If you’re anything like me, a poster-child for the personality type ENFP, you love when the New Year rolls around. Not only does it herald a new tour around the sun, but it also brings a clean slate and the opportunity to start everything fresh – like a commitment to health and fitness.
Regardless of our four-letter combos, most of us at least entertain the idea of New Year’s resolutions. I, for one, am an expert at crafting them. I can’t help it. January the first lends itself to the start of something big, and ENFP’s just love starting things (it’s the sticking with them that proves problematic!)
Let me illustrate. Right now, in the furthest recesses of my guest room closet rests a 12 x 12 inch plastic cube containing a myriad of contraptions, toys, devices and equipment designed to facilitate exercise. I stored all my equipment in that one cube so it would be handy, accessible and portable – forgetting, clearly, that since I’d stuffed it with five pairs of dumb bells varying in weight from two to ten pounds, I wasn’t going to be wagging it around often or with ease.
If you were looking into that cube you would find: a jump rope, a lime-green foam block I can’t remember the purpose of, a door handle pulley device, a belly dancing tape and finger cymbals, the aforementioned hand weights, ankle weights, wrist weights, seven exercise DVDs, a heavy white object resembling a bowling pin (I think designed to sculpt my crepey arms), a tap shoe, swim goggles, ear plugs, two blue neoprene belts, four colorful stretchy bands, double-handled bands in three sizes, and a box of cards with fifty different exercises.
While I’m all set to swim or sink, participate in any conceivable class at the Y, workout in privacy or make a fortune at a garage sale, that collection of gizmos and gadgets didn’t help me very much. I suspect I stashed my trove of workout paraphernalia out of sight and out of mind because I hated to be reminded of how many times I’ve started and abandoned a new exercise program. The best part of New Year’s Resolutions, in my experience, is the making of them; keeping them is really a chore.
While I don’t believe my particular personality type cornered the market on broken fitness resolutions, I do recognize that I am what I am, and researching new exercise programs, investing in fun new equipment and enrolling in a new class are all right up my personality alley because I love NEW.
I love the promise of results, the anticipation of the effort, the sights and sounds and interaction that comes with a new class. I’m all about finding the right workout wear, meeting new people, and trying something I’ve never tried before.
Sadly, the flip side of that worn-out-record is that the new wears off pretty darn fast. So does my interest and commitment. While my box of failures is a pitiful reminder of all the times I did not persevere, it also reminds me of what works best for me. I’ve tried, failed, and tried again enough times that I discovered what does and doesn’t work.
Through trial and error, I think I’ve stumbled onto a 6-part formula for starting and sticking with a health and wellness program – no matter what time of year it is. I am not an exercise fanatic, by no means, but this system has worked for me and I’ve managed to stick with it for five years when I haven’t been successful with anything else. You may find it works for you, too.
1. find your 30 minutes
Experts agree, for optimal health and well-being, we should be shooting for 150 minutes of physical activity each week. Broken down, that amounts to about 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. That’s our goal.
The number one reason (or excuse) most people have for not exercising on a regular basis is time. Thirty minutes a day, however, is fairly easy to find. Set your a.m. alarm thirty minutes earlier, or commit to 30 minutes immediately after work or before, or after another activity. For me, I make it one of the first things I knock out every day. It’s in ink in my daily planner, as much of an appointment as a visit to the doctor or a business luncheon.
2. keep it simple
I found the more complicated my workout program was, the less likely I was to stick with it. I could always find an excuse not to commute to the gym, make the class, or adhere to the schedule.
The secret of this step is finding some activity you can perform for a half-hour most days of the week. For me, the most obvious choice was walking. For all my gadgets and gizmos, the simplest form of exercise proved the best for me. I have a treadmill I can use when the weather turns disagreeable, but most days I just lace up my sneakers and head outside.
Walking is virtually excuse proof – it can be done anywhere, anytime, there’s no special equipment required and you don’t need any particular aptitude, grace or talent to do it. It’s also an economical choice -- no gym memberships or class fees to worry about. Best of all, it is a great all-purpose activity, good for your bones as well as your cardiovascular health.
3. avert boredom
For years, I sought out the kinds of activities I thought would keep me engaged and enthused, but, surprisingly, the one that I’ve enjoyed that bored me the least is plain old walking. I can change up my activity every day by adjusting my pace, direction, location, outfit and accompaniment, so it’s always a little fresh and different.
Sometimes, I listen to white noise or classical music and focus on meditative walking. Other times I unleash my inner disco diva and strut to a ‘70s mix. I use the time to craft articles, plan my day or work through problems. Or, I’ll work on performance, increasing my speed or distance.
4. track your progress
Make a point of tracking your fitness progress. Those of you with more S and T to your personalities can have a field day with this part. When you first begin your exercise program, make sure you write down your baseline activity – how much you were able to do in 30 minutes time. Keep a log of how much further or faster you went the next time and the next.
If you have other health and fitness goals, be sure to keep track of those as well. I have watched my weight, waist-line and blood pressure figures all drop over the months I’ve been working out. Seeing your steady improvement is a great way to motivate yourself to stick with the program.
5. keep challenging yourself
The greatest gizmo I ever got was a simple, inexpensive, battery-operated digital interval tracking device. It lets me set up two timed intervals for a specified period of time, and then beeps and vibrates to alert me when an interval has concluded. When I first started walking, I set it for 5 seconds and 55 seconds for 30 intervals. For one half hour I would alternate walking for 55 seconds and jogging for 5.
Gradually, (and I mean gra-a-a-a-d-ually) I increased the seconds I spent jogging. Now I jog for 30 seconds and walk for 30 seconds, but I still only work out one half hour most days of the week. I now cover two miles in the time it took to walk just one.
6. reward yourself
Make sure you reward yourself for sticking to your exercise program. On January 1st of each year, I’ll go through my daily planner, and at the end of every month I’ll write in red, “REWARD.” On the last day of each month, when I’ve stuck to my exercise routine, I treat myself to a new workout accessory, music to walk by, or ice cream!
That’s all there is to it: find and commit to just a half hour a day doing something you enjoy that you can change enough to keep interesting. Keep track of your improvement, keep challenging yourself and build in regular rewards. Now, that’s a New Year’s resolution you can keep, no tap shoes required!