Okay. Here we are. 2012.
What’s your Resolution?
I’m not going to bore you with the statistics on Resolutions and how many people drop their health and fitness Resolutions before the end of January. There really is no need: you all have friends who you have watched make and break those promises. You may have made the promises to yourself, only to decide in the first few weeks of the year that life was better without being burdened with all those chains.
But the start of the New Year is a brilliant time to turn over a new leaf. Here’s the catch: the leaf is delicate and if you turn it over with a big iron fist, it’s going to tear (oooooh imagery!). Most of us will come out of the gate way too fast and burn up just as quickly. We try to change everything we are eating, we try to workout far beyond our personal capacity, and the reward at the end of the day is exhaustion and a sense of defeat.
So enter Zen. We all know Zen. It’s that thing where you sit and stare at a stream.
Well, yes, but a little bit more. Zen is a school of Buddhism and the word itself is a derivation of the Sanskrit word for “meditation”. Part of the Zen practice is a voyage of introspection, discovering the nature of oneself. It is a slow and patient journey, one that leads the practitioner to enlightenment. Here’s the catch: there is no time line for enlightenment. If you wanted to enroll in a 12-week course in Zen meditation because the teacher promised enlightenment at the end of 12 weeks, I’d say stay away. That’s not the nature of the beast.
So how does that relate to your Resolution? We tend to attack our Resolutions like a hungry animal. We are driven by some sense that we are lacking something, some quality (think “thin”) and assume that if we take all our energy and throw it in some direction, we will attain that missing element. It’s firing a shot gun at a target while blindfolded. Some people who are patient enough will keep firing the shotgun and eventually hit something. But most of us lose our patience.
I had an interesting talk with a young woman the other night. She had just had a baby eight weeks ago and she and her husband decided to sign up for personal training sessions at their local gym in order to get in top shape for parenthood. Her husband wanted to take off a few pounds around his middle (let’s call it his sympathy belly) and put on some upper body muscle. She wanted to 1) recover from the physical exhaustion of pregnancy and childbirth and 2)prepare for her first half marathon she is going to run in May. Excellent goals for both of them. The trainer had them doing exactly the same workouts, which consisted of heaving around lots of weight.
Yup. So she is tired and sore and ready to throw in the towel, while her husband, somewhat less frustrated, is hoping that he will get the results that he is paying a great deal of money to have.
This is a situation where the trainer is blindfolded and firing a shotgun at the clients, hoping that his particular pattern of training will help them achieve their goals.
Ain’t going to happen.
Back to Zen. The first step is patience. It doesn’t take any sort of thought or plan to get out of shape. We can do that very easily. But to get yourself in shape takes a great deal of thought and knowledge, both of the science itself and of your own body. You don’t have to enroll in any sort of graduate program, but you do have to become more introspective. Most people will say that they eat healthy, but when pressed, have no idea how many calories they consume daily; rarely get their recommended intake of fruits and vegetables; miss out on all the joys of fiber; and tend to snack as though the snacks don’t count. Workouts are an all-or-nothing affair that leave them depleted and drawn to all the wrong foods when they sit at the table.
So the three steps to the successful Resolution:
1. Journals. Keep track of what you eat by writing it down. Yes, there are apps you can use to track your food, but most of us will never open the app as often as we open our mouths. Go the old fashioned way and write it down in a notebook with a pen. Then seek the advice of a nutritionist who can help you sort out the patterns you have created and give you a little guidance as to how to change course. Don’t get involved in someone who wants you to visit every week for the next 400 weeks. That isn’t necessary. What you need are some simple steps to get you on the right track. It’s all about a little education.
2. Spend some money on a skilled trainer. And buyer beware. You know that uneasy feeling you get when someone is trying to sell you a car and it just doesn’t seem right? Do you buy the car? Well, just because someone has pumped up biceps and a wash board stomach doesn’t mean that they are a quality trainer who can help you with your personal situation. Ask question, take a trial session. And if it doesn’t feel right, speak up or move on. Otherwise, you’ll end up deflated and depressed like my new mom friend.
3. Patience. I can’t stress this enough. It took you a while to get out of shape. It’s going to take a while to get into shape. Don’t expect huge changes in a few short weeks. In fact, if you have huge changes in a short period of time, you are far more likely to snap back like a rubber band and find yourself in exactly the same position next January. Create a three month fitness schedule for yourself. Try to vary the workouts across the board: take a class, throw a frisbee…..it’s not just logging mindless hours on a treadmill. Place the workouts at times when you know there is little chance you will have to reschedule. But set it up for yourself in advance, so you see the path that you are going to follow. This is going to make it far less likely you will consider each workout an all or nothing event.
And if you have questions, hit me with them, sooner rather than later. Nothing worse than fitness frustration. email@example.com