By Tricia Y. Petrinovich
The New Year’s Resolution We Tend to Heave (and How to Avoid Tossing It Altogether)
And yes, I realize that I put so many retch-themed allusions into the title that you want to gag. Or maybe it’s the fact that you’re so dang full. A five week eating spree will do that to a person. Hence, it will come as no surprise that every list delineating the “most made” New Year’s resolutions has the same one at the very top: Get Fit/Lose Weight. A whole heaping bunch of us apparently want to do that every January 1, every single year. But the fact that we have to keep making the resolution suggests hardly anyone has followed through. I suggest the problem is that by January 2, our motivation has already waned and we now just want to mop up the leftover Christmas fudge and sample cheese balls for our Superbowl party. So for that one day, those twenty-four energetic hours, we have to act before we change our minds and head for the pantry.
We’ve all heard the nagging that we need to exercise. Maybe your nag comes from your internal conscience, the “inner you” concerned for your health and longevity: You should listen. Maybe it’s your doctor who has seen your high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels: You should definitely comply. Maybe it’s your husband, wanting you in the same body he married fifteen years ago: You should make him sleep on the couch until Thursday. For me, I think the inner chiding was loudest in my thirties, which is when I finally did something to permanently silence the bitty within, taking that resolution off the table.
So here are my tips for helping you get off the hamster wheel of fitness resolutions, once and for all. They probably aren’t revolutionary or earth-shattering, but they might be the first “all vomit themed” self-help tips you’ve ever seen, so bonus points for originality:
Hurl. As in: Yourself. Into Action. In most areas of our lives, we think it’s best to analyze and reflect, weigh out consequences and move deliberately. This is not one of those times. If your motivation is high, strike. Because, trust me, that motivation will last until you find those frosted sugar cookies and a Twilight Zone marathon. Then, instead of being body sore from an hour’s worth of squats and lunges courtesy of Ethan the personal trainer, you’ll have bed sores courtesy of Ethan Allen. Trust me on this one: when you are thinking how fun it sounds to join a gym and commit yourself to fitness, do it, because that feeling will fade faster than the time it takes to say “couch potato.”
UpChuck. Chuck, of course, being your friend from work, neighbor or the exercise nazi you’ve been friends with since college. Make him work out with you! If not him, then up Hanna, Leslie or Maria. One of your friends with the same New Year’s Resolution will be your partner in climb (as in, climbing out of bed to the stair climber when you feel more motivated to watch infomercials). I can’t stress enough the fact that your success is directly affected by accountability. Turn sadistic group exercise classes into a social outing, even if it’s for the back end incentive of coffee after.
Regurgitate. Or as they say in the beauty world, rinse and repeat. Put your gym days or class times into your calendar. For some reason, while the 6:00 p.m. Body Pump class is floating around aimlessly in your gray matter, it’s “optional.” But once you write it down, it’s a commitment. Better yet, attend the kind of classes you have to sign up for or (I know) even pay in advance for. You will hate to waste your money or look like a flake by not going, unless you’re that rare “Money Wasting Flake” we’ve read about in novels.
Erupt. In passion. With joy. Find that one exercise that makes you want to trade flannel pajama bottoms for sweat-drenched spandex. There is one, trust me. You might have to attend a few classes you hate to find the one you love. You might have to step on a few treadmills to find your elliptical. For me, it’s Zumba. And I can’t claim it is what makes me weird, but it let’s me be weird and fierce and channel my inner diva, all things that I love to do (don’t judge me). In Zumba, an hour passes in a flash. Smiles erupt. Energy erupts. Passion for what I’m doing erupts. And Sweat. Sweat erupts. Don’t just stick with what you’ve done before, especially if you hate it. Go out on a limb with Yoga. Tear something in R.I.P.P.E.D. Raise the Barre. You’ll find every excuse in the Book of Exercise Excuses (“I don’t have time,” “I’m busy,” “I’m helping NBC get better viewer ratings”) if you hate the exercise you are forcing yourself to do.
The last question that needs to be answered was once posed by Shakespeare in his famed tragedy Hamlet: “To gym or not to gym? That is the question.” I think the best way to find the answer is to ask yourself a few questions: a) Will the variety and offerings of the gym (and the fact that you have to pay to go) help your goals or just feed you intense doses of guilt if the time comes when you aren’t using them? b) Are there things you love to do that are free, and WILL YOU DO THEM? For me, I know that easy access and convenience (such as a treadmill in my basement and a Wii Fit) do not a New Year’s Resolution make. I wimp out at home because no one can see me stop for four five-minute “water breaks” and count them in my thirty minutes of treadmill time. What I know about me and home exercises: Because I can always do them, I never do them. Maybe you’re more responsible than me, but I’ve met a lot of women who think their Bowflex makes a great indoor clothes drying rack.
You might have the same history I do with gyms. I joined a gym once. And apparently, it was so much fun in and of itself that I felt no compunction to do anything else with that gym once I became a member. Other than, of course, send money every month to fulfill my contract and perhaps drive by and wave from time to time. But that was when I was young and stupid. Twenty-five years later, I’m very, very smart, although still, of course, young. I’m not advocating this for everyone, but I became a group exercise instructor because you kind of have to show up for class if you’re the one teaching it. (And the perk is, I get free gym memberships where I teach.)
Regardless of how you implement, I am pulling for you that you DO. My two favorite exercise maxims are these:
First, the best exercise to do is the one that you will do. Do not fall into the comparison game of which work out is better. Do not eat yourself up over finding the most effective work out in the history of mankind. Chances are, you will hate that one and never do it, which reduces its effectiveness to exactly zero.
And second, no one ever exercised and regretted it, but plenty skip their work out and are sorry they did. I often tell my students that, if for no other reason, get yourself to class so you can love the feeling you have when you leave. (Hint: It feels like success, only soggier.)
Don’t want to suffer from Gymnauseum in the New Year? Then live with no regrets and make your resolution now: Hurl, UpChuck, Regurgite and Erupt. You know you’ll feel better once you do.