Why fitness resolutions fail

Whether galvanised by a shiny new treadmill under the tree, a trial gym membership in a Christmas stocking, or five pounds packed on over the holidays, people are determined to get fit in 2011.

Good luck to them. As surely as Janus, the Roman god who symbolizes New Year's Resolutions, has two faces, most of those January pledges will dissolve by March.

"Resolutions fail because they are unrealistic," said Dr Belisa Vranich, a clinical psychologist in New York City.

Resolvers lose heart, Dr Vranich said, because they "haven't prepared for failure, are not wholehearted about change and lack a support system."

Kristin McGee, a New York-based yoga and pilates instructor, tells her clients that the difference between success and failure is mindfulness.

"Before starting a spin class at 5 a.m. ask yourself honestly if you like getting up that early, and if you like spin," said McGee. "If the answer is no, don't do it."

Find out what best suites you

Fitness, she explains, is not one-size-fits-all. "Some people are home exercisers; others are great in gym environments. Some like group dynamics, some like one-on-one." It can take a while for each person to find out what he or she likes best, McGee added.

Andrea Metcalf, the Illinois-based author of "Naked Fitness," thinks a support system, whether flesh-and-blood or virtual, is crucial to victory.

"Successful people have support," said Metcalf, creator of the "Keeping Fit" DVD series. "Statistics show that one in 10 people can lose weight on their own but group support increases success rates to seven in 10."

Metcalf suggests that people start slowly and hire a professional trainer to help, then "journal, email, tweet, or Facebook your progress."

Getting discouraged

She said people get discouraged if results don't come immediately.

"They don't believe in themselves. They need to look in the mirror and see the good stuff."

Because so many good intentions founder on the rocks of great expectations, nutritionist and fitness expert Joy Bauer encourages her clients to set what she calls "manageable mini goals," such as losing two pounds in a week, or walking 30 minutes a day.

Short term goals

"I highly recommend that people set short term goals to help them stay on track and build a sense of accomplishment," said Bauer, creator of the "Slimdown Workout" DVD, "rather than set unrealistic goals, like losing 20 pounds in two weeks."

It is a set-up, Bauer says, for disappointment.

Hollywood trainer Erin O'Brien says start with either diet or exercise, but don't try to do both at the outset.

"Then after a few weeks, start tweaking your efforts by adding clean eating and exercise together."

And commit to a routine by scheduling workouts in a daily planner, as with any other appointment.

For that difficult first step, Elisabeth Halfpapp, co-creator of the "Exhale: Core Fusion" DVD series, suggests an introductory class at the local gym or yoga studio.

"If you miss a class or two, just start up again as soon as you can," she said. "Avoid feeling guilty. Life happens."

Or as comedienne Lily Tomlin put it, "The road to success is always under construction."

(Reuters Health, December 2010)

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