Starting a New Fitness Program? The Number After Zero is 1

Stephen Holt, Timonium personal trainer

Millions of readers of national fitness magazines including Shape, Women's Health, Fitness. Woman's Day, Family Circle, Runner's World, (and many others) have made their exercise programs both more effective AND more efficient with fitness and nutrition advice from "America's Baby Boomer Expert," Stephen Holt.

It’s a brand new year, and if you’re like most people, you ate and drank your face off from Thanksgiving straight through New Years, and waited for the magic date to start straightening out your nutrition and fitness program.

New Year, New You, blah, blah, blah.

You’re so excited (and so bloated compared to just a couple of months ago) you decided to go all out – severe dieting, killer weight training workouts, AND high intensity sprinting or spinning for cardio.

Data from 60+ million FourSquare users shows the first Sunday of the year (as in this past Sunday, January 7) is the day you’re most likely to go to the gym and least likely to eat fast food.

Unfortunately …

By the second following Thursday (which translates to Jan 18 this year) gym visits go down – A LOT.

The data also shows you’re likely to quit your resolution on February 8.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

In my 35+ years in the fitness industry, I’ve seen the same issue every single January:

Most people you see in January then never again start with too much too soon.

Back when I worked in a big box club and did intro sessions and assessments on a daily basis, I consistently shocked new exercisers/new members by giving them advice like:

– Pack your bag and put it in your car, then drive TO the gym. The End.

(This simple assignment starts the habits of not using “I forgot my stuff” as a convenient excuse AND driving your new route that includes the gym.)

or …

– Go to Dick’s and buy exactly two outfits.

(If you’re doing laundry once a week and you care about your hygiene, that restricts you to two workouts a week. Plus, investing in two outfits makes you feel like “an Exerciser” while only one outfit makes you feel like “a Dabbler” who can easily quit. Fancy pants psychology tells us changing your habits actually starts with changing how you identify yourself.)

This time of year magazines are filled with tips from trainers, and I see lots of trainers making the mistake of saying things like, “Start slowly by exercising just three times a week for only 30 minutes.”

Ugh. That’s not “slowly” at all for someone who hasn’t exercised in months (or years).

If you’re brand new to exercising or you haven’t exercised in a while, you’re starting at zero.

The number after zero is 1.

Start slowly. So slowly it doesn’t feel like much. So slowly it’s stupid easy.

Give yourself mildly challenging simple wins you can snowball.


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