New Year’s Resolutionaries: What to Know and How Not to Fail.

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As many of you know, I started my journey to weight loss in November. I joined a big box gym, one that was recently opened and still all shiny with that special new gym smell that everyone loves. It was a huge facility with more equipment than I knew the names of and about 5 machines to every person inside.

It turns out that for the nervous morbidly obese man, going to the gym when it’s completely easy lowered the barrier for entry. Two months passed and I was totally comfortable. Then something funny happened.

It became January.

The first time I went to my gym in the new year, I thought maybe a celebrity was visiting or something. This is Orange County and my gym has played host to a few olympians and such, so it wouldn’t be unexpected. Kobe Bryant worked out down the street at another location of the gym occasionally so I thought something like that was happening. The parking lot was completely packed. I’m never opposed to having to foot it for a bit to get in the gym (exercise is kind of the reason I’m there after all), but there were literally no spots– near or far. After what felt like circling for thirty minutes, I finally caught someone leaving and got inside.

I checked in, providing my phone number and asked one of the cutesy cookie cutter front desk girls (yes, they look the same at every gym in Southern California) what was going on. She replied as if I should have been expecting:

“It’s New Year’s! Everyone is starting on their resolutions.” How awesome! I would now be surrounded by people striving to start their own new healthy lifestyles just like me.

And then she dropped the depressing part: “Don’t worry, it will be quiet in a month.” Or to put it another way: most of these people will fail.

This post goes out to all the Resolutionaries. The ones who have decided that 2013 is going to be the year. I wanted to give four facts about your upcoming change for those whose goals will bring them into the gym.

#1: Chances are, nobody is going to judge you.

The first time I walked into the gym, I weighed in at well over 400 pounds. I’d lost about 30 and I was feeling happy about that, but there was no doubt that I looked like a before picture in a Weight Watchers commercial to anyone that was there. I’m sure that when the guy that sold me my membership in the gym sold it to me, just a week after Thanksgiving, right in the middle of the holidays figured that he might see me one or two more times and then never again.

I slowly meandered up to the treadmill and started to walk. It was pretty much the only thing I could do, so that’s what I did. I expected people to snicker and laugh. And that’s when I realized the unthinkable had happened.

Nobody gave a darn.

As it turns out, nobody was there to laugh at the fat guy. I’ve learned that there are with very rare exception two types of people in any gym in America:

  • People that are completely stuck on themselves and think they have the perfect physique. These are easily identifiable as they spend an inordinate amount of time flexing in front of the mirrors and admiring their arms. They don’t care about anyone in the gym except for themselves. In fact, they probably think they are alone.
  • People that are there working on themselves. Whether they’re half a pound or half a ton overweight, they are insecure themselves and not about to judge another. If anything, you being there working on yourself serves as motivation.

Remember this quote attributed to Dr. Seuss (click this link for a beautiful comic that makes me cry every time with the quote as its story):

Be Who You Are and Say What You Feel Because Those Who Mind Don’t Matter, and Those Who Matter Don’t Mind
The only thing I will suggest for those newbies coming into the gym for the first time these few rules of etiquette:

  1. Clean up after yourself (put weights back, wipe up sweat, etc).
  2. Unnecessary grunting is not impressive. Ever.
  3. Don’t spend too much money on gym clothes. If you do it right, they’re going to get funky. Armani Xchange and Pink Love smell just like generic stuff after a few work outs and it ain’t pretty smelling.
  4. Girls have a hard enough time in the gym. Don’t stare at them or leer. Don’t hit on them. They’re just trying to work out like you are.
  5. If you wear weight lifting gloves, make sure they match your purse.

#2: Any effort is better than no effort at all.

Ok, you might want to sit down for this one.
 
You’re going to probably hurt after your first week in the gym. You might even hurt after the first day. It’s ok and it’s totally normal. Don’t overdo it, but you can get through it. The question you need to ask yourself right now is this:
 
How am I going to deal with setbacks like pain and lack of motivation?
 
