If you made a resolution to improve your health and wellness in 2021 and stuck with it, congratulations. Most people don’t. A 2019 study by Strava, which offers a fitness app, found that most people throw in the towel on their New Year’s resolutions on Jan. 19. It’s now dubbed “quitter’s day.”
To find out why people quit their resolutions in less than three weeks and how they can re-engage in February, I talked with Rachel Geckler. She’s a personal trainer and certified nutritionist at Life Time in Savage.
“The biggest obstacle that gets in peoples’ way is overwhelming themselves by trying to do too much at the beginning,” Geckler said. “The new year is all about the ‘new me’ people. They want to come to the gym and lift every day. They’re trying to throw too many old things out the door and bring in too many new things.”
People break diets for similar reasons, she said. They try to avoid eating too much food, especially unhealthy food, but then they get hungry and binge eat.
“The same thing happens with working out,” Geckler said. “You come in and do every single machine, even the ones you don’t know anything about, then you wake up the next day and you’re sore and you don’t feel very good.”
Another common mistake is not having a realistic workout and diet plan. It’s one reason people push themselves too hard.
“They think high-intensity cardio is what burns the most calories, so they think, ‘I’m going to do all of that.’ Then they come in and burn themselves out,” Geckler said. “Low intensity and easing yourself into things is a lot better and helps avoid hurting yourself.”
Her advice is to start with a basic workout and diet. Small improvements lead to bigger gains.
“Trying to start by lifting heavy is a big mistake and common with former athletes,” Geckler said. “They come in and say, ‘I used to lift this in high school. Now I can’t do that, so what’s the point?’ Well, the point is to get back to that. Phys-ed teachers aren’t personal trainers and don’t always teach you the correct form. You can be stronger than you were in high school because you now know how to properly lift.”
Geckler tells people to create a workout based on their needs and abilities — not follow a plan they saw on Instagram. It should include recovery days.
“I tell people, ‘When you’re new to weightlifting, all you really need is to lift two to three days a week,” Geckler points out. “A nice benefit of belonging to a health club is we have a lot of amenities so you can come every day, but you don’t have to work out every day. Recovery is just as important as the actual exercise. People forget that. If you lifted weights on Monday, maybe come in Tuesday and do cardio or sit in the hot tub.”
Some gym goers who aren’t sure what to do end up copying others.
“They see other people lifting and think, ‘That guy is strong and I want to be strong, so I need to lift like him.’ But everyone is different,” Geckler said. “Find what works best for your body. Barbell squats are not for everybody. It’s a fundamental movement, but you can also do front squats, leg presses, body weight squats, or lunges.”
While people may not notice daily gains or hit their goals immediately, they will see progress. “I have a lot of parents and grandparents as clients who say, “I want to lose 30 pounds,’” she said. “But then they find, ‘I can walk up two flights of stairs without getting winded.’ And, ‘I can get down on the floor and play with my grandkids, and I can get back up.’”
Staying motivated to keep a gym schedule and eat healthier can be a challenge. Geckler has tips to help.
“Don’t use the scales. The scales, honestly, are relative and have no bearing on your health or progress. The best way to stay motivated is to know the health benefits of exercise, especially during the pandemic times, like getting out of your house and producing serotonins and endorphins,” she said. “Think about feeling mentally heathy and how working out and eating healthier make you feel better.”
Having friends at the gym and belonging to a workout group can also encourage people to show up. So can taking advantage of everything the gym has to offer.
“If you have a bad day at work, show up and treat yourself to a PB&J milkshake. Find different parts of the gym that make you happy,” Geckler said. “Talk to yourself like a friend would talk to you. A friend sees the good in you. See the good in yourself.”