to drop off.
So what can you do?
Get support: If you paid a bit more than $10 a month, but it gave you a better chance to make it stick, isn’t that better than paying a really cheap price to not show up to the gym?
Think about the things you love: Instead of dwelling on the things you can’t stand about exercise, think about the positive outcomes and use that as your motivation. This mindset will take you further.
Don’t beat yourself up: If you aren’t achieving magazine cover worthy goals, don’t beat yourself up with unrealistic expectations. Any progress is better than none, and it is certainly better than not starting at all.
You are never done, until you’re done. You always have a chance to improve your health status as long as you are willing to try. If you got through this blog post, you must have some interest! You can do it!