In recent times, the third Monday in January, dubbed “Blue Moday”, has come to signify the most depressing day of the year. It’s the time when those New Year’s resolutions that you threw yourself into at the start of January begin to slide, it’s cold and dark outside, you have no money left after Christmas and January feels as if it’s been going on forever…
There’s nothing wrong with having aspirational New Year’s resolutions; in fact, it’s a time of year we really enjoy, when we see a surge of enthusiasm for classes and personal training and nutrition consultations. It can sometimes be difficult to manage the expectations of enthusiastic clients though, who want to go all-in with their health and wellbeing, training multiple times a week in the gym, giving up alcohol and making huge dietary changes. The problem with resolutions is that they are often unsustainable – after two or three weeks of forging ahead with major diet and lifestyle changes, the novelty wears off, it all starts to feel a bit too difficult to keep up, our best intentions start to slide and we’re back to mentally beating ourselves up for our lack of willpower. In short, we’ve set ourselves up to fail.
In fact, willpower is not, as is commonly believed, like a muscle that can be made stronger with repeated flexing. Willpower is more like a reserve of mental energy; once it’s been used up, it’s gone, albeit temporarily. Over the course of a day, there are lots of things that can sap our mental reserves of willpower – not setting the snooze button repeatedly, not snapping at a difficult colleague, avoiding that coffee shop with the enticing cakes, remaining calm with demanding children. This is why evenings are often the most challenging time for us in terms of avoiding treats or getting out to the gym or for a walk – it’s the time of day when our metal reserves of willpower are at their lowest.
Our ethos at Intelligent Fitness is to slowly build sustainable, habit-based changes with exercise and nutrition. Because once something becomes a habit, you don’t need to use your willpower to do it. For something to become a habit though, you have to do it repeatedly until it’s ingrained. Start with something you’re comfortable with (using the stairs at work instead of the lift, getting up an hour early once a week to fit in an extra gym session, replacing tea with herbal tea so you don’t feel as if you want biscuits with it) and do it until you’re comfortable to move on to the next thing.
It’s perhaps a less glamorous take on New Year’s resolutions but we promise you this – it works!
Noel and Meredith