If you wait for the hiccup to occur, you will be altogether unprepared and chances are you’ll deal with it by giving up and settling for your previous life. Maybe you’ll tell yourself that it’s just not the right time with everything going on in your life. February will be slower. And then February comes, and you tell yourself that it doesn’t make sense to plan on eating right so close to Valentine’s day and before you know it, you’re making the same excuse for Easter and Summer is too close to make a difference now, and then it’s the holidays. Before you know it, you’re setting a New Year’s Resolution again all because you failed to plan for something that was almost entirely inevitable regardless of your level of motivation and desire.
 
So again, ask yourself the question: How am I going to deal with setbacks like pain and lack of motivation?
 
For me, I asked my friends and family to hold me accountable. I put myself out there as someone who was going to lose weight and I knew that if I didn’t, I would look like a chump and a hypocrite. That motivated me but it may not work for you. Here are some other ideas:
  • Find a way to reward yourself for working out (HINT: best not to use food as a reward, just saying).
  • Put your goal on stickK. I recently heard about this service and I love it. You can actually set up a financial penalty for not sticking to your measurable goal. You can commit a dollar amount to a charity that you hate and if you fail, your money will go to them. Or you can make it an embarassment thing that will email your friends if you fail. Setting up some kind of negative kickback for failing has actually beeen shown to be more effective than positive rewards.
  • Use a trainer/dietician to keep you in line.
  • Commit to posting your weekly weigh in on Facebook or the social network of your choosing.
  • Set up a bet or join some kind of competition.

#3: The More Specific and Exciting your Goal is, the More More Likely you are to Succeed.

What are you trying to accomplish? If your New Year’s Resolution is to exercise more and eat healthier, good luck with that. What you say? That was the same Resolution you had last year? How’d that work out?

Being healthy is a good goal. A better one would sound like:

“I want to lose 50 pounds this year and exercise three times a week.”

Make a smart goal every single time:

S – Specific (exactly what are you going to do?)

M – Measurable (how are you going to track it?)

A – Achievable (don’t let me tell you what you can’t do, but don’t set yourself up for failure)

R – Relevant (does this really matter to you? Will it get you out of bed in the morning?)

T – Time-Specific (when will you have this done by? Indefinite goals get postponed indefinitely)

Make sure you commit the goal to writing whatever it is. I highly suggest placing it somewhere where it will be visible and relevant like the refrigerator, your computer monitor or your automobile. Wherever you are most likely to need motivation. Better yet, why not all 3?

#4 The Tortoise Always Beats the Hare

The Great Bruce Lee said the following:

No matter how killer that first workout, you will not be losing all the weight after one workout in the gym. You will not be fit after one week or probably even after one month. While the common belief holds that it takes about 21 days to form a habit (recent studies show the number to be more like two months), just because working out has become a habit doesn’t mean all of your health woes will be over and you’ll live happily ever after in the gym after two months of consistent workouts.

You will be best improved by continuous workouts if you want to lats like Bruce.

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I identify with this philosophy: I have never been nor will I ever be the strongest, the smartest or the best at just about anything. But let me assure you that I will never lose or fail because I didn’t give enough effort. This is a log of my workouts from the day I started in the gym in the end of November until early December 2012:

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I don’t spend two hours every time in the gym. I always have a purpose. I’m not kicking 10,000 times. These workouts also don’t include Krav Maga, Boxing, Jiu Jitsu and the exterior triathlon training I did on trails and mountain biking. It doesn’t include day to day stuff, just gym time and that’s it. I work out almost 19 days a month on average.

I’m not posting this to brag or show you what a hardcore gym obsessed freak I am. I’m telling you that the reason I have been successful and the reason why I will never relapse into being a morbidly obese man is because I have resolved to be the hare and slow and steady always wins the race.

Don’t kill yourself on day one. Exert yourself on days 1, 3 and 5. And stay active on 2, 4 and 6.

Well that’s all for today party people. Now get out there and join me in making 2013 the best year ever.

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