Let’s face it: January 1 — the dead of winter — is probably the worst time of the year to turn over a new leaf. Everyone’s exhausted from the holidays, weather’s usually terrible, and the big seasonal foods are hardy greens and root vegetables (which might be exactly nobody’s favorite treats). It’s no wonder that 46% of people who make a new year’s resolution have abandoned it by the time February rolls around.
So this year, why not make a spring resolution. The timing couldn’t be better: More hours of daylight — not to mention weather that gets better each week — seem to help us get out of work in time to take a stroll around the neighborhood after dinner. A whole slew of great fruits and vegetables make their appearance at the farmers market, helping to keep our eating plans on track, too.
Here are few tips for reaching your spring goals around Fitness and Well-being:
1) I want to stick to an exercise plan
We’ve all done it: We start out exercising with the best of intentions, but life intervenes. Isn’t there’s always something more appealing on the to-do list than exercising? But a few simple tips can help you get off to a good start.
First, no matter how hard it is to get off the couch, remember that the first week or two of a new workout is always the hardest. As time goes on, your body gets stronger, your cardiovascular fitness improves, and you develop new patterns in your brain that actually make it easier to get into “the zone” that lets you stop complaining and start relaxing. After the first 30 days, you’ve created a whole new habit that has a far better chance of sticking.
Need a little motivation to keep going? Try making a game of it. Team up with a friend of family member, and see who can log the most minutes, miles, or laps in a week. Even if you’re flying solo, fitness trackers like Fitbit and Jawbone make it simple to track your activity hour by hour. You might just be surprised how hard you’ll try to rack up 10,000 steps by bedtime if you see you’re getting close to a goal.
Most importantly, don’t let an off day, or even a longer dry spell, get in the way of your success. Just because you didn’t work out today doesn’t mean you can’t start all over again tomorrow.
2) I want to join a gym
There’s a real appeal to working out at a health club: You get the camaraderie of your fellow members, the expertise of the trainers and staff, and a wide variety of equipment that you could never fit into your basement. But the dirty little secret is that 67 percent of people with gym memberships never use them. Here’s how to be a part of the successful 33 percent.
First, pick your location wisely. A cheap gym is no bargain if you aren’t motivated to work out regularly, or if the location isn’t convenient. Pick a spot that’s on your existing route to and from the office, church, or other regular stop and you’ll have one less excuse.
Make sure you find a health club that works for your fitness style. Your workout might never be your favorite part of the day, but there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be enjoyable. If you’re looking to get strong, seek out a gym with lots of weights and a staff of qualified trainers. More interested in getting some cardio? Visit the gym when you’d normally work out and see how crowded the treadmills and ellipticals are at that time. Definitely ask about trial memberships so you can make sure that the club you choose is a good fit for you.
Lastly, do take advantage of professional assistance, at least to get started. Many gyms offer an introductory package of sessions with a staff trainer. They’ll help you set realistic goals, show you how to safely set up the equipment, and start your new habits on the right foot.
3) I want to lose weight
Winter is rough on our bodies. The sun disappears for weeks at a time, temperatures drop, and cold-weather foods can be calorie nightmares. But spring is coming, and that’s both good news (better weather, delicious food) and bad news (swimsuit season is closer than you think).
You can lose weight by dieting, and you can get in better shape by working out, but weight-loss experts tell us that you really need to do both to make a lasting difference in your weight. But there’s a bright side: You don’t have to run marathons or live on rice cakes and tofu to make it happen.
To take the first step, visit a site like the Mayo Clinic and calculate how many calories you need to maintain your current weight. By subtracting 500 calories a day from that number, you’ll be on a good path to lose 4 to 5 pounds a month. (Sites like MyFitnessPal and SparkPeople let you track your calories for free using databases of restaurant meals and grocery-store foods.) Add in some moderate exercise like walking or gentle cycling and you’ll speed things up even more. Fitness gurus say you need at least 150 minutes a week, or 10,000 steps per day, for optimal health benefits.
However you plan get there, don’t forget to choose a regimen that you can live with for the long term. Don’t shortchange yourself with a crazy fad diet or over-the-top workout that you won’t be able to stick with. Consistency is key to meeting your goals, so start out slow and ramp up as you’re able.
4) I want to quit smoking
There’s no one set way to successfully kick a smoking habit. The tactics that work for one person won’t work for another. Some people try for years to quit, then manage to go “cold turkey” and never look back. Others find that natural remedies like herbs and acupuncture help. Experts at smokefree.gov say that the most effective solution is a combination of medication and in-person counseling… but that’s an expensive road to take.
If you have health insurance, check with your provider. Many health plans offer free or low-cost medical support for members who want to give up cigarettes or other tobacco products.
Once you’ve got a plan that works for you, set a quit date. Plan at least a couple of weeks out, to give yourself time to put a support system in place. Let your friends and family know, and ask them to help you stay on course. Write down the reasons why you’re quitting, and keep the list handy — it can help steel your resolve when the craving strikes. And don’t forget to plan for success: Decide beforehand on rewards for yourself when you reach weekly and monthly milestones, and you’ll have something to look forward to in addition to better health and a longer lifespan.
5) I want to see a doctor about a health concern
No matter your age, going to the doctor’s office isn’t high on anybody’s list. And as we grow older, it seems like there’s always some little unpleasant surprise waiting at the end of even the most routine checkup. So it’s not a great stretch to imagine why many people prefer to put it off as long as possible.
A health professional can provide factual analysis of your overall wellness, as well as an objective reality check on problems that have been bothering you. Don’t let your fear of the unknown — or your fear of a lecture about how you need to take better care of yourself — prevent you from starting down a path to fixing those issues.
Our fears and imaginings are almost always worse than reality. And if by some chance your visit turns up something that needs fixing, it’s better to get started on making those changes, or starting treatment, sooner rather than later. You’ll be one step closer to regaining your health just by setting up the appointment.
6) I want to better manage my stress
Stress can seem as much a part of modern life as smartphones and jam-packed calendars, but it doesn’t have to be. Avoiding stress takes some advance planning, but the benefits for health and happiness are many.
As overscheduled as we all are, it’s easy to fall into the bad habit of skimping on sleep. But experts remind us that or bodies need that time — a minimum of 7 hours a night for most people — to regroup from the rigors of daily living. Loss of sleep can lead to poor health, work problems, and weight gain, three things that rank high on many people’s stress triggers. Exercise helps, too, especially walking, riding a bike, or any outdoor activity that allows our overworked brains to let go for a little while.
When you’re already running full tilt, it often seems counterintuitive to add another task to the to-do list. But one of the best ways to beat stress is to spend an hour or two each week making a plan. Set out your work goals for the week; write up a menu and shopping list; schedule some time with family and friends to do activities you love. Whatever you top priority is, schedule it first before other things creep in.
And don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your friends, family, and coworkers care about you, and they may not have any idea how much you’re struggling. Even if your stressed-out state is obvious, people close to may not want to impose on you, or they may not have a clear idea of the best way to make a difference. Don’t hesitate to lean into your support system and let a little of the load fall on others’ shoulders until you regain your balance.