Tuesday 8 January 2019

New Year's Resolutions

Cropped photo by Chris Gilbert on Unsplash

Well a week has passed since New Year's arrived and how many of you made a resolution or two? And how many of you are still biding by them?

I myself have made a few, most of which I know I can do as I have done them before but I have gone with a couple of new ones for the challenge. I'll elaborate on them a bit more later on in this post. First of all however I would like to address the problem of the New Year's resolution.

Table of contents

Why New Year's?

First of all the definition of "resolution" as given by Google is "a firm decision to do or not to do something." That's pretty obvious and simple. The biggest question is... why do we feel the need to make resolutions at New Year's? Why this specific point of time? Indeed the best time to enact a resolution is there and then as soon as you've decided to do it. After all Benjamin Franklin (allegedly) said it best: "Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today."

This is especially true when it involves your health. My partner at the start of December past was recently diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis and was given medication to help her. She was intent on starting the medication on New Year's rather than there and then. Eventually she agreed with me that it was better to start it as soon as possible as why put off the benefits of the medication to a set point in the future when by starting ASAP you could already be reaping the benefits of it by the time that arbitrary date arrived?

The same principle applies to working out. Why put off the improvements you could be gaining right now for a specific starting date in the future? The sooner started the sooner achieved if all goes to plan.

So how come New Year's is such an attractive starting date for resolutions? Well, the notion of a new you for the new year is a well ingrained component of our society and a highly attractive motivator. New Year's offers a specific cut-off point in time where you can write off the previous year and focus on the new one ahead. It is a date that if you are successful in your resolution(s) that can be easily remembered.

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The pitfalls of a set date

There are two big pitfalls of selecting a specific date in the future to start with a resolution. The first, which was mentioned above, involved the delaying of the benefits you will achieve. The second pitfall is the tendency to "pig-out" in the run-up to your resolutions start date.

Obviously to "pig-out" applies best to resolutions revolving around food and drink, and from personal experience it happens. You feel that as you're going to cut something out you may as well go all out on it before you do so. Depending on how crazy you go, you could make your resolution that much harder to abide by and if you were intending to cut something out, say chocolate, so you can lose weight, you may pile on more weight making that goal harder to achieve.

There is no harm in "pigging-out" if it is done sensibly and not excessively.

Personally I usually don't plan resolutions for New Year's in advance, I just decide on the day itself mixing together the ideas of an easy to remember cut-off date and not delaying what can be started today. However this year I decided a couple of weeks in advance I would give up milk chocolate, which I have a particular fondness of. Most of the time I can go by without eating any and since desensitising myself to it years ago, I find a couple of pieces more than enough as I find it far too sweet nowadays anyways to enjoy too much of it.

As it was the Christmas period and mini-chocolates in selection tubs abound en masse everywhere at that time of year, I indulged in one or two pieces here or there throughout the day. Whilst it was more than I would usually eat it wasn't excessive by any means. When I went into the gym a day or two after New Year's I hadn't put on any noticeable extra weight and I found it easy to go cold turkey.

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Don't follow Icarus

When it comes to resolutions it is best not to go extreme in what you are aiming to achieve. If you aim for something far too high up in the sky, you may end up like poor Icarus of ancient Greek myth, who flew too close to the sun where his waxed wings melted. You can guess what happened to poor Icarus afterwards.

Whilst it is highly unlikely that you will tumble out of the sky and into the sea and drown like Icarus did, it can be self-deflating and demoralising if you fail with your resolution. That is why it is best to focus on ones that are easier to attain. If you've never done a run before don't be aiming to complete five full marathons within the year. Aim for a couple of half-marathons and then the following year aim for a full one or two once you've built up your ability and experience.

It is good to have long-term aims and goals, however it is important to follow the SMART goals protocol.

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My resolutions

So what were my resolutions for 2019? In regards to health and fitness the resolutions I decided upon were simple enough:

  • Give up milk chocolate. I personally prefer 85%+ dark chocolate, which is the real chocolate that is good for you.
  • Give up crisps and similar snacks. I had already cut down on these big time anyways and no longer really enjoy them.
  • Cut down on my coffee intake to just two or three normal sized shots a day. Whilst I never over-indulged in coffee, I find a smaller dose a day more beneficial overall for me.
  • Build up my fitness to partake in a half marathon later on in the year. I have in the past went out jogging and built up to 7 miles in a short space of time no problem, so 13.1 miles, whilst a bit of a challenge is attainable.

If you have any questions feel free to comment below or send me some feedback!

Lyle Richardson,
Gym Pal - Your Friend In Fitness


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