When we wrote our New Year’s resolutions articles this year, we intentionally avoided talking about tangible, goal-oriented resolutions like saving money, losing weight, or picking up a new hobby, such as playing a musical instrument.
That may seem counter-intuitive, because almost all New Year’s resolutions involve setting and achieving goals similar to those.
Most people would agree those types of goals are the whole point of resolutions: think of something you want to do, make a plan, and do it. You work to improve something in your life or something about yourself.
That something might involve health, wealth, or a skill.
Your choice depends on who and where you are in life and reflects who you want to be and where you want to go. You derive benefit both from the results of the goal itself – saving money, for instance – and the feeling of accomplishment you get by setting an intention and seeing it through: checking your bank balance and seeing it grow according to plan.
There’s a thing about these types of resolutions, though: most people don’t keep them. We still think they’re a good idea, though. Read our article “Are New Year’s Resolutions Even Worth Making?” to find out why. But because people who make these type of resolutions – those with discrete, tangible milestones – don’t always follow through on them, we proposed a different approach to New Year’s resolutions this year in our article “New Year’s Resolutions 2020: A New Approach.” Click and read that article to learn about our take on this time-honored tradition – you may get something out of it.
With all that said, we know many – millions, in fact – resolved that 2020 would be the year you’d start exercising. Again, or for the first time.
If you’re one of them, this article is for you.
Three Simple Tips
The first thing we need to tell you is that your exercise routine needs to be yours and yours alone. Going to CrossFit because a friend swears by it, or doing yoga because it changed your cousin’s life, or becoming a runner because that’s what everyone in your neighborhood does – those are not quite the right reasons to dive head-first into any of those three activities.
They’re great to give those three things a shot, but in the end, there’s a very practical reason you shouldn’t decide what your new routine is going to be based on what others do: you’re the one doing it, not them.
Which brings us to our list of three simple tips to help you choose – and adhere to – an exercise routine in 2020.
Find an Exercise Routine That Sticks: Three Tips
1. Commit to finding something you enjoy.
Here’s the rub: it may not happen quickly. It may take you a couple of months to find that one thing you enjoy that you can stick to. It may take half the year, and that’s okay. Remember, we’re not just talking about 2020. We’re talking about the rest of your life. That said, you have to commit to looking. Get out there, take classes – yes, sometimes based on the advice of friends – try new things, surprise yourself, take risks, and stick to it. Don’t like running? Don’t run. Yoga makes you crazy? Don’t go back. Love that Shaun T insanity video? Do that.
One last thing here: it doesn’t have to be one thing. You can create it all yourself, based on your schedule and what you like to do. Saturday morning aerobics classes, Sunday bike rides, morning walks during the week, maybe some free weights at home. You get to decide.
2. Take it easy at first.
One main reason many people give up their New Year’s exercise resolutions is they think they have to basically join the Marines to change their workout habits. Sure – 5:30 boot camp class every weekday morning in a local park for a month is a worthy, ambitious goal. And there’s no doubt you’d get in shape. But realistically speaking, if you’re new to working out, or just getting back after years off, this approach has a high likelihood of backfiring. Instead, start simple. Take two classes a week. Walk a couple mornings or evenings a week. Do something totally different on the weekend: go for an organized hike, maybe find a beginner’s group bike ride. The rule of thumb here is to be realistic: going hardcore seven days a week right at the jump probably won’t work – so dial it back, start with two or three days a week, and see what happens.
3. Once you find your routine, put it on the calendar.
When you decide what you’re going to do, when you’re going to do it, and how it’s going to fit into your life, make it part of your regular schedule. Don’t budge. What we mean is this: you put time and energy into finding what works for you, so when you do find that right combination, think of it as a fixed item. Of course, sometimes things come up, and you have to skip a day – but only skip for the important things. Otherwise, think of your walks, your gym time, or your group exercise class time as sacrosanct – and you don’t have to explain why to anyone.
One way to look at your exercise routine is that it’s a type of “me time” that’s not selfish or indulgent at all. It’s your time to do something healthy, to get away from the stress of work and family (you’re not a bad person for wanting time away from your family), or to go see a fun group of people you love working out with. You can make it mindful, make it aggressive, make it silly, or make it mellow and take it slow: it’s your routine, and you decide.
Exercise Helps Recovery
You may wonder why we’re posting this article here: it’s not directly about recovery from mental illness or addiction. One the one hand, you’re correct. Exercise is not recovery, and we didn’t mention mental health or addiction until just now. On the other hand, research shows that a regular exercise routine supports recovery.
To learn more about how, read our article “Exercise and Recovery: The Foundation of Total Health.”
Here’s a quick run-down on what exercise does for people in recovery. Exercise can help:
- Reduce stress
- Relieve anxiety
- Develop effective coping mechanisms
- Reduce drug and alcohol craving
- Alleviate symptoms of co-occurring disorders
- Find pleasure without drugs or alcohol
Those are the primary reasons you might want to think about starting an exercise routine this year. Maybe it’s your New Year’s Resolution. Or maybe you took our advice (see link above) and made your New Year’s Resolution something different. You may have chose to “be more kind” or “be a good friend” or “be a better listener.”
Either way – and whatever your resolution – we know you can use the three tips above to help you incorporate a healthy new habit into your life.
Angus is a writer from Atlanta, GA. He writes about behavioral health, adolescent development, education, and mindfulness practices like yoga, tai chi, and meditation.