Happy New Year! This being the first column of the year, I wanted to start by saying that I hope you enjoyed a very healthy and happy Holiday season with friends and family.
It’s also my hope that you finished 2022 feeling proud of the progress you made towards the goals and objectives you set for yourself during the course of last year.
That said, forget about last year; it’s now in the history books, and our history is not our destiny. 2023 is here and we have a brand-new set of blank pages to write our daily life story on, starting today. Remember, you will never be younger than you are at this moment right now! One day we will not be able to do all the physical things we enjoy doing now, but today is not that day.
Good news/bad news time: January routinely brings a tide of new resolutions (good), but the overwhelming majority of over 80%, according to Statista and the University of Scranton, show that the resolutions are abandoned by the end of February (bad). When it comes to fitness-related goals, the white flag gets waved even sooner. Strava did the research with the uploaded data over 800 million user-logged exercise activities and found that people are most likely to throw in the towel on January 19th. They even have a name for it: ‘Quitters Day’.
Why resolutions fail is a topic unto itself, and one that I wrote about in a previous column (“Getting it done in 2021”https://www.bar40.org/post/getting-it-done-in-2021), but often our falling short is directly related to consistency in forming habits. Early on in our endeavors to stick with new resolutions, it’s mission-critical to adopt a burn the boats mindset that failure is not an option and doing what you set out to do is the only acceptable outcome for the day.
I recognize that’s a simple but not easy approach, and it's human nature to identify and latch on to any reasonable reasons (commonly known as excuses) not to do the thing we don’t feel like doing. It’s worth pointing out the obvious fact: excuses and justifications are the starting steps down the path to the landfill where all of those 80% of thrown-out resolutions end up.
One thing we don’t need any studies or statistics to tell us, getting outside to exercise when the temperature drops can be some heavy mental lifting that calls for an extra boost of perseverance and focus. A good recent example would be the frosty front that hit a lot of the US before right before Christmas. Here in the Lehigh Valley region of PA it was a -9 'real feel' on 12/23. Even for those of you in the normally warmer regions, temps dropped to some uncomfortably cold levels. It's times like these when we need to get gritty and make the ironclad decision that our plans are not going to be derailed by external forces. We can't control the weather, but what we can take ownership of is our personal accountability in sticking with our commitments to ourselves!
If your goals include getting outside, here are a few tips to help make sure your motivation doesn’t plummet along with the temperatures:
Make a plan: Hope is not a strategy, and ‘someday’ is the 8th day of the week; it never arrives. Look at your calendar for this coming week and make a calendar commitment to yourself on when you will be working out.
Build your team: Who in your life is also committed to increasing their exercise this year? Reach out to them and partner up to battle the cold. Not only will the team spiritedness be an enjoyable aspect from a conversational standpoint but including someone else in the plan is a proven commitment enforcement strategy. Simply put, we are much less likely to cancel on a friend than we are to cancel on ourselves.
Layer up: There is no bad weather, just bad clothing choices. There's no need to go out and buy the latest arctic expedition apparel; just add a couple of layers that are easy to remove once you warm up.
Seize the opportunity! It may sound crazy if you’re not a fan of the cold but living in an area with a legitimate winter season brings advantages that the folks living in warmer parts of the country can only wish for! Before you say, “they can have it!” consider the fact that here in the Lehigh Valley of PA, we have an enviable list of readily available outdoor options for winter fun and fitness. I say that with the admitted bias of an avid skier, but there’s plenty more beyond that. For example, biking, running, and walking on the network of local trails, including the Saucon Rail Trail. Want to go for a hike? There are plenty of options for that, and www.traillink.com can point you in the right direction. Been a while since you put some skates on? Head over to Steel Ice in Bethlehem and get some solid cardio in at one of their daily public skating sessions. When it comes to skiing and tubing, Bear Creek, Blue Mountain, Jack Frost, and Big Boulder are all options that are sure to combine plenty of fun to go along with an elevated heart rate. Even just strolling around downtown Bethlehem for window shipping gets you out of the house and active, delivering fresh air and elevated mood along with the health benefits of getting your step count up for the day. Another suggestion is to remember is that every playground has all the tools you need for a full-body workout, and during the winter months, they are often crowd-free and open for business, no gym membership required! Here’s a link for some starting ideas, but there are plenty of other options if you get creative or Google ‘playground workouts. The 5-Move Full-Body Playground Workout. Last but not least, and this one may be more than what you’re looking for, the annual Lehigh Valley Polar Plunge is scheduled for February 19th in Easton. Make a cold splash and raise some cash for the Special Olympics and come away with t-shirt to go along with a unique experience for a worthy cause.
As with most things, our perspective determines what we see. If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. That certainly holds true for the winter months and the potential for outdoor enjoyment. Get out there and keep your 2023 goals and resolutions from getting frozen in place!