Healthy Choices

How to not drop the ball on a New Year’s resolution

Meg White does a pushup on a functional training station at the gym she founded called “Train Hard or Go Home” in East Sacramento.
Meg White does a pushup on a functional training station at the gym she founded called “Train Hard or Go Home” in East Sacramento. mcrisostomo@sacbee.com

Sacramentans greeted the first light of the new year this morning, some nursing headaches after a night of indulgence. For many, last night and the month of holiday feasting leading up to it were a last hurrah to guilty pleasures that will soon be on the resolution black list – sweets, alcohol, fried foods and skipping the gym, among others.

While 45 percent of Americans make resolutions, only 8 percent are successful in keeping them and more than 30 percent give up in the first month, according to recent research from the Journal of Clinical Psychology. Even so, experts say, people who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to achieve their goals than those who don’t.

When it comes to health and fitness, local trainers are all for starting strong, and most even offer January discounts to encourage resolution-makers. The challenge, they said, is that changing a body for the better takes lasting focus and investment, not just a fleeting vow.

Meg “MadDog” White owns East Sacramento fitness studio Train Hard or Go Home. Maria Bardet founded midtown’s Humani Pilates, a sanctuary-like space for group equipment classes. Steve Marino is a certified personal trainer at California Family Fitness locations throughout the region. The three offered thoughts on how to craft a realistic resolution and, more importantly, how to stick to it.

Q: Why do so few people keep their New Year’s resolutions?

A: Bardet: They bite off more than they can chew. They’ll put together a list of 20 things they want to do. They spend the first part of the week just trying to figure out how to make all these new lifestyle changes happen. … It’s these really big goals that are just all over the place. And so you end up burning yourself out in the first couple of weeks.

Q: What are basic steps people can take to craft a resolution they’ll actually keep?

A: Bardet: My favorite thing is actually to take one thing in each category of your life – your personal category, your health and well-being category and your business or work category. Pick one thing you want to focus on in that one category and do that one thing.

A: White: Take the time to assess what is actually realistic. Focus on making goals that are in their control. Not to lose a pound a week, but to do something active at least three hours a week. Also – feel free to amend resolutions that become unrealistic. So if your three-hour goal doesn’t happen, switch to a minimum of two hours.

Q: When someone resolves to add something new to their life, say a fitness routine, what’s the key to making that change a habit?

A: Marino: It takes roughly 21 days to make something foreign to you a habit. To make fitness and exercise a routine, it needs to be fun.

A: White: A great way to stay on track is to keep a fitness goal journal. Use a written calendar or a phone app that you’ll see daily. Also try making a commitment with a family member or friend, so you can help hold each other accountable.

A: Bardet: Say if you want to drink water every morning. … As soon as you go to the bathroom that’s when you go to the kitchen and drink your water. Connect it to a behavior that’s second nature and just do it right after that.

Q: Losing weight is the No. 1 most popular New Year’s resolution for Americans. What are some of the big weight-loss myths, and what are some practices that work?

A: White: Weight loss is a huge gimmick in itself. ...

You want to get healthy, reduce your chances for chronic disease, feel better and increase your fitness potential? Eat a balanced diet – not high protein, not low carb, but everything in balance. Drink enough water, sleep eight hours a night and stay active regularly.

A: Marino: The biggest myth is “cardio, cardio, cardio.” Cardio will actually cause muscle damage if the right strength training and calories aren’t added into the equation. Cardio is important, but you’re going to burn more fat and get leaner by incorporating more resistance training than cardio.

Q: What’s your advice for someone who just bought a 2015 gym membership and is heading in for the first time?

A: Marino: It can be extremely intimidating. ... The biggest thing for anybody is to get the gym membership and talk to an expert. Whether it’s the trial package of personal training or group classes, you can create a network of friends. That’s going to help facilitate your success and take away from the overwhelming stress factor of the gym scene.

A: White: At the typical gym setting, the best idea is to either find an online program or watch some YouTube videos for body weight or dumbbell exercises so you go into the gym with a plan. People walk in and the first thing they want to do is the machine. But at the start of the year everyone is doing that. And machines are going to give you less bang for your buck in terms of your workout.

Q: What’s a small-scale lifestyle adjustment people can make that will make a big difference for health?

A: Marino: There are so many little things that we can do – for example, taking the stairs or parking at the farthest area of the parking lot and walking it. Even stopping at the gym for 15 minutes to get onto the bicycle is so much better than doing nothing at all. The biggest thing is just to be active. If you already have a gym bag packed and you can stop and walk right in, it takes the stress out of “going to the gym” like it’s a big event.

A: White: No. 1 thing I try to encourage my clients to do: Drink more pure water. Second thing is to pack more healthy snacks. With caffeinated drinks, carbonated water, flavored drinks, and sodas going around more and more, people aren’t getting enough water daily. Chronic dehydration can lead to headaches, poor sleep, weight gain and disease in the long term. Eating regularly prevents overeating unhealthy foods, speeds up the metabolism and increases nutrient absorption.

Q: What major fitness goals should people look toward in the long run?

A: Marino: Put yourself in a position where you feel comfortable, confident and happy with your body. It’s not so much what size pants you’re wearing, it’s how you feel in those pants.

A: Bardet: Being able to not only live long, but have quality of life. That goes back to picking an exercise routine that excites you and fits into your life in a way that it supports you. If you’re in your 70s and 80s and can still go hiking – that’s amazing. That’s life.

Call The Bee’s Sammy Caiola, (916) 321-1636.

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