New Years Resolution failed - what's next?

This tends to be for a combination of over ambitious targets (“ lose a stone in 3 weeks” to ), lack of self belief and insufficient allowance for the new habit to become routine.

Here at Office Fitness, we think there is another way to achieve those goals which may offer a more realistic long term approach. As you would expect it involves being being more active at work but it extends beyond that to the more holistic day long approach of being active wherever and whenever you can.

As we have stated in one of our earlier blogs, modern life has leached away the need to expend energy in favour of convenience. Unfortunately,  for evolutionary reasons, we are programmed to take the easy option ( burning fewer calories) which would be fine were it not for the fact that we live  in an obesogenic world ( consuming more calories).  For this reason, we need to actively seek out  inconvenience in our day-to-day routines and make conscious efforts to avoid the easy option. Here’s a few ways we can do this:

Active associations  - think about your daily routine, put in a spreadsheet if it helps and look down the list to add exercises you can do at the same time.  Brushing your teeth  - stand on one leg and calf raise ( two legs if this is too difficult),  waiting for the kettle (do squats or lunges), running a bath  ( press-ups holding on to the edge of the bath), watching TV  -  sit-ups during the adverts.  Why associations?  Because they make the habit stick. In the same way huge lists of numbers can be memorised using word association the same goes for exercises.

Set goals  -  we’ve probably all heard of SMART goals but to distil this down to something meaningful set a specific goal that is achievable ( eg. 20pull-ups a day, which can be done every time you pass through a particular doorway   ( 3-4 pull-ups each time)) or standing up for 3 hours a day, ( 1.5 hours in the morning, 1.5 in the afternoon, broken into 3 chunks of 30 minutes). Have a bigger goal in mind as well ( “lose 2 inches off the waistline by summer”) to remind you what it’s all about when motivation is lower.

Tell someone / many people  - going public applies some personal pressure. Even though you may not think it, that’s good. The times we live in are far, far less physically stressful than those of our ancestors ( ancestors being anything between stone age to 1960s/1970s). We have it easy by comparison  which is the main reason why 2/3rds of adults are now overweight or obese. Contentious one, I know, as there are other factors but the combination of low activity and calorie dense diets is the primary reason for the obesity epidemic.  Having a certain iron will and a level of resolve is needed even if it can be thought of as being pressure. Cave man was under pressure to not sleep until he found food and to a lesser extent we need pressure to overcome our naturally lazy instincts when the world is moving towards more convenience.

Allow exceptions ... but not too often   - a missed gym class is not serious but two or three in a row and that’s why so many resolutions are broken at this time of year. Similarly, if you’ve set a goal just tell yourself “I’ve got to do it, no exceptions”.  If you’re superstitious add “ ..or something bad will happen” to the end of that. That’s slightly tongue-in-cheek but whatever works, use it.  I’m not superstitious ( at least I don’t think I am) but that little phrase works wonders as a motivator.  I know my primary motivator should be something health or sports specific but I don’t need it - the little dark prophecy does it for me  . Of course, there are exceptions when a goal or target is missed. Just tell yourself it’s no biggie but don’t miss the next one otherwise it could become a habit

Find a friend   .. a fit friend    -  if you surround yourself with low motivated and un-energetic people, at best your quest will be a solo one and at worst that friend could be a frenemy ( on this subject anyway) who undermines your efforts.  Try and associate with similar minded people so you can bounce ideas and motivation off each other. Professor Angela Clow of the University of Winchester released a study on the effectiveness of Workplace Activators, people who are knowledgeable in fitness matters and have a decidedly galvanising effect on colleagues in spurring them on to be more active  ( more of this in a later blog ). Their effect was striking and has led to calls for the study aims to be expanded into wider industry practice. 

To summarise

  • set your goals, not vague ones but highly specific, both short term (daily) and long term ( 2-3 months away). The goal could even be recovering something lost ( loss aversion is thought to be a bigger motivator than one that is a gain) eg. “waist size when I was 25”
  • make associations with everyday activities and even have cues to those intentions  ( post-it notes left around eg. “calf raises / teeth”  or next to the kettle “squats”)
  • Let others know and if possible take others with you
  • Don’t let exceptions be precedents.  Giving yourself an initial excuse not to do something can easily widen to take in other reasons for not to do something. Best to tell yourself “no exceptions” and be tough with yourself but not so much so that your will is broken given the inevitable occasional miss.
  • Allow time for the new routines to become habit  - 66 days  ( “Route 66”) seems to be the acknowledged number