The New Year is upon us and that means, for many of us, New Years Resolutions.
But, first a side note and a parable.
I train in the Japanese martial art aikido and every January we mark the beginning of the year with a celebration called Kagami Biraki where we dedicate ourselves to a year of good training. We clean the dojo for about an hour, train for about an hour or so, and then have a pot luck. It’s a good tradition and a great way to ring in the New Year.
Notice that we don’t dedicate ourselves to achieving any particular rank, just to a good year of training. If you consistently show up with the goal of improving at every practice, then you’ll progress and the odds are that you’ll stay with it and move up in rank, while those who “have to” achieve a certain belt rank ASAP or who throw themselves into aikido without making it work in relationship to the other areas of their lives tend to drop out fairly quickly.
Now the parable (To the best of my recollection)
There was a young man who wanted very badly to study under a particular martial arts master. He was all in and wanted to be an expert as quickly as possible.
Student: “How long will it take until I am a black belt if I train under you?”
Teacher: “If you study diligently four to five times per week, then it should take you five years.”
Student: “Five years! What if I train hard every day and don’t take a day off?”
Teacher: “Then you would take ten years to reach your goal.”
Student: “What?! Ten years! What if I study every day, twice per day, and bring everything I have to it?”
Teacher: “Then it will take you twenty years.”
Student walks away disappointed.
I’m not a big fan of New Years Resolutions for many reasons.
For starters, they generally mean “swing for the fence, max out your willpower, and hope for the best” and for those reasons they generally don’t work.
This is the year to ditch that old approach and replace it with an one that will get you to a place that you’re a lot happier with, that will get you results, and that is both fun and fairly easy to maintain.
The typical “get in shape” resolution usually looks something like this:
- Do cardio 5 – 7 times per week and do “spot toning” with light weights
- Do an “insane” program and give up as the soreness and injuries rack up
- Start off with the year with a “cleanse” or detox
- Follow the cleanse with a popular and very restrictive diet
- Crack in a few months in a bad way by eating too much and losing the motivation to workout
As someone who makes their living helping people get in shape I can tell you that this approach does not work unless you have the willpower of T.E. Lawrence and the undamaged joints of a 20 year old. It’s far too much work for way too little payoff. Instead, this is what I do with my clients and on my own:
2 – 4 metabolic resistance workouts per week (45 minutes per session)
If you have the time and feel good, do one strength session (bringing it up to 3 – 4 structured workouts total per week)
Pursue every training session as a reward and as a way to be the most awesome version of yourself.
Be active and do things that are fun – take the dog for a walk, do a little yoga, and just get moving without it being one more chore or obligation
Eat real food. Minimize sugar and processed food, tune into your body’s signals as to hunger, satiety, and what makes you feel good. For more ideas on ways of eating, click here.
Minimize stress and get more sleep (ideally 7 – 8 hours per night)
Drink more water and stay ahead of thirst
Sure, this feels way less heroic. It’s way less punishing and it goes against our collective puritanical-all-or-nothing streak about fitness, but it’s far more efficient and in my experience, has a much, much, much better track record.
In my own journey I’ve had to get rid of the all-you-can-take approach to training. The results? I’m much fitter, and not just “heart healthy”. I hate that stupid trade off where you have to choose to be “heart healthy” OR look good. I have the results I want. I look better now and am stronger at 43 than I was at 33. And I’m also much happier and have more energy now because while I do train hard, I don’t wear myself down. I approach each workout as a reward, as a discipline that adds energy to my days, one that helps me bring my A-Game to all areas of my life. And I’ve gotten all of that while doing what I used to consider a laughably small amount of training.
Let’s not take twenty years. Let’s not even take five. Let’s train smart, have fun, recover from each workout, and see what can happen in one year. Nothing heroic, nothing crazy, just showing up with the goal of getting a little better with each workout.
If you’d like to say no more to the craziness and broken resolutions and say yes to smart training, then you are invited to try a week of training on me. No hard sells, just a trial run to see if my classes are a good fit for you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or message me about getting started.
Here’s to an Awesome 2014.