By Katie East
A new year always brings familiar feelings — the need for change and a fresh start. Maybe each year you do the same thing: get back to the gym for a while, promise to stick to your resolutions and then kick yourself when you don’t follow through with either. Maybe this New Year should mean a new way to make that fresh start. There are plenty of simple ways to achieve your personal and health goals that don’t involve a crowded weight room.
I succumbed to the fact that the gym wasn’t for me many years ago, once I figured out that there were ways to stay fit that had nothing to do with a bunch of elliptical machines and fluorescent lighting. There’s nothing wrong with being a gym rat, but it certainly isn’t for everyone, especially because of the clinical setting and white walls, the intimidating equipment and the judgmental stares from people in better shape than you. It’s not a place where I can thrive.
I found doing yoga at home has given me the best results. It’s low impact and easy for beginners. Some people do well with videos to guide them, but I found establishing a natural flow based on how I’m feeling that day works best for me. The one problem with working out at home is accountability. You can always try to force your partner to do their own workout at the same time as you, but being personally accountable is important too.
Last year, I marked “Y” on a calendar five days out of every week for a month. After I did yoga each day, I would erase the “Y.” My husband questioned why I didn’t just write a “Y” after I did my workout. For me, the erasing is what kept me on track. The calendar looked cluttered with all the extra letters on there so it was rewarding to erase one. Plus, at the end of the month I could see how many times I left a “Y” on a day (only a couple).
After the first month, I got cocky and I didn’t use the calendar anymore. I was in a groove and stuck to the same routine for another month. By month three I was only doing yoga two or three times a week and by month four I was lucky if I did it once a week — I needed the calendar.
If yoga isn’t your thing, you can try the same principal, but with dancing, aerobics or anything else you can do on your own. Working out at home can be tricky if you have kids or a stressful in-house environment. I know creating a yoga specific space, away from the TV, was what it took for me to actually make it a habit. If that’s not possible for you, biking or running can be good ways to get you out of the space. This mild winter should make for at least a few more weeks of comfortable outdoors time.
Eating healthy is the quickest way to start feeling better after the heavy eating and drinking of the holidays. I know doing a full diet and processed food overhaul is best, but sometimes it’s just not feasible. Plus, a strict diet is a surefire way to break your own personal promises and leave you feeling defeated to start out 2016.
Sometimes it’s best to start slow, reintroducing healthy foods a bit at a time until you don’t have any crap left in your house. I haven’t majorly grocery shopped since before Thanksgiving, and to restock my fridge and pantry with healthy foods just isn’t in the post-Christmas budget right now. My plan is to start easy: soup!
Soup is the easiest healthy thing to make taste great. You can make a lot of it at a time for fairly cheap and it gets better as the days go on. You can start with a heartier soup like chili and work your way to chicken tortilla. The shopping list is easy, and once you’re eating exclusively homemade meals for a week, your body will be less addicted to processed sugars. It’ll make the transition to health food even easier than going cold turkey after Christmas and New Years.
This year, I’m going simple when it comes to my life changes. Sure, with big risk comes big reward. For me though, I’m going to ease into this New Year with some easy changes. Hopefully, my healthy habits will become just that: habits. A strict diet and exercise routine might work for some people, but for us underachievers, I implore you to start small and keep the bar low.