This time of year, my ‘in-box’ is typically flooded with letters and emails from people trying to to figure out how to be healthier. I hear from yo-yo dieters, frantic to finally lose weight and keep it off, couch potatoes who know they need to be moving but can’t seem to make it happen, and ‘second halvers’ who burn out after every set of their New Year’s resolutions. They are all curious about the same thing — how to get, and stay, motivated to achieve better health.
This may come as a surprise but the first thing I recommend is to tear up those resolutions! They are generally an exercise in futility. (Sadly, research reveals that nearly a third of all New Year’s resolutions won’t even make it until mid January.) No, true change requires something more than being swept away in the thrill of a new beginning.
Instead, here’s how you might find that elusive motivation:
1) Change your mind set. Instead of telling yourself things like, “I’m too old to exercise,” or “I’ll never get this weight off,” be more positive. Tell yourself things like, “I want to live a long time and this will help me do it,” or “I want to be a healthy role-model for my Grandkids.”
2) Set small goals to increase your odds of succeeding. For example, instead of trying to walk an hour every single day, begin with just fifteen minutes, four times a week. After a week or two, bump it up. (Most people discover permanent change over the long haul. “Quick fixes’ simply don’t exist in the real world!)
3) Have a plan. Nothing too complex but a simple understanding of where you are headed. Look at your week and decide when, where and how you will include what you want to do.
4) Identify the specifics of motivates you! Make a list of all of the positive physical, mental, and emotional benefits that will result from the changes you are making. Review this list regularly. Find an activity or program that fits you well. Decide if you will you be more successful pursuing your goal privately or if a group setting offers you more support.
This last one may take some trial and error. Be patient! More importantly, don’t be too hard on yourself if you end up trying a variety of different approaches before you settle into one that works for you.
I speak from experience on this final point. I can’t tell you how many different exercise programs I’ve been involved in during the last 25 years or so. Not because they didn’t fit. No, for years I’ve understood that I get really bored doing the same thing over and over again, and this includes exercise. So I’ve always mixed up my exercise routine.
For example, last fall I discovered the ‘Adorni Center’ and all of the programs, classes, and equipment they provide through our local Department of Parks and Recreation. I’m having a ball! What a great facility it is. They offer a huge variety of classes and equipment in a clean, wonderful setting, right on the waterfront. What a view! The staff is friendly and the members welcoming. I’m happy to admit that I thoroughly enjoy sweating in a room full of my ‘peeps’ – you know, people our age who have lived long enough to understand that there is no such thing as perfection and that physical activity is crucial to healthy aging. They are a warm and accepting bunch that understands the value of movement, flexibility, and strength training. Our instructor, Cat, is a gem – full of enthusiasm, clarity and good humor. Oh how I appreciate the levity in that class! (I began in another equally wonderful class – three cheers for that instructor, Bonnie – but unfortunately, it conflicted with my work schedule.)
I think at this age most of us realize that change is hard. But I also hope you know that change is within your reach. Be realistic, start small, and find the program that works for you. Do this and I doubt I’ll find you in my in-box come January, 2015 … unless you are there to share your success!