Tips from the experts: Make your resolutions realistic and attainable

Staff writerJanuary 1, 2012 

Good morning. It’s Jan. 1, 2012, and you know what that means. It’s time to get cracking on those New Year’s resolutions.

No doubt you have good intentions. This will definitely be the year you get fit. But before you run off to the gym consider this: Good intentions alone have a short shelf life.

You need a plan.

“We get tons of people in our classes at the first of the year every year,” said Kelly Norton, a fitness instructor at Tacoma’s Allstar Fitness. “A few stay, but most people burn out and give up by February or March.”

Why? Fitness pros like Norton say most people are done in by the same mistakes. They hurt themselves. They do too much. They are unrealistic.

So before you proceed with those resolutions, take a few minutes to make sure you are setting yourself up to be successful. Some tips:

TAKE BABY STEPS

A big goal can be overwhelming. Instead, set a series of smaller goals that will lead you down the path to that big goal.

But don’t confuse this with setting a laundry list of fitness goals.

“I hear people at the beginning of the year saying, ‘No more sugar, no white bread, no more wine and I will work out every day,’” said Krista Knee, co-founder of Flirty Girl Fitness in Toronto. “It’s unrealistic.”

Instead of trying to do everything all at once, Knee recommends gradually tweaking your lifestyle until you are eating healthier and exercising regularly.

“Cut back a little, but don’t eliminate everything you like to eat,” she said. “Don’t be so unrealistic that you can’t enjoy yourself.”

RESPECT REALITY

If you’ve let yourself slip into poor health or you don’t workout regularly, suddenly working out can be a shock to your body.

Alexis Colvin, an assistant professor of sports medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, says it’s important that no matter how excited you are to get started with a workout program, it’s vital that you take account of your body and what it’s capable of doing.

In other words, she said, “Get a physical before you get started so you don’t hurt yourself.”

GOOD FORM

One of the quickest ways to get hurt and derail your resolution is to use poor form when you exercise.

If you don’t know how to use the equipment, ask a trainer. Colvin said it’s pretty typical for people to hurt shoulders, elbows and rotator cuffs by using poor form and going too hard too soon when starting an active lifestyle.

“It’s never a bad idea to get a few sessions with a personal trainer to check your form,” Colvin said. Make sure the trainer is certified.

NO PAIN, ALL GAIN

It’s 2012, so you’d think one of the biggest myths in fitness would be ancient history by now. But it’s not, Colvin said.

“The ‘no pain, no gain’ idea doesn’t hold true,” she said. “If it is bothering you, don’t do it. There is no reason you should have pain while you are exercising.”

DON’T BE SHY

Trying a group fitness class can be intimidating, but if you can get past this these classes can be a tremendous source of support and inspiration.

“They become like a community,” said Gale Dougherty, health and wellbeing director at Puyallup’s Mel Korum YMCA.

Working out with a group can keep you motivated to stick with your exercise program, Norton added.

Going to class the first time with a friend can help calm the nerves, as can speaking with the instructor before the class. A good instructor will bend over backward (literally, if it’s a yoga class) to make sure you are comfortable.

Knee’s gyms recently launched a new program designed to, among other things, eliminate shyness as an excuse to try their classes.

Flirty Girl Fitness now webcasts many of its workouts from its Toronto and Chicago studios at flirtygirlfitnesslive.com. This allows people (for $15 per month or $5 per day) to take yoga, pilates, boxing, dance and even pole dancing classes without so much as leaving their living room.

“It’s so convenient,” Knee said. “And it’s a great way to try something new in private before you go to the gym.”

DON’T COMPARE

Not everybody can have a butt that stops traffic, so if you don’t, stop wasting time being jealous of those who do.

Comparing yourself to others at your gym, models in magazines and even the cast of the “Biggest Loser,” is a good way to start feeling sorry for yourself.

“Half the stuff you see on TV and in magazines isn’t real,” Norton said. “... And the ‘Biggest Loser’ is entertainment, not reality. Those people quit their jobs and are in the gym 24-7. It’s very unrealistic and unhealthy. But it’s OK to be inspired by the show and then go out and lose weight at a healthy rate, one to two pounds per week.”

And stop putting so much emphasis on how you look.

“We put too much emphasis on how we look and not enough on how we feel,” Norton said. “If you work on eating clean, getting more sleep and being more active, you will feel better and the byproduct is going to be weight loss.”

DON’T FREAK

Before you get started, understand one thing: You are going to screw up.

You’re going to miss a day at the gym or succumb to the smell of Cinnabon’s wafting through the mall’s food court.

And when you do, don’t freak out.

Norton says she sees this regularly. People screw up a little and let it ruin weeks of hard work. “They feel like they’ve failed, so they give up (on their goals).

Don’t think of it as failure. Just get back to your plan. It’s OK to take an occasional step off course into the sticky, sweet world of cinnamon rolls. Just make it a short trip.

“Don’t give up,” Norton said. “It’s not all or nothing.”

Craig Hill’s fitness column runs Sundays. Submit questions and comments via craig.hill@thenewstribune.com, facebook.com/adventureguys or twitter.com/adventureguys.

Get more fitness coverage at blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure, thenewstribune.com/fitness.

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