I was ranting about "resolutionists" in the last post; not so much how much I don't particularly care for them as much as the challenge in helping them turn a two-month habit into a lifetime one. Entry-level exercisers have the potential to become entry-level runners, a form of vocational security for this running coach.
When it comes to a (scheduled) Sunday morning run if the weather is crummy and/or it's only the missus and myself out waiting for the rest of the group I'm always willing to pull the plug; hey, I have a treadmill at the house, if no one in the group feels accountable to one another then why should I panic? However, get at least one other person out who's near my ability level I'm going to plug away at the planned run; and if it's someone who's slower I still (kinda) don't mind, and most likely enjoy it once it's over. Several trainers and coaches have written about the benefits of a threesome when it comes to workouts. A small group of at least three persons is unlikely to leave an individual without a training partner; you might occasionally lose one but rarely will you lose two.
This group accountability for the resolutionist can be virtual - I keep in regular contact with a group which originally started out as a letters and opinions forum, moved to an e-mail list, and finally grouped together on social media. We post race results, daily workouts, joys and challenges, and such. There's nothing like being positively-referenced in a friend's status post; and I've lost track of the times when I've seen a post which reminded me to get up off my lazy behind and do the right thing. If the group is physical and local, it needs to be to the point of near-intimacy; the type of group where almost nothing is off-limits and anything can be brought up as an item of concern.
This may sound kinky, so bear with me.
There's nothing like feedback of multiple forms. Weigh, measure and photograph each other - or yourself - in as little clothing as possible, on a weekly basis. Track the weight and measurements, keep the photos in your phone or computer as motivation to press on - you'll need it on both the good and on the bad days. This is important: If you can't feel comfortable in as little clothing as possible, with what might be an excess of an excess of body it will almost be gymnophobic to step into a gym where there are a great number of really buff guys and gals, some average folks, and a few sweatsuit-wearing folks struggling to transform. You're going to be in public. Yes, people are watching each other. And yes, people are watching themselves. Most are paying more attention to themselves than they are you. Just go in there and bust your chops; if your effort level shows you're working out you'll fit right in. If you're on a cardio machine pedaling along at a pace which is slower than you would walk, you will stand out.
The workout sessions ought to be difficult enough, and varied enough. The "exercise thing" can go from hard work to the group ambling along on the treadmill at two miles per hour for twenty minutes three times a week in nothing flat if you're not careful. Sure, twenty minutes three times a week is what the CDC recommended, but that's the absolute floor. To get more fit there needs to be more done. Make a real investment in the fitness by signing on with a gym where there are group exercise classes or fitness trainers on staff. And use them.
Just yourself - or no trainers? For cardio machines a decent heart rate monitor might be overkill, but there are some exercises which don't have a way to read a heart rate. Want to know what's the maximum heart rate for you? Get in touch with your doctor and ask for a stress test - actually it's a great idea before starting a workout program. Don't want to deal with doctors but want to know what your max heart rate is most likely?
If you're a man, take your age, multiply times 0.7, then subtract that number from 208. A fifty-year old guy most likely has a maximum heart rate of 173.
Women will take their age, multiply times 0.88, subtract from 206. So a fifty-year old woman would subtract 44 from 206 to get 162 as her max.
If you don't like heart rate monitors and all that battery-operated, chest-strapped (now there's forearm straps and Bluetooth for the anti-chest strap crowd) stuff then you can use what's called the ratio of perceived effort. Researchers found experienced exercisers could "ballpark" their percentage maximum heart rate to within a few beats, based on a ten-point exertion scale. A "five" was an effort which could be maintained for an hour of few - fifty percent; a "ten" was the 'oh, heavens, my chest will explode in five seconds if I keep this up' - about one-hundred percent. Sixty-to-seventy percent max heart rate, or a six-to-seven on the perceived effort scale, is what you're going too want to do for AT LEAST thirty minutes a day, three times a week. And if you can get another two days in of thirty to forty minutes with an effort level of fifty percent/"five" effort, so much the better.
Finally, consistency is going to be key. Schedule the workout in to the plan of the week immediately after the things which keep the roof over the head, the car on the road and the food in the fridge. The German philosopher Nietzche said that "a day has a thousand pockets." Time management is the ultimate goal of any resolution; we need to be the master over our life, not the other way around. If you're resolving to change exercise, fitness or diet in the coming year know that the main battle will be between you and the watch, the planner and the calendar. You can do it.