New Year’s resolutions fail to get you fit

Feb 10, 2014 by

New Year’s resolutions fail to get you fit

I generally hate this time of year in the gym.  A new crop of over eager born-again gym enthusiasts fill the weight training room with their squeaky clean white Nike running shoes and matching headbands.   Their committed to change and to being a better, more fit physical specimen – or so they tell themselves or broadcast on their Facebook pages.   It’s an honourable pursuit even if it’s doomed to failure for most of them.  They stand out among the normal gym goers in a number of not so subtle ways.  Newbies routinely break gym etiquette like leaving weights where they shouldn’t or by occupying space in areas that could yield hazardous results and often just get in the way of seasoned trainers.  Additionally, they tend to have poor technique and push themselves too hard, beyond what their capable of sustaining in the long run while simultaneously leaving them vulnerable to injury.  Within a few days or weeks they appear to be just going through the motions, get hurt, can’t cope with the soreness, or remain committed long enough to overcome their weaknesses and eventually just give up.

Some of these traits are forgivable when people are genuinely trying to exact change. These people are easy to recognise because you will see them regularly in the gym beyond January making adjustments, routinely asking for help or getting a personal trainer.  Their seriously trying to integrate a workout routine as a new habit; unfortunately, they represent the minority of New Year’s enthusiasts. The truth is the vast majority of those people who start a routine in the New Year will give up within a few weeks.  Recent study’s suggest that the average person gives up on their New Year’s resolution by January 17th, which is also affectionately known as “Ditch New Year’s Resolution’s Day”.  This tells us many things about ourselves when it comes to implementing any change, let alone a workout routine, in the New Year, but for this discussion I’ll focus on the ramifications for our health.

On a superficial level it tells us that we are a lazy, complacent and a physically unhealthy society.   You will retort by saying, “but I work 50 hours a week, commute an additional ten, raise a family and don’t have time to go the gym”.  I will retort by saying, you also watch 30 hours of television a week and you’re 20 lbs pounds overweight and will likely add 2 lbs a year to that weight into your 50’s and 60’s. By doing so you will heavily increase your risk to a litany of health issues that are correlated with being overweight such as diabetes, cancer, depression, stroke and so on.  As you get older your quality of life will suffer due to your inability to make adjustments to your current lifestyle, making it even more difficult to adapt in old age.

I’m not here to chastise you, I know it’s hard to go to the gym and sustain an ongoing routine, in some form, whether it be weight training, cross-fit, yoga etc. I’ve worked out regularly for nearly twenty years and gone through all physical extremes, from being ripped to being grossly overweight – it is a difficult challenge for even the most committed athletes and dedicated health enthusiasts.  It’s even harder for people who aren’t athletic and intimidated by the “gym”, to suddenly get engrossed into something so foreign.  I can empathize with that person in that there are many things I would also like to learn or improve upon but somewhat intimidated to initiate the process like learning to how to play curling.  When I think about why I don’t try certain things, it’s usually due to time constraints or priorities, but I also think something more ritualistic is at play.  For better or worse we tend to get comfortable and complacent with our routines. Once you have reached a certain age it becomes harder to form new habits.  Ask yourself, when was the last time you integrated a new habit into your life?

When trying to understand our lack of dedication to our physical well-being on a deeper level, the truth is that it’s very difficult to integrate life changes when you have already built-in habits which you perceive to be of greater value or have so deeply entrenched that you don’t know any better.  Life is busy and we have long work days and with commuting and relationships and social life it’s really easy to get bogged down by everything and neglect your own well-being.  That is, until one day you wake up and notice you have multiple chins and your waistline is 3 inches wider and you’re too big for your pant size and you’re out of breath after walking up a single flight of stairs.  What makes matters worse is that you probably don’t know how to eat well, have a poor support system and you might be too embarrassed to ask for help.

A New Year’s resolution is a nice fluffy and gimmicky reason to start anew, but for the vast majority of people it will not inspire meaningful change.  It takes a more profound process and rationale to understand and apply what real change entails.  The notion of working out or staying fit is not an idea that’s going to be sustained by a symbolic change in date.  It just doesn’t work that way.  It’s about a shift in attitude and in developing habits that reinforce a change in lifestyle.  Fundamentally, it’s about embracing an allotment of time per week to maintain your physical well-being.  It’s not always fun and the results aren’t always obvious, but the long-term rewards are plentiful.

If you’re serious about working out, do your research, set out a course of action and don’t let the calendar dictate the terms of engagement.  When you’re seriously ready to start a routine get a personal trainer or if you have a friend like me, pick their brain and ask for support.  Start a simple routine that you can realistically find time to sustain and build from there.  In order to be successful, if you want to seriously integrate a new habit you have to be honest with yourself and be prepared to execute a plan without excuse.  If it happens to fall on January 1st so be it, but if you think the date alone is going to motivate you to change you might as well do some of us a favour and just stay home and eat another slice of meat lover’s pizza instead.




  1. Adam

    I agree. I think the idea of new years resolutions are too scripted in society. Its assumed by some that you “must” have a resolution in the the new year to improve your life in some meaningful way. As the article states, anytime is a good time. But for some, that time is pretty close to never and a new years resolution is just nothing more than good watercooler talk at the office, or mindless facebook update status. For the lucky few, they’ll see the warning signs and make the changes necessary in their life before its too late.

  2. Well said Adam – Thanks for commenting.


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