Happy New Year everyone!
It’s New Year’s Day, and we’re all off to a fresh start, right? OK, let’s begin the new year with spunk, hopefulness and purpose. As we ponder the onset of 2017, the topic of resolutions comes to mind .... “I resolve to (fill in the blank).”
For many people a major goal of the new year is self-discipline. We can all use a dose of that, especially when it comes to habits and choices. I think of three big ones: food, alcohol and cigarettes. Food is a must; alcohol is OK in moderation (if you’re not an alcoholic) and smoking cigarettes is as addictive as heroin – quitting is an imperative.
So here’s my advice on how to have a better year than the one you just left behind: Move more and pray more. Dance more and sing more. Smile more and be kinder. Whisper more and yell less. Forget mistakes from the past and embrace the present moment. Love more and love yourself more!
I’ll start with the big one: Losing weight. When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, none loom larger than this one. It is also a resolution that is the source of great disappointment because it is so very hard to do the things necessary to get lighter and smaller.
Here’s an inspiring quote: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” (Friedrich Nietzsche said this before Kelly Clarkson sang it). Sorry readers, but losing weight cannot be a fad; it must be a way of life. However, losing weight should not be your starting point in 2017. It can be a goal, of course, but it must be tied to a resolution that is much more significant than just getting thinner.
Your primary goal of the new year should be: “Get Fit.” Losing weight should be a secondary goal. Yes, if you make a commitment to change your lifestyle, weight loss is a sure thing, but that will only come to fruition if you make a commitment to get healthier.
So, here’s my plan, which I call: “Faith and Fitness.” Since getting fit is a difficult task, it helps if you make a commitment to combine prayer with exercise to get you through the long haul to a healthier way of life. Expecting short-term results or dramatic weight loss is unrealistic. Most people who are out of shape or overweight did not become that way in a few months. Usually, years of inactivity and unhealthy eating patterns lead to poor health.
As a Catholic Christian, I have a specific set of prayer rituals that I combine with my daily running routine. If you have a prayer protocol, just find a way to implement it into your exercise sessions. Yes, prayer can be talking (or pleading) to God, but it can also be something as simple as being aware of God’s presence in Creation. Honoring the beauty all around us is a form of prayer. Praying for others and for a better world is also important and personally uplifting.
For Faith and Fitness to succeed, follow this plan:
▪ Be sure you are healthy enough for regular exercise. You probably are, but if you’re not sure, consult your doctor before beginning this program.
▪ I suggest you begin with a walking “Faith and Fitness” program. Start today with a one-mile walk. If you don’t have a way to measure a mile, then go to a track (outdoor tracks are usually four to eight laps to the mile), use a treadmill or measure a mile in your neighborhood using your car’s odometer. Be sure to time your mile so you can keep track of your improvements. Keep a journal of your times and distances and how you felt. Vary your courses and venues to keep your workouts interesting. In Garner, White Deer Park and Lake Benson Park are great places to walk and jog.
▪ Regardless of your condition at present, if you make a habit of cardio-based exercise, you will start feeling healthier and more fit within weeks or even days of starting this program. Forget the scale for now, and notice how you are feeling as you get back into shape.
Once your body overcomes the initial shock of your new lifestyle, you will start noticing many improvements in your general health as you become more and more fit. Yes, it will hurt, but not as much as doing nothing will hurt.
▪ Continuity is your absolute key to success. Remember, you are changing your way of life. My suggestion is you make a commitment to “NEVER miss a third day.” In other words, if you go two days without exercising you commit to getting in at least a mile on the third day.
This is important. So often, the best laid plans for getting into shape wither on the vine because a person misses a few days, which turns into a few weeks ... and soon the fitness program is totally abandoned. My hope is that you will try to exercise at least every other day at first, and four to five times a week as you move forward. My “NEVER-miss-a-third-day” rule gives you wiggle room if you are having a bad week or feeling overwhelmed. Always keep your eye on the prize – better fitness will actually improve your way of life so dramatically that all this hard work will be well worth the effort.
▪ Push yourself. Each time you exercise, try to do better than the last time. As you progress, walk a little faster or farther. Set reasonable goals, and try to meet them. There is a huge difference between casual walking, which you may need to do at first, and power walking, which can be as hard as you want to make it. Eventually, I suggest you try adding easy jogging to your plan, perhaps walking for three minutes and jogging for one minute, and adding longer jogging time and less walking time as you get stronger.
▪ If solitude is not your cup of tea, find a “Faith and Fitness” training partner. Pray together as you exercise, recite poetry to each other or talk about things that matter like family, community and love.
▪ If you fall off the wagon, get back on! If, God forbid, you miss a third day, then make up for it by walking on three consecutive days.
▪ Feel free to do any kind of exercise that you will stick with for the long haul: walk, jog, swim, use exercise machines, do aerobics or even vigorous yoga. If you are walking or jogging always go at least a mile or work out for a minimum of 20 minutes, adding distance and time as you get stronger.
Now, about losing weight ... My bet is that if you begin a lifelong fitness program, you will also start to lose weight because you will want to compliment your better fitness with better eating choices. Be patient, weight comes off in ounces, not pounds. In 2016, I helped my wife, Mary, start a fitness program because her doctor said she should lose some weight.
In 2016, Mary, at age 56, started walking a few times a week, and watching her calories. She added jogging in place of walking as she grew stronger. It took Mary 10 years to gain 10 pounds on her small 5-foot-1-inch frame. Now, after just eight months of regular exercise, eating lots of veggies and a strong faith, Mary has lost 10 pounds – more than a pound a month. Amazingly, Mary now can run one mile at a 9-minute pace, and run more than three miles at a sub-10-minute mile pace.
So this year, make your resolution count. Make 2017 the year in which you get healthier, happier and holier. By taking a holistic “Faith and Fitness” approach, you will be improving your physical, emotional and spiritual health all at the same time. Good luck and Godspeed.
If you have questions about “Faith and Fitness” emial me at firstname.lastname@example.org)