Willpower

Every January in clubs across America, there is a substantial influx of eager people ready to make THIS the year they achieve their health and fitness goals.

Those in the “veteran” group generally refer to them as “resolutioners” because, like clockwork, the influx wanes. Beginning in February, people become too busy or too impatient to stay with it. Whether this is your first go, or you’ve tried multiple times, the question is:

“How do I make my resolution stick and get on the path to making health and fitness part of my lifestyle?”

The truth is that a multitude of factors contribute to your success or failure, which is why seeking the help of a professional is always recommended. Santé is here to help. This month we’re discussing WILLPOWER. Recent studies have shed some light on this topic. Neuroscientists in one study showed a film of animals in distress to a large group of people. They asked half the group to suppress their emotions, while allowing the other half to openly express their emotions. Following the film, they did a simple hand strength test with each participant. Almost universally, regardless of gender, those allowed to express their emotions openly tested higher than those asked to suppress their emotions.

The Neuroscientists concluded that WILLPOWER is a finite resource; you only have so much to go around. This means each individual has a differing amount to expend, but the capacity can be exercised and improved. When it comes to resolutions most people “go big”; and this can actually contribute to why they never see them through. They attempt to completely overhaul their lifestyle from top to bottom which maximally taxes their WILLPOWER. Ultimately, these individuals give up on their goals and revert to old habits.

Any credible professional will emphasize how focusing on gradual lifestyle changes generates the most effective results. There are no quick fixes. You need a systematic and progressive approach which takes into account all the factors involved in your daily life. If you’re expending large amounts of your WILLPOWER in other areas, it will be much harder to get to the gym and make sensible food choices throughout the day if it isn’t already a part of your lifestyle. Here are 3 tips to help make your resolution a reality.

  1. Start Small: the reality is, if you haven’t exercised in a while, any consistent activity will be beneficial. Everyone sees progress initially when adding exercise to their routine; it’s only after 8-12 weeks when you begin to see how effective your plan actually is. Instead of swinging for the fences and straining your WILLPOWER, find an appropriate goal you can realistically commit to.
  2. Plan Each Day: typically speaking, a plan creates structure. For example, if you know you’re expending a large portion of WILLPOWER at a certain point in the day, plan your training beforehand so you’re more likely to follow through.
  3. Accountability: find a training partner or work with a professional. Being accountable to someone makes it much harder to skip a workout. They can also offer encouragement when your WILLPOWER is low. Working with a professional has the added benefit of ensuring your plan will elicit the desired results, by making adjustments to your training as needed.

In closing, just remember the old adage: “How does a mouse eat an elephant?” “One bite at a time!”

Nathan Steinmetz M.S., C.S.C.S.
Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist
Santé Fitness and Wellness at the Chase Park Plaza

Nathan has a B.S.Ed. in Exercise Science, a B.S.Ed. in Physical Education & Health, a M.S. in Sport Psychology, and is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist with the National Strength and Conditioning Association.