Saturday, December 20, 2014

New Years Resolutions:Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail!

“Oh, why can't every day be like Christmas, Why can't that feeling go on endlessly. For if every day could be just like Christmas. What a wonderful world this would be.” The lyrics sung by Elvis Presley (written by Red West) beautifully capture the sentiment of good will to our fellow man.  It would be wonderful if we lived that way all the time and yet we know that is simply not the case.  Immediately following Christmas thoughts shift to the New Year as we recount the year that has come to an end and look forward to a new beginning.  The annual rite of New Year’s Resolutions become a major topic of conversation.  Full of hope we determine what we will finally accomplish in the New Year.  We are resolute, which is defined as admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering.  January 1st, well maybe the 2nd, the race begins and we are off in a flash to make our goal a reality. Gyms swell to over capacity as people are sure this is the year they will lose weight and get healthy.  The regular gym goers are frustrated by the sudden influx of people.  The gym owners are excited by all the new business and everyone knows that it is only a matter of time before everything returns back to normal. 

It is commonly reported that 92-95% of New Year’s Resolutions will end in failure but why?   I believe the major reason for the high failure rate is correlated to the amount of time we spend planning out the strategy for accomplishing the Resolution.  A majority of resolutions are really changes we want to make in our behavior and there is the problem.  While we would like to believe that we can simply will the new behavior into existence the truth is that changing behavior is incredibly difficult requiring a thoughtful plan and time.  Luckily, we have a couple of options, we can do the research and create our plan or we can find someone who already has a plan and utilize theirs.  Both of these options start at the same point…who do I believe?  The internet is filled with both information and misinformation and there are endless programs to choose from.  The endless parade of “experts” further confuses the issue.  Friends and families have suggestions, opinions, and stories.  The real truth is that there isn’t one program or facility that is perfect for everyone but for behavior change there are some basic things we know from research. 

The first step of any program is to realize that it will be a journey not a sprint.  It takes several weeks to replace an old habit with a new one. Once you’ve accepted this realization you need an honest opinion of your starting point.  Since I live in the physical therapy and fitness world I’ll use it as the example.  If your Resolution is to lose weight, get fit or become more active before launching into a fitness program it is vital that you resolve any lingering injuries or pains.  The human body is a kinetic chain and like any chains stress will find the weakest link and the chain will break there.  Once free of injuries and pain then determining your current fitness level is equally important.  A comprehensive assessment should include a cardiovascular, flexibility and strength assessment.  Regardless of what you know about exercise and fitness LOGIC should be present.  The reason you do the assessment is to determine the appropriate level of exercise.  If you can only do a few minutes of exercise without getting out of breath then the program shouldn’t start with 1 hour of intense exercise.  But, sadly this is exactly what happens for way to many people starting exercise programs.  Either there is absolutely no assessment or there is but it is disregarded and people are put into inappropriately difficult programs.  Not only will your body become painful but your mind will begin to come up with reasons and justifications to stop the program.  Thus a majority of Resolutions are doomed to fail from the beginning. 

The human body is amazingly complex, so make sure you only take advice from those who have actually studied anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology.  Those who understand the science behind exercise and the body’s response to the stresses placed upon it.  For some reason when it comes to fitness and exercise we make judgments based off of physical appearance of the professional and not their education.  “Look at him/her they obviously know what they are talking about!”  Would you take your Ferrari to someone who looks like a mechanic or would you research what they know about your car first???