By: Darrell W. Butler
ACE, NFPT, ISCA Certified Personal Trainer
Wow, time really flies doesn’t it? It seems as though it was just yesterday that I was trying to decide whether to say “twenty ten” or “two thousand and ten.” Actually, I’m still undecided on that, but no matter how you chose to pronounce it, last year is history!
So now that we’ve officially turned the page to open a new chapter in 2011, it’s time to reflect on the year that’s past and set goals for the future.
The unfortunate problem with most fitness-related New Year resolutions is that they tend to be unrealistic. I’m not saying that they’re impossible; but they’re typically goals that would take a very long time to achieve. When people don’t see results right away, they tend to give up and fall back into bad habits.
This is the reason that hoards of people will soon be rushing into fitness centers around the world in January, only to disappear before the end of the month.
It really does make sense though. If you haven’t seen the inside of a gym in five years, how can you resolve to start going seven days per week? And if you’ve been a size 16 since college, do you really expect to fit into those size 4 skinny jeans by Valentine’s Day?
Like they say, you have to crawl before you walk, right? So instead of merely focusing on lofty long term goals, this time around, you should also give yourself short term goals to help track your progress along the way.
With that said, here are some simple fitness resolutions for 2011 that will serve as baby steps toward your size 4’s!
1. Get a physical and fitness assessment
When’s the last time that you had a physical exam? Go on, it’s okay, continue to do the math, I’ll wait…
If it’s been more than three years, it’s probably been way too long!
Generally speaking, the frequency of your physical exam depends upon your age and medical history. Most doctors recommend yearly physical exams for those over the age of 40, and every two or three years for everyone else.
Recent studies have actually proven the annual physical to be somewhat unnecessary in generally healthy people. These medical researchers have stated that exercising, maintaining a healthy body weight and not smoking are enough to keep most of us in good health.
The counterpart to this argument is that many of us don’t know if we are truly at a healthy body weight or if we are exercising enough to begin with! Most medical researchers also still applaud the usage of a physical exam for prevention and determining risk factors as our bodies begin to age.
The fitness assessments offered by most gyms provide similar benefits, as they help determine flexibility, strength, body composition and cardio/muscular endurance levels. Many fitness centers even take things a step further by offering balance and postural assessments in additional to muscular imbalance and gait assessments. These are all useful tools that will help prevent injuries and determine areas that need improvement.
With that said, this is arguably the most important resolution that you can make, since it sets the stage for every other goal that’s likely to appear on your list. Knowing where you’re starting from will make it a whole lot easier to reach your final destination, so try and get this one taken care of as early as possible.
2. Start taking your lunch to work
No matter what your fitness goal is for 2011, nutrition will play a major role in your success. For this reason, the more control you have over your menu, the better off you’ll be. The more often you have to raid the office snack machine or rely on ordering Chinese food and pizza with the rest of your co-workers, the quicker the downward spiral will be.
Instead, stock your desk with healthy snacks and pack well-balanced meals to help get you through the day. For added motivation you can even write yourself a note reminding yourself of the goal and place that in the area of your desk where those menus use to be!
“Brown-bagging-it” will not only help you save calories, but will also help you save cash that you’re going to need to purchase those new clothes to fit your new athletic body, so stick with it!
3. Start eating more fruits and vegetables
Starches and carbohydrates are always easy for us to work into our diets, and while many of us could stand to take in a little more protein, most manage to consume at least a base amount each day. Fruits and vegetables, however, are almost always the last ones picked for the team. Ah, I feel your pain poor broccoli spear, always a bridesmaid but never the bride!
Seriously people, we have to start consuming more fruits and vegetables. The vitamins and minerals locked inside of these often neglected food groups are too good to keep missing out on!
Generally speaking, try to have more fruit with your morning meals. As the day goes on, try and incorporate more vegetables instead since the natural sugars contained in fruit will be less beneficial as your activity level slows down. And while we’re on the topic of sugar, try and consume the actual fruit instead of any fruit juice that has been loaded with artificial sweeteners and additives.
4. Devote at least 10 minutes to get active each day
That doesn’t sound like much now does it? But that’s actually the point of picking such a short amount of time. Sure you can do more, however every bit counts, so even if you can only take 10 minutes out of your day, you’ll still reap the benefits.
Of course, the shorter period of time that you select, the harder you’ll have to work to maximize your time (and vice versa – if you’re working out extremely hard for long periods of time, do not follow this daily approach, as you’ll need rest time for your muscles to recuperate), but you’ll be surprised how much that you can get done in such a small window.
Many fitness dvds and television programs provide simple 10 minute workouts, or you can design one of your own! For example, jog in place or perform jumping jacks for one minute. Now perform 30 second of squats, 30 seconds of lunges, 30 seconds of push-ups and 30 seconds of crunches. Repeat all of that two more times and stretch for a minute. Yes, it’s that simple!
Obviously ramp that up based on your fitness level and how much time you have, but the point is that time shouldn’t be your excuse this year. Figure out how much time you can devote to getting active, and then make it happen!
5. Start stretching after working out
Remember grade school gym class when we stretched for a few minutes at the beginning and then ran around like maniacs until the bell rang and we rushed off to our next subject? Well many of us have never broken these habits as adults, but we need to.
Leaving the gym without stretching could lead to muscle cramping, increased soreness and at a heightened risk for injuries. Instead of simply stretching at the very beginning of your routine, warm your muscles up through activity such as walking, riding a bike or any other simple motions that will elevate your muscle temperature and blood flow.
After a few minutes, you’ll be ready to work out, but before you head home; your last step should be to relax those tense muscles by stretching. Hold each stretch for 10-30 seconds. You can also massage the areas that are particularly sore or head to the sauna for additional relief.
Your post-workout routine is just as important as your warm-up, so start finding time to stretch in 2011! Finish off your post-workout routine with a well-balanced meal or a high-quality shake within 30-90 minutes.
6. Start drinking more water
If you’re already drinking six to eight glasses of water per day you can skip this section, however most of us are not. Instead, we’re loading up on coffee, soda, energy drinks and alcohol.
Fresh water that hasn’t been doctored up with artificial sweeteners and flavorings is really the ultimate “wonder beverage.” It helps with digestion, suppresses hunger, clears the skin, aides in regulating bodily functionality and more!
If you’re not used to drinking even a glass of water each day, don’t try and aim to start drinking eight tomorrow. You’re likely to end up miserable even attempting that and you’ll probably be hunkered in a bathroom for most of the day. Baby steps remember? Instead, aim for two glasses, and then over time increase that to four.
You may also want to keep a bottle placed on your desk so that you can sip it throughout the day, instead of trying to chug down a gallon in one sitting.
7. Start taking time to relax
Earlier I stated that you should devote 10 minutes to be active, but now I’d like for you to also devote at least 30 to do absolutely nothing. Allow your muscles to rest, spend quality time with your family, call an old friend, take a nap, take a yoga class, you can do anything you’d like, so long as it doesn’t involve any work or pressure.
Many of us spend so much time working and worrying about life that even our free-time is stressful! So your last simple resolution for 2011 should actually be to find time to forget about your resolutions so that you can reflect and enjoy the simple things that make life enjoyable in the first place.
Have a safe and Happy New Year!
For more tips from Darrell W. Butler, go to DBPTonline.com and take your fitness goals to the next level! Registration is free so sign up today!
Darrell W. Butler is a certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise and The National Federation of Professional Trainers. He holds a wide spectrum of coaching and group instructor credentials, and serves as a fitness and nutritional consultant for several radio programs and media publications.