“I Will Power Through–Willpower In The New Year”
(Posted as guest blogger at Willpower Works)
Think of Dec. 31 as a reset button. The New Year always brings about a sense of empowerment for me. It’s just another ordinary day, but something about starting the calendar over gives some kind of permission to start myself over as well.
Last year, I decided to not wait until the new year to start my new self. I knew that if I waited, if I continued my habits, I would be unsuccessful just as I had been for the several preceding years. Instead, I made October 1st my “new me” date.
New Year’s Resolutions are a farce. Visit any gym the first Monday of January and you’ll be lucky to find a spot. Visit any gym the first Monday of March and compare. What will you notice? Probably 100 less people. Why is this? Willpower. What does willpower have to do with it? EVERYTHING.
People start with their New Year’s Resolutions and try to make some drastic changes in ONE DAY. I’ll let you in on a little secret: it doesn’t work. Very few, if any, people can change their entire lifestyle in one day. I know I can’t.
Where to start, then?
I had no idea where to start. I had no idea what to do. What I did know was that I was unhappy. I was overweight. I was tired. I was grumpy. I often had headaches. I absolutely refused to buy yet another bigger size in clothing. I had no energy to even get up and play with my kids. A bike ride with my (then) 7 year old? No way. I didn’t have time for that. You better believe I had time for sitting on the couch and scarfing down a pint of ice cream, though! Or time for napping. (Ohhh naps!)
I knew something had to give. I also knew it probably had to start with the crap I was eating. I was a junk food junkie. It was nothing for me to hit up a drive thru fast food joint several times per week! It was nothing for me to eat whatever boxed, canned, or packaged foods were available.
I knew, deep down, these things were horrible for me. I always rationalized with “I don’t eat that bad” and “I’m active”. Sure, I was an ER nurse. I was “active”. No amount of “active” can overcome the 5,000 calories I was consuming per day, though!
The body isn’t much different than a machine when it comes to performance. You get out what you put in. Put in crap and guess what? You get crap. Put in good stuff and get good stuff. Simple.
I started by keeping track of what I was putting in. MyFitnessPal is a great, and FREE, app for keeping track of this. Don’t lie to MyFitnessPal. If you walk by the fridge and guzzle down some juice, put it in there. If you walk by the pantry and sneak a Reese’s cup, put it in there. If you are cooking breakfast and you eat half of the bacon before it makes it to the plates, put it in there. (Not that I would EVER do any of these things; they are only examples.) You get the idea. Track everything. A couple of weeks of tracking is truly eye-opening.
I’ve tracked all of my horrible eating, now what?
Well, now you fix it. Start SMALL. One day at a time. One thing at a time. List your vices; your weaknesses. Me? I’m a sweets fiend. Oh, and onion rings. (Pro tip: don’t make this list when you’re hungry.) Pick something you can go without the easiest. Challenge yourself. Can you go without soda for today? What about for a week? A month?
Make a goal
You made it a week without soda. Awesome! Now can you add another serving of a vegetable to your daily food intake? Another fruit? Can you not go through the drive thru or out to eat at a restaurant this week? This month? One thing a time. One day at a time.
My favorite resource for this is the 100 Days of Real Food blog. She lists simple rules for cutting out processed foods and for making small, DOABLE, challenges. She has a great, easy to follow (and FREE) program for cutting processed foods out of your life in only 14 weeks. Several small goals and accomplishments really add up to success when you do this.
What about exercise?
I’m not going to lie. The first 3 months or so of exercising were somewhat miserable for me. I was embarrassed to go to the gym. I didn’t know how any of the machines worked. I didn’t have any of the fancy workout clothes. But, I went anyway. I quickly noticed I had muscles that I didn’t even realize I had when I got back from my first Body Pump class. Talk about ouch. It took a good 2 months to feel like I was actually accomplishing something other than inflicting pain upon myself. However, I also realized there is no instant gratification. True change requires time.
Within 6 weeks, I had lost 25 pounds. TWENTY FIVE. I could not believe it. Let me add my “results not typical” disclaimer here, I suppose. With that, I do know several others who have had very similar success with doing the same simple things of cutting out processed foods and getting active. They are simple things, but I will be the first to admit they aren’t as simple to FOLLOW. That’s where the willpower comes into play.
