So for the second year in a row I’m beginning to think that the whole new year’s resolution thing is overrated. I’m seeing less and less people posting, tweeting, writing, sharing and promoting their stated goals for the new year, and I think that we’ve reached a point where a new year is simply that: a new year, just like any other. The calendar turns from December to January, but the weather outside is still pretty frightful and in the gym, it’s a bit of a crapshoot as to whether or not the “resolutioners” are going to come in from the cold and hop on the elliptical for the first time. In a way this might be somewhat depressing, but on the other hand I have seen a sign that is entirely positive and encouraging, just without the fanfare of the actual resolutions: the intrigue and willingness to try something new.
Exercise, like many things in life, is simply a fixture of habits and routine. If you are someone who has gotten up every morning for the last twenty years and headed to the gym on a consistent basis, that’s a pretty well ingrained custom of your day, part of your natural routine and one that probably won’t change anytime soon. Being a creature of habit means that we don’t like change (I’m a prime example) but in the context of that routine, our willingness to do something new can be a good thing. To that end, here are a few basic exercise concepts that might feel a little bit outdated (but are worth a try!) and some new ideas that might give you the jolt you need to make even the smallest change a reality:
- PICK UP THE PACE — One of my clients asked me what I do for “cardio”, and my answer was quite simple. I told him, “I lift weights faster.” Love to say that this was my own personal and unique response because I could trademark it and make a lot of money, but in truth, this is from one of my new favorite trainers named Jen Sinkler. She coined the term and made it into an exercise program of the same name. If you are someone who spends hours on a cardio machine, or thinks you have to split time between a treadmill and free weights, my question is … why? What if you could combine both, get a better workout, with better results AND save time in the process? I love to exercise but I love my free time even more, and by simply moving faster and more efficiently in the gym I get the best of both worlds.
- ASK YOURSELF: DOES THIS EXERCISE MAKE SENSE? Just today I was training someone and while doing backwards lunges, she told me that something was bothering her knee. After making a few adjustments and giving her some advice, the knee was still bothering her, so you know what we did? We stopped the exercise, plain and simple. Common thinking is that if you have your “routine” of what you have planned for your session at the gym, that you have to complete the routine as outlined or you didn’t do what you needed to do. But if an exercise hurts, or doesn’t feel right or is simply too difficult on that day, why do it? Find a variation, or just move on for another day. You aren’t quitting, you’re simply listening to your body, and that’s a good thing.
- VARIETY IS GOOD, CONSISTENCY IS BETTER — I’ve always been a huge believer in experimenting with different classes, variations, exercises and breaking people out of their comfort zones. I encourage my clients to try something new, whether they are a power lifter who has never tried Yoga or a Zumba lover who has never picked up a free weight. But that doesn’t mean that I want my clients to stop doing what they like to do and doing what they are successfully doing. If you are good at Yoga, for instance, and you enjoy it, it makes you happy and de-stresses you at the same time, by all means, go ahead and do that Yoga, and do it well. Same goes with running, bicycling, Zumba, power lifting, etc. Break out of that comfort zone every once in a while but if you are doing what makes you happy, that happiness and consistency should translate into other areas as well.
- DON’T BE AFRAID TO REST — Rest based training is one of those new catch-phrases out there, one that I learned from the brilliant Dr. Jade Teta of Metabolic Effect, and one that I preach to my clients on an everyday basis. If you are in a cross fit or Power Yoga or Tae Bo class and can’t keep up with the rest, you are out of breath, exhausted and starting to lose your form on some exercises, take a step back, catch your breath and REST. Many of the workouts I do involve weights, circuits and timers, and I tell my clients all the time, “Do as much as you can and then rest as much as you need to. Then start again.” Some of my clients hate this because they think they are failing, still adhering to the notion that you have to work as hard as you can as long as you can. But what sense does it make to push your body so hard that you can’t push anymore, lose your form and focus and everything starts to collapse? There are no grades here. You simply have to do the best you can, give it your best shot and that’s all anyone can ask. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all.
So the next time you head to the gym ask yourself a couple of simple questions: Does it make sense for me to do the routine I planned on doing today? How does it feel when I do this exercise? Should I try something different that will make me feel a bit better? Remember, routine is good, change is great, but consistency and listening to your body are best. Nothing is set in stone, so why not give a small change a chance? Ask yourself these questions and you are well on your way to making a change, whether you “resolved” it, or not.