Back to Fitness: Five New Year’s Resolutions

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2020 written in the snow, mountain landscape in the background, holiday greeting card

I’m a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. I feel corny saying that because culture these days seems to be drifting away from traditions. Making New Year’s resolutions, however, should not be scoffed at or forgotten. The end of a calendar year is a perfect time for self-reflection. How is my body? How is my mind? How are my relationships? How am I contributing? Likewise, the beginning of a new calendar year is the perfect time to look forward, set goals, and plan their execution. Why shouldn’t we reevaluate our life on a yearly basis and commit to getting better?  

I started this column almost six years ago with a specific purpose of motivating people who are not quite where they should be physically to get “Back to Fitness.” Does this mean running marathons?  No! (Well, unless you want to, then come talk to me at Crozet Running!) Does this mean asking more of yourself? Yes! Does this mean holding yourself accountable? Yes! Does this mean trying to approach life with a “growth mindset,” where you start to disregard your previously held beliefs of what you can and can’t do? Yes!

So, for those of you looking for a jumpstart on your journey back to fitness, I humbly submit five New Year’s resolutions that are simple, sustainable, and very significant.  

1)  Choose one hour, just once a week, to exercise by yourself.

First, I’m asking you to commit just one hour of your whole week to yourself. I don’t care who you are or how busy you are. You can give yourself at least one hour per week if you’re not already doing so. Hopefully you will commit to much more than this in the future, but if we’re starting from scratch, let’s just start here.  This could be Monday mornings from 6 to 7 a.m. Tuesday nights from 8 to 9 p.m. Whatever. Just set a time, preferably the same time each week, and give it to yourself for your health.

Second, exercise. I most strongly encourage you to dedicate this hour to some form of outdoor, aerobic exercise, such as walking, running, biking, or hiking. Most everyone can at least walk, and if we’re starting from scratch, let’s start here! Try your best to get outside. We don’t spend enough time outside! Don’t let the cold or the dark or the weather deter you. You’re a human! You’ve got this!

Third, do it alone. I hope you exercise five times a week and have some friends who will join you for most of it. But your friends are not responsible for your health, only you are. I think it is so important that you figure out how to get out that door alone, with no one else helping you or encouraging you. Long-term health and wellness starts from within, and there is simply no substitute for self-sufficiency. So, use this hour as not only some quiet time with the most important person in your life (you) but also learn how to get it done alone.

2)  No more soda. I love soda; it’s so delicious! But it’s terrible for us because of all that sugar. I’m not going to repeat all the stuff we now know about how sugar is wreaking havoc on our health, but I’m going to simply reframe it: sugar is very fattening! When we overload our body with sugar, such as when we drink a soda, we simply can’t use all of that energy right away and a lot of it will be stored as fat. We often think of only fatty foods as “fattening,” but we definitely need to add sugar high on the list of fattening foods!  

So many people want to, and should, lose some extra weight. If we’re starting from scratch, let’s start here: no more soda. But let’s take this a step further —is Gatorade or sports drink much better?  No! Loaded with sugar, not healthy! Sweet Tea? No! Orange Juice? No! Now I’m not a crazy person, but if you’re trying to make a change, this is an easy one. Just cut it all out. Get yourself a nice new Nalgene or Hydroflask water bottle, put some cool stickers on it and drink only water out of it every day. Take it to work every day. Have it in your kitchen, every day.  

3)  Sit less. We sit a lot. But we’re humans! We’re not supposed to sit a lot. I will share here that when we opened up the running shop, I started to notice that after working all day there, my legs felt surprisingly great despite never once sitting down. On the other hand, when I would work at my vet office, despite the fact that I was also on my feet a lot of the day, I spent a significant amount of time sitting at my desk doing charts and phone calls. Whenever I would get up, my legs were always stiff, and my lower back as well. I decided to try the standing desk thing. I was definitely given a hard time at the office for it. (“Here goes Dr. Andersen doing some stupid health thing again with his stupid standing desk.)” Let me tell you, it has been one of the most significant things I have done for the health of my legs and back. This has translated into better running as well, but most importantly, my legs and back aren’t sore all day anymore. Do I get tired from all that standing?  Sure, occasionally, so I’ll take a quick sitting break.  Don’t get all crazy and get a standing desk treadmill or anything, but do reconsider how much you sit and see if you can make some tangible changes in your routine and sit less.

4).  Pack your lunch.  Everyday. I’m amazed at how many people I interact with never pack their lunch for work or school. When you pack your lunch, you are taking control of exactly what you will eat for the day and you will be much more conscientious about what you put in your body. When I get to work, I’m essentially “stuck with” whatever the morning version of myself gave the I’m-hungry-all-day version of myself.  I don’t pack only healthy food options, but I sure do eat a lot healthier when I pack my lunch versus if I don’t and then I give in to my hunger at a fast food place somewhere. Make this a routine and it will pay huge dividends in your health. Also, who can afford buying lunch every day?

5).  No TV in the mornings. What is your morning routine? Do you wake up and turn on the news while you make coffee? This is a pretty typical morning routine in this country, and I think no longer a healthy one.  Let’s face it, the TV news is less about news events that will actually impact your day, and more about hearing about nasty politics, family tragedies, and societal divisions. Who needs that to start your day? We stopped turning the TV on in the mornings about 10 years ago and it has been one of the better decisions for our family. With no TV on, we start our day actually talking to each other and not zoning out on bad news. And we don’t miss anything important—we’ll hear about that one way or another. Consider taking back your morning from that outside negative world and creating a better one at home.

I wish you all an energized start to 2020. Remember, you’re a human! You’re tough and you were made for stuff like this! 

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