I don’t know that I understand the notion that starting a new workout routine has to wait until the first day of the New Year.
Typically, I’m welcoming and smiley when I see a new person in a Flywheel or Bootcamp class-someone who feels a little uncomfortable or who may not understand how to do a squat properly. These people are inspirational to me. We’re all working out to improve our mental health or physical health, to get stronger, keep our lungs and heart in shape or tone our legs and arms. The people who start their new workouts on Jan 1? I always want to ask them why health was never a priority before, why they didn’t make this part of their lives in September or even at the start of the Holiday Season, in November.
To those people, the Jan 1ers, I apologize. I also offer a few bits of advice on which workouts work, which do not, how to make this your new lifestyle, and the one workout you’ll regret.
The only workout you will ever regret is the one you don’t do. I know of exactly no human who ever said, “I hate that I took that class, that walk, that run, allowed my forehead and back to drip sweat”. Plenty of time is dedicated to not wanting to go TO the workout but every single time the dragging of the body by the mind to the workout happens and the workout is over, the chemicals have been rearranged in our brains and our muscles feel better, our stress is evaporating, we all think to ourselves, “I am so glad I did that”. Every. Single. Time.
If there has never been a sweat session that ended with regret, there are almost always skipped workouts that come with extra scoops of regret.
Fitness can be about a smaller dress size or legs proudly displayed in shorts and skirts. It can be about lifting more weight and not being breathless after a 20 minute run. It can be about training for a Century Ride or a trek across Spain, a water sport, an IronMan, a marathon. Fitness can also be about needing to feel great every week, about sleeping better, about remembering that bodies were designed to move and sweat removes toxins, that hearts get stronger, food is metabolized faster, clearer skin, longevity, the pride that comes from not being on medication that others your age seem to accept as normal. It can also mean needing no help with your bags or sprinting through the rather sizable airport in Rome, after being dropped at the wrong terminal and knowing you need to clear customs and show papers to make it back to the States, in heels and with a laptop, without being winded.
The poet Mary Oliver asks, “What will you do with your one wild, precious life?” Ask yourself that before you plan your fitness routine or goals. Will you spend it sitting? Moving? Surprising yourself by becoming an athlete? Will you build a healthy body so that if the future holds a disease, your body will recover quicker from it because it is a fine machine and not a junky, forgotten car? Will you travel more? Will you try a new sport? Will you look at your ruddy and sweaty face and smile because the blood is flowing and pumping and helping you look younger? Will you live to be an active 95 year old who is still gulping the oxygen from each day and not tied to a bed from a broken body? Will you claim bragging rights on your 2018 Holiday Card for a physical challenge you completed?
I’ve been drawn to biographies my whole life. Reading about titans of industry, founding fathers, women who were ahead of their time and even observing some of the busiest executives of top firms, up close and in person. There is one thing thing they all have in common—they workout—in the morning. They all exercise. In fact, I’ve observed that the more pressure in the profession, the more travel, the more ungodly hours, the more global time zones to manage, the more likely the person is to exercise. Read that last sentence again.
They crave those 45-60 minutes five days a week, to themselves. Less than 4% of any day is enough to have all to themselves before they give to others, do for others. We all have 45-60 minutes a day, five days a week. All of us. If we can’t find 45 minutes a day for ourselves, we are doing life wrong. I mean it. Stop watching a TV show, take one social media app off of your phone, whatever it takes. The five days don’t have to be the five days not considered the weekend, I’m a believer in two rest days a week. The body needs time to rest, the muscles need to recover and we all need to begin to feel the difference in the days we do sweat and those we don’t. Stop telling yourself that you don’t have time and start admitting to yourself that you don’t consider your health a priority.
When I worked in an office, I blocked my calendar for my workouts and I booked my workouts on Sunday evening before 5:30. Paying for boutique fitness classes means I don’t blow off the class. Paying $32-$38 a class means if I miss a workout, I threw away that money. It sounds like a lot of money to some and to others, it sounds dirt cheap in comparison to a personal trainer. Making health a priority means taking a little time to look at the week ahead and decide what workout, what class, what yoga session you want to take or when you can be at the gym and scheduling your time for yourself in your day. Sure, some workouts are expensive but have you tried being sick in this country? It’s much more expensive.
Learning what works for you is half of the issue. Gyms don’t work for me. I don’t use them and I’ve never taken advantage of what they offer. Gyms bore me but if they’re your thing, join a gym. Some people can workout at home—P90X, Peloton bikes, Flywheel at Home, these things exist because some people can be disciplined, may not have as many options in their town, or working all day and then being away from the kids for a workout is not appealing. There are apps you can download to your phone, TRX straps you can hang over a bedroom door, a jump rope you can use in your basement this time of year; finding your style of working out is what matters. Following some excellent trainers on Instagram costs nothing. Kira Stokes teaches her Stoked Method classes in NYC but she also demonstrates moves using only your body weight and explains the sequence and form. Her style was featured in the WSJ just months ago and copying her workouts cost nothing. Colleen Saidman Yee teaches a free Facebook live yoga session weekly. She is my favorite yoga instructor in NYC or Sag Harbor but if you want the benefit of her knowledge without traveling to NYC or the Hamptons, find her on Instagram or Facebook. TRX straps and resistance bands can be ordered on Amazon and if you travel with them, they add no weight to your luggage. Do a quick search on YouTube for some ideas of how to use your body weight and the straps and your muscles will thank you. Slide on the resistance bands when binging on Netflix or answering email.
Making your health a priority is what matters most. No habit will stick unless you crave health. Many people who have to take cross country or transatlantic flights find that going to their hotel gym or finding their favorite fitness class, is what they need at the end of that workday. I love a familiar workout at the end of a day of sitting in a client conference rooms and ahead of an evening of room service and hundreds of emails. Barry’s Bootcamps are International, Flywheel classes are offered in most major cities or a quick yelp search will guide you to something you’d like to try. The time zones are rough on the body, the sitting on the plane makes the blood pool and just moving, stretching and doing one sweaty session alone in a new place, feels like a luxury. If you travel, try a class in a new city, find a yoga studio, go for a 20 min run or 40 minute walk—your hotel has a treadmill if the weather is not in your favor. Walking is free.
One of my friends runs 25 miles a week no matter where he travels and his stories of the trails and people in each city are entertaining. Another friend taught me to ask myself, “If you were not able bodied, if you were bed bound or lost a limb, would you miss your strength, your ability to move this way? Use that”. Sweating from a place of gratitude for an able body makes a huge difference. Don’t spend your life in your one body hating on your one body.
Don’t just make fitness a resolution, make it a priority. We’re either making progress or we’re making excuses.