“Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness” – Edward Stanley, December 1873
In 2020 nothing new will happen in terms of New Year Resolutions. Not even the lure of an exciting Year of Return in 2019 or the excitement of seeing a new decade will change our attitudes. History will as usual repeat itself.
As has been the practice in years gone by about 50% of the resolutions will be based on a healthy life style. Almost invariably we give up by the end of the first quarter and for some as soon as the holiday season is over. Do not despair if this scenario sounds all too familiar – YOU ARE IN THE MAJORITY! Definitely behavioural change is difficult and since we are not adequately prepared for the change, we have actually set ourselves up for failure even before we started.
As far as humans know, there is no magic wand to ensure you stick to your NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS be it health, spiritual, moral etc. but together we will work on a blue- print that may help our new choices become habits eventually. The worst thing that can happen is for you not to have tried.
1. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
How true it is that “when we fail to prepare, we prepare to FAIL”. 1ST of January is no fairytale day. If we wish to make changes from that day we have to work at it.
• We have to psyche ourselves up that we will hang in there no matter what
• You can’t keep healthy if you don’t even have the right attire to exercise. If you plan to use a gym get your clothes, trainers, towel and water bottle and pack them in a bag ready for the action. Even if you plan to walk, get a good pair of footwear. It is worthwhile to invest some money in your basic requirements
• Knowledge definitely is power – we have to know well ahead of time what we plan to do and why. If it’s walking, map out your route before the 1st of January. If you intend to sweat it out in a gym, choose one before 31st December.
• Sometimes you may need professional help. The plan is to improve your health and not to harm yourself and learning to do things right is essential.
• Choose the time and days you plan to exercise. You may not be able to have a single stretch of thirty minutes at a time, so do the next best thing, put in ten (10) - minute sessions thrice a day. Or start with just 10 minutes a day and keep adding on.
• If eating well is a problem for you seek help. Even if you think you are in control of your meals that may be a good reason to seek professional help so that you can show off.
• If you are forty (40) years and above, pregnant, have multiple disease states, get tired easily or have not exercised in more than one (1) year get clearance from a healthcare professional well before the last day of the year. We want to hit the New Year running.
2. Be Patient
Patience my dear reader is a virtue. It can move even mountains so improving your health or flattening the mound around your midsection is not beyond its capability.
• Start slowly. No need to squeeze all that you should have done over the past five years in your first workout
• Pushing yourself too hard may end up causing you so much pain that like many people I have interacted with you spend the next few days- weeks nursing injuries. That could be the end of your New Year resolution
• No need complicating matters with “I will lose 50kg by 31st December” The risk? You may lose focus by mid-April. What if we say “…..1kg by 29th February” (I hope you know by now that I am not a big fan of the scale, this example is purely to explain the point). Better still we could do something as fuzzy as “I should be able to go up two flights of stairs without stopping to catch my breath by March 1st.
Dear sisters, trying to run up the stairs in high heels may make life uncomfortable for your knees. Unfortunately there are no spares for your knees. I am a great fan of wedge shoes-excellent for the back and knees.
• Finally you are a unique individual. You may start your health quest on the same day with someone else who will appear to be making faster progress. Remember we are all different. The important factor in this case is to keep breaking your own records.
3. Write it down
The smart people in research have discovered that whenever we write down our goals, we are more likely to succeed. No need re-inventing the wheel, lets write down our goals and go a step further, discuss your goals with someone whom you will hate to disappoint.
This person may check up on you during the year and the “fear of losing face” will keep you on track long after the NEW YEAR tunes have died down.
Your written goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time bound (SMART) and they act as a blueprint to follow throughout the year.
Log or write down what you do each fitness day e.g. I run for 10 minutes and had to stop twice to catch my breath. My thighs and calves ached so badly I had to get a cold compress and take some painkillers (not a smart thing to do). Imagine what you do to your ego when three weeks later you run at an even faster pace for 30 minutes, do some strength training and take a quick shower so that you can get to work before 8am. Hmmm no pain at all.
Logging your workout is good. It boosts your ego, alerts you when you slack and if you hit a plateau your instructor may be able to help you by simply analyzing your log book.
For your meals don’t forget to chart when (time), where (location), who you ate with, your mood during the meal and whether you ate with or without alcohol. You will have to include two weekend days in the recommended 4-day initial Diet Log.
4. Choice Is King
“Variety is the spice of life” It is the rule of thumb that you pick exercises, sports or fitness quests that you love or enjoy. When we love something we tend to keep doing it. Always remember though that we need to spice up things a bit and sometimes challenge ourselves with those we may dislike at first sight.
You may love walking. Keep walking but vary it: use weights sometimes or even resistance bands. Intersperse brisk walking with short bursts of jogging. Walk in a hilly area and sometimes on level ground. Occasionally ride a bike, swim, play tennis or even join an aerobics class.
5. Identify the Limiting Factors
A limiting factor is that demon that prevents you from getting the result you expect or should achieve because you are doing everything else right.
• Nutrition is often our enemy numero uno. You will be short-changing yourself if you do not get your nutrition right. Seek professional help.
• Motivation; sometimes we need to have an exercise buddy. We tend to workout longer as we chat or make more effort to go to the gym or meet outside to walk together. We just hate to disappoint our buddy.
• Time; If only we could set aside a few minutes a day to take care of our health. “Time and tide wait for no man” but how true it is that by failing to invest in our health now, we may be hit by an illness that may leave us like the river bird “……sitting all day long……”A stroke for instance may leave us in this state. Time is scarce, if you have to use the gym, do not go there more than five days in a week. You will only be setting yourself up for gym fatigue/burn out and alas a lost dream
6. Reward Yourself
No matter how little you may think your achievement is, give yourself a pat on the shoulder. Buy yourself a smaller size dress or belt. Go out with your exercise buddy to celebrate. Make a big fuss. Your brain just recognized your excitement and will help you attain more milestones.
If through sheer coincidence you find that in June you are back to your old ways, this is no time for blame games. You need not wait till January 2021; your new calendar starts on that day.
You have what it takes to make it. Get going NOW!!!!
AS ALWAYS LAUGH OFTEN, ENSURE HYGIENE, WALK AND PRAY EVERYDAY AND REMEMBER IT’S A PRICELESS GIFT TO KNOW YOUR NUMBERS (blood sugar, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, BMI)
Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel
Health Essentials Ltd/Mobissel/St. Andrews Clinic
*Dr. Essel is a Medical Doctor, holds an MBA and is ISSA certified in exercise therapy, fitness nutrition and corrective exercise.
Thought for the week – “drinking bitter (pure cocoa powder) Cocoa daily as part of a healthy lifestyle may reduce your risk of a stroke by improving blood circulation”