The older I get, the more my vision — my life lenses, my perspective — changes. As an adult my perception of myself is continually altered, and gradually I become less self-aware physically, or allow my self-worth to be tainted by societal norms or expectations. Unfortunately, the end of the calendar year has encroached into my brain, and now my mind is consumed with drastic changes in my diet and workouts, and interpersonal growth. These are all wonderful and admirable, but what happens when I mess up, or when I get sick and can't go to the gym and want soup because my throat hurts, or when I fall down a flight of stairs on my tailbone and cannot do the workouts set out before me? Did my New Year's resolution set me up for failure?
These questions got me thinking how we often start out our New Year strong, with ambition and drive to change every single thing about ourselves, our lives, finances, style, eating habits, and so forth. Yet, only a few days, weeks, or months later, we wake up in the morning strapped to our beds with guilt for having missed the gym the day before, for eating that carrot cake when it wasn't a cheat day, for taking an extra hour to sleep because we are feeling run down, or *gasp* because the little one got sick. None of these things should make us feel guilty; they should only gently nudge us to do better today! Why then — when this method does not create lasting positive change — are we so harsh on ourselves? There must be a better, genuinely life-changing way to go about our newfound New Year's resolution, right?
Perhaps the very notion of making "New Year's Resolutions" traps us into a race for perfection. It insinuates that without a resolution we are failures, yet if we fail at our resolution, then are we failures? No! There is absolutely nothing wrong with making resolutions, but we should definitely be more reasonable and allow ourselves room to grow and to be loving to ourselves. I've comprised a short list of not only feasible, but also quickly attainable, resolution-aids; I hope they are as helpful for you as they are for me!
1. Have clear direction and motives
The way I see it is, either we want instant gratification, or a lifetime of positive improvement. If what we truly want is a lifetime of positive improvement, we must not go about our changes blindly or bull-headedly. Directions can be confusing, and if what you've tried in the past didn't work, wasn't lasting, or didn't cause you to strive toward bettering yourself, your directions probably weren't clear enough. Meeting with a trainer or a friend that is a current gym-goer, and comprising a system, goals, and implementing an effective method for your program should definitely be your first step.
2. Cut yourself some slack--while changing the size of your slacks
Lose weight and look great! Let's throw “feel great” in the mix too, eh? If your goal is to lose weight, please do not try to do this by starving yourself or by making a short-term astronomical commitment, i.e. "In 2014 I am going to the gym 6 days a week!" While that is a wonderful decision, if you haven't been able to or diligent in going to the gym for the past few months or years, start slowly. Going to the gym 2-3 times a week is just as admirable, and in the process, you will undoubtedly be encouraging someone else who is scared to start. Remember, you have the power to influence others just by starting and following through!
3. Only a few numbers actually count
Instead of putting a number on your weight loss goal, I encourage you to find a realistic image of someone who has a similar body frame as you to work toward. When I first started lifting weights, I really had NO idea how to get where I wanted to go, but I was determined. I found out who Jennifer Nicole Lee, Jamie Eason, and eventually Dana Linn Bailey were, and I went hard toward my version of them. I took magazines with their pictures in them with me to the gym, and I did whatever the magazines said would build my arms, my abs, my legs. The emphasis was on how I felt in my clothes and what I saw in the mirror, not the numbers on the scale. In fact, to be honest, I still only get weighed at the doctor, before competitions, or if someone asks me. My encouragement for you this January is to do the same. The measurements that are important to me are the ones made with the measuring tape around my quads and biceps as they grow!! The numbers that may be important to you may be your blood pressure and cholesterol dropping, and that's something that could drive you! Make reasonable goals that you know you can stick to, and remember your worth is never measured by your clothing size or the amount of muscle you have.
4. Seek Support
If you KNOW you won't go to the gym without someone else making you, hire a trainer! Or, a more affordable approach, find someone at the gym that works out at times that fit your schedule, and ask them to text or call you. Ask yourself what will keep you on track, make a realistic plan, and do it! Social media can be a major motivator; keep a picture as your phone background, and let others know so they can help you stay focused. When I have a bad day or am going through a rough phase, I rely heavily on my friends for support. A number of my Plant Built and Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness teammates can attest to this! We will text each other or check in to be inspired and encourage one another. There is nothing wrong with needing help! After all, we were all babies at one point in which our entire existence relied on others. Be open to guidance, suggestions, and people being your support system. We need one another!
5. Write-it-out while you work-it-out!
Nothing compares to keeping a journal log of your workouts. Better yet, writing each exercise out AS you do them for future reference. Bodybuilding.com has a 12-week workout planner for you to write in what lifts you did and a space at the bottom for notes. I filled mine out a year or so ago, and it was incredibly encouraging to see my progress. I wasn't comparing myself to anyone other than myself, and THAT is the greatest push! Currently, I am using a simple black notebook from Muji that cost under $5. If you have an iPhone (and your gym has reception) you can use EverNote as well. However you track your workouts is entirely up to you, but just remember to DO IT!
6. Find what drives you
Back in 2008, when I first started going to the gym, my motivation was stemming from a negative relationship that had me feeling like I was unattractive, fat, unworthy, and that if I didn't make drastic changes I would be completely unlovable. Throughout the years, my drive has taken many different avenues from that negative space, to a time where my body being the only thing I felt I had control of, to now my workouts are purely positive! My physique is for sharing compassion and love for animals and people. Being my personal best is currently the most effective way to share my passion, and my passion only grows with the passing of time! So, naturally, I will work on improving my physique to continue to set an example.