You’ve heard it all before, and on the first day of the year the chorus reaches a fever pitch, screaming like a hair metal band from the ‘80s. New year, new me. Social media is full of promises on the first day of the year, but you’ll excuse me if I’m not paying attention.
I’m sure most folks have good intentions, but there’s always a huge chasm between intent and application. Sure, you’re going to join a gym, this’ll be the year that you get healthy, stop eating all that junk food and make those life altering changes you’ve been planning. I suspect the only people who get really excited about the new year are gym owners, eager to see the flood of resolutioners trudge in to start making a difference. My friend Robert, the vegan triathlete grumbles about it every year. For a few short weeks there’s always a line to use the exercise equipment at his gym, folks with good intentions and high hopes. According to data published by Forbes, more than 40 percent of all Americans make a New Year’s resolution, but only 8 percent of those resolutions are fulfilled.
Robert isn’t immune to the idea of making life-altering changes in hopes of living a happy and healthier life. After all, that’s what got him into the gym in the first place. Five years ago, he was overweight, stressed out and unhappy. When his optometrist told him she could see flecks of cholesterol floating in his eyeballs Robert started to get a little worried. He stopped on the way home from his doctor’s appointment and bought his first pair of running shoes and a couple of magazines about running. Running, or least jogging, seemed like a good place to start.
After an emergency root canal surgery left him without nerve damage that affected his taste beds Robert took it as a sign he might as well change his diet. The 50 cent tacos disappeared, replaced with an ever-changing array of raw vegetables. If you can’t taste anything, you might as well eat healthy Robert figured.
Gamely, Robert made a go at it. He started walking on his lunch break and stopping by the park on his way home from work to make a couple laps every day. It was slow going at first, and Robert spent plenty of afternoons sitting on a park bench thinking about his life. There’s nothing easy about making big changes with your life, which is probably why so many New Year’s resolutions fall flat, despite the best intentions.
After a month the walking started to get easier, some of the weight started to come off, and Robert was starting to take his first tentative steps towards becoming an athlete. On a lark he signed up for a 5K “fun run” and when he crossed the finish line he was amazed to find out that his legs didn’t hurt as much as he thought they would. After months of making slow, incremental process it was like the floodgates had opened overnight.
If he could run a 5K, then why not a 10K? Or maybe even a half marathon. Even a marathon seemed within the realm of possibility. Pretty heady stuff for a guy who’d never run anywhere in his life unless someone was chasing him. Looking back at it now, Robert says the hardest part was just getting started. Buying the running shoes, taking them out of the box and driving over to the park to start walking. There are a million reasons to put it off, but like the old saw goes, the journey of a thousand miles starts with that first step.
No matter what your New Year’s resolution is, don’t be afraid to take that first step. It might be hard, but ask Robert, and he’ll tell you; it’s all running downhill from the start.
Contact David Dolmage