Tips for starting, following through on fitness resolutions

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, January 5, 2017

It’s that time of year again. Time to celebrate a new year! Folks have practiced this for thousands of years. For the western world, it started back in Roman times.

Here are a few facts about January and the new year you might not know. January comes from the Latin word “ianus” meaning door, and is named after Janus, the Roman god of the doorway. Janus had two faces − one looking forward and one looking back. Julius Caesar was actually the first to set Jan. 1 as the new year.

In 1778, poet Robert Burns was so touched by lyrics, allegedly received from “an old man,” that he sent “Auld Lang Syne” to the Scottish Musical Museum. Translated as “Times Gone By,” the message of the song is that despite the pain, we must remember those we’ve loved and lost.

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Ever watched the American tradition, the Rose Parade, officially called the Tournament of Roses, on New Year’s Day? An estimated 18 million flowers are used to make those parade floats.

Also, noise making and fireworks are a New Year’s tradition believed to have originated way back in ancient times.

One modern tradition observed today is the New Year’s resolution.  Every January, millions vow to finally lose weight and get in shape. That’s a wonderful idea, but by January’s end, many have lost motivation, and quit all together.

Today, I’m going to show you ways to help you follow through, and finally get in shape this year. As the old adage goes, “people don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan.”

The first thing to remember is that you can succeed. I’ve had clients lose 50, 65, 72, and even 108 pounds. The thing is though, we came up with proper fitness and diet strategies.

When clients first come to me, I require they keep a food journal. Even before they start recording their eating habits, I tell them in the front of their journal I want them to write an entire page of what it will cost them personally in the near and distant future in terms of health, money, relationships, self esteem and anything else they can think of if they do not make the health and fitness changes to their bodies. I tell them this is the only time I want them to feel bad, but I really want them to get those feelings. This is crucial.

Next, I want them to get out of that bad emotional state completely, and write an entire page of what they will gain in those same areas of their life if they make those health and fitness changes. This method is often referred to as “the carrot and the stick.”

Remember, everything we do in life, we do for only one of two reasons: to either gain pleasure or avoid pain. Here’s the thing, though. Most people will do much more to avoid pain than they’ll do to gain pleasure.

When someone smokes, for example, they choose to focus on the pleasure they get from that cigarette. If they focused on the pain that might come later, they would probably never smoke. If you associate enough pain with not following through, and enough pleasure in keeping your fitness and nutrition commitment, you’ll actually get enough leverage on yourself, and follow through.

So, by writing these two pages on pain and pleasure, individuals get clear in their minds why they need to finally make those changes and get in shape. Remember the “why” is even more important than the “how.” If we get a big enough reason to do something, we can figure out the “how,” and follow through.

Next, check with your doctor to see if you are ready for an exercise program. You might have conditions you’re not even aware of, like high blood pressure. Once you’re medically cleared, start slowly.

Sometimes folks are a bit too enthusiastic in the beginning and get hurt. This will really douse your enthusiasm.

Next, get help from a trained, experienced professional. So often I’ve seen exercisers at gyms start a fitness program and try to figure out proper exercise technique on their own, or even worse, try to imitate a friend or colleague who doesn’t know how to exercise properly either.

Also, there’s no such thing as the perfect exercise routine forever. You need to know when and how to change up your program, so you can make real progress.

Teaching exercise takes much experience. I have other personal trainers come to me to help sharpen their training skills, and show them how to become better personal trainers. They quickly learn that even as working personal trainers they must keep up with new and better exercise techniques. Once you get proper instruction, become accountable.

When I train those trying to lose body fat, I require they make what I call “the wardrobe commitment.” Every time they drop two sizes, they must give those clothes away. This serves two purposes: one, the needy get clothing, and two, my client has no way to turn back. Some, trying to lose weight might say, “I’ll hang on to my larger sized clothes, just in case I gain the weight back.” Nope! You have to make the commitment.

You can win the weight loss and fitness game. You just have to know the rules, and never, never, never give up.

Diet or exercise question? Email me at David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist and master personal trainer for 29 years. He served as strength director of the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A., head strength coach for the USC-Spartanburg baseball team, SC state champion girls gymnastic team, and the Converse college equestrian team. He served as a water safety instructor to the United States Marine Corps., lead trainer to L.H. Fields modeling agency, and taught for four semesters at USC-Union. David was also a regular guest of the Pam Stone radio show.