It takes a decent amount of willpower for me to walk into the office and see all of the holiday cakes, candy, and snacks sitting around and to not eat them all. It takes a lot of willpower for me to pack my gym bag and to not just keep driving past the gym after I’ve worked all day. It didn’t come all at once. It has always been one day at a time and that’s what it will continue to be.
What keeps me going?
I believe the old adage of “pictures are worth 1,000 words” applies here.
This was 6 months of progress. Six months of cutting out the processed food. Six months of hitting the gym. Six months of, you guessed it, WILLPOWER. This photo sparked a whole new life for me.
I started running. It started with a 5K. I didn’t think I could make it through. By mile 2, I was DONE. Despite that, I pushed on and made it to the finish. Then it happened: I was addicted. I DID it. The 5K turned into a 10K, which turned into a 15K, which turned into a half marathon.
After a few months of running and competing in several local events, something in me needed another challenge. I had recently seen something about Swim Bike Mom and read her book “Triathlon for the Every Woman“. Then it clicked: I was going to become a triathlete.
I didn’t know how to swim or cycle properly, but I knew I could run, so that was as start! One out of the three isn’t bad, right? I signed up for a sprint triathlon and was ready to go. Well, at least I thought I was…
The first time in the pool was a hilarious failure. I didn’t have goggles, a swim cap, or even a proper swim suit. I made it about halfway down the short 25 yard pool before I came up gasping for air. It was then that I realized I didn’t know how to REALLY swim.
I enlisted the help of the Greenwood Gators and took lessons alongside my (then) 7 year old son. All pride went out the window, but I was determined. I quickly went from the pool to open water and Coach Sidner from SwimOpenWater.net helped me with my anxiety about green water.
In eight short weeks, I went from not being able to make it halfway down the pool and thinking I would have to use a snorkel in my event to being able to swim over a MILE and placing second in my age group in my first triathlon. How did I get there? WILLPOWER.
Since then, I have continued my journey and have done 2 more sprint triathlons and 3 Olympic distance triathlons. 2014 yielded a whopping 36 events for me.
2015 will be more about quality over quantity. While filling my year with many events was fun, it wasn’t the best thing for my body. Let me tell you…walking boots are no fun! There is such thing as too much of a good thing.
I have been lucky enough to have been chosen for the 2015 Swim Bike Mom Ambassador Team and have also garnered local sponsorships through Gray Goat Sports, Dream Big Triathlon, and SwimOpenWater.net. With these amazing resources by my side, I will be competing in my first Ironman 70.3 in Muncie, IN on July 11th, 2015!
I will also be competing in the 2015 USA Triathlon Olympic-Distance National Championships in Milwaukee, WI that I qualified for during my first triathlon. As if that wasn’t enough, I will be joining several of my fellow Swim Bike Mom team members for my first Ironman in Louisville, KY on October 11th, 2015. I am trying to talk as many other women as I can into coming to play at the Go Girl Triathlon in Indianapolis late-August 2015. It’s a sprint distance perfect for beginners. It’s made for women of all ages, shapes, sizes, and abilities to compete and to just have fun. So if you’re reading this and you have even an inkling of a spark of inspiration, then I expect to see you there!
While I realize not everyone has the aspiration or inner hidden desire to become a triathlete, I have to say that it has been the most rewarding thing I have done for myself. Call it selfish if you wish, but if we do not take care of ourselves, we cannot possibly take care of anything or anyone else. Our health should be our #1 priority.
Unfortunately, life happens and sometimes it falls to the bottom of the list. The new year offers a new opportunity to change that. Maybe you don’t have the goal to become an Ironman. That’s okay! Just make A goal. Maybe you want to lose 5 lbs or 50 lbs. Maybe you want to get your blood pressure under control. Maybe you want to stop drinking soda. Whatever it is, write it down and do it. Make this year YOUR year. One year can really make the difference of your life.
The only failure is failing to TRY. And if you fail? Guess what, you can try again. All you need is a little willpower.