Monday, December 8, 2014

One Smart Gift

Gift giving is so easy, too easy. The gift you cannot give to your loved ones this season is fitness. They don't sell it at Walmart or Macy's. Even though it is a priceless gift, you still cannot find it in the luxury items of the Neiman Marcus catalog.

There is a colossal push this time of year for people to buy gifts: Cyber- Monday, Black Friday and Gray Thanksgiving. It seems that everyone, everywhere is trying to sell you something during this time of year. Pre-Black Friday sales started the day after Halloween. Some retailers dared to start hawking their wares in September. Did anyone see the how early the commercials for the Radio City Spectacular started? They began their push in September (I have seen and enjoyed The Spectacular but Christmas in September? Really?). The earliest Christmas commercial I have ever seen was an August Christmas commercial for a cruise line advertising their Christmas week deal. I can almost forgive that with a nod to those who love to plan for a trip.

As a personal trainer, the biggest excuse I run into is: I don't have time to workout. These are some of the same people who will get up at 4:00 am on Black Friday and run out to the mall to shop for “Great Deals”. Or they completely sabotage their Thanksgiving Day by heading out to whichever store opens first.

After the gifts are unwrapped and the parties are over, then the barrage of ads for prepackaged diets begin from the likes of Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers and Nutri-System. Juice cleanses and diet books will be peddled on the talk show circuit. The shopping sites will be pitching their latest and greatest exercise size equipment. These miracle devices promise to shrink inches off your waist, legs and arms with little to no effort. Gyms will be putting out their best deals (waive the initiation fee! no money down! bring a friend!). If you look around, most of them have already started the big New Year's resolution push. If you have not heard, December is the new January.

You will see the commercials and feel inspired (marketers are very good at their jobs). You will buy into the latest diet plan, exercise trend or gadget for about a month, then, into the container of banishment (bookshelf, drawer or closet, you decide) it goes.

Be aware, failure is exactly what your weight loss vendor wants from you. 100 million dieters will spend approximately $20 million this year on weight loss, including diet books, diet drugs and weight loss surgeries ( The average amount of money that goes to waste at the gym is $39 a month, and 67 percent of people with gym memberships never use them ( It’s a vicious cycle and vendors count on it. They want you to believe you can gift fitness.

Fitness cannot be bought or given. It can only be achieved. Friends and family can encourage you through the process but the only way to obtain it is to actually do the work. I would love to be able to gift some of my less fit friends & family members a box of fitness (I would love it to be in a box with a pretty red bow. Or would it be better in a kit?). The sad truth is I can’t. I can only provide the opportunity, the knowledge and the atmosphere of support and encouragement.

The Gift You Can Give

Fitness doesn't come in a box with a pretty red bow. It would be so much easier if it did. Then everyone would have "one" (I also believe it would be dry-clean only). Fitness comes through performing fitness activities consistently.

January may very well be the perfect time to get started on a new fitness/diet regime (let’s not confuse thinness with fitness). Gym membership prices are down. Almost every health club and studio are offering discounts and enticing new people in the door. There are offers everywhere and the masses are headed to the closest or most trendy fitness facility (much to the chagrin of regular gym goers). When you hear about everyone in the office heading to the gym or starting with a new trainer, it encourages you (or shames you) to do something yourself.

Take this opportunity to change the way you have done it in the past and give yourself a different gift this year (after all, 37% of shoppers are out shopping for themselves this holiday season anyway (

Most New Year's resolutions start with something like:" I am going to lose weight this year" or " I am going to eat less" or maybe "get fit", "drink less" and/or "eat healthy".

It's time to change the cycle and give yourself (or loved ones) a better gift by clearly defining those New Year’s resolutions. S.M.A.R.T. goals don't just apply to business standards they work for your own personal goals as well.
ü  Specific
ü  Measurable
ü  Attainable
ü  Relevant
ü  Time- bound

Instead of "get fit": try “I want to run a 5K in 30 minutes by the end of March”. This is specific, measurable, attainable and its relevant if you have never run or if you are a much slower runner currently. Throwing around willy-nilly goals you are less likely to reach them. By laying out a plan you a much better chance of success then saying "get fit". You can work with your trainer (or call me if you need one) to help you better define a SMART goal for you and your fitness level.

We can break those SMART goals down even further to increase your chance of success.  Once we have the big picture goal defined, a plan can be created. For example, if the goal is to run a 5K in 30 minutes by the end of March, we can break it down into increments of monthly, weekly and, ideally, daily activities. I know it sounds a bit tedious but your trainer can do this for you.  Backing yourself into your goals help big milestones become much more attainable and manageable.  You can start very simply with this example.
·         Week 1: run 3 days at 13 minutes per mile for 30 minutes outdoors (40 minutes on a    treadmill)
·         Week two: run 3 days. One at 12:30 minutes per  mile for one run and two at 13 minutes per mile for 30 minutes outdoors (40 minutes on a treadmill). Strength train one day with run- specific exercises.  

Of course everything depends on your current fitness level and experience. I hope you can see where this is going (this is not an actual exercise prescription). By breaking them down into even smaller goals, you stand a better chance of success

The choices you make during the course of the year leading up to those goals will improve your fitness a little bit at a time. Before you know it, you will be moving better, breathing easier and probably meet some new people along the way that are similarly goal oriented. I wish we could take a "fitness selfie". Unfortunately, fitness and thinness are not the same thing so it would be impossible to take a picture of how you feel, breath and move after you achieve your goals.

It Won't Be Easy

Our society is so eager to be something right now whether it is to be wealthy, educated or fit. Clothing and electronics satisfy the immediate gratification requirement quite well. I can go to the store and be awesome with the latest iPhone. I can shop at any store and purchase any of the best brands, the newest looks or the must haves gadgets. I cannot go to the store and pick out my fitness level.

How awesome would it be to go to The Sports Authority and buy "the swimmer's body" or the "yoga instructor physique" (I clearly live a rich fantasy life)?

Getting fit can be a long process depending on your current fitness level. Understand that you cannot reach a fitness goal in just a week or two. Most fitness goals have more realistic goal of three months and that is dependent upon the goals you have chosen and your current fitness level. Marathon training could take a bit longer.

Give the gift of fitness to yourself by clearly defining your personal fitness goals. You must also know how you operate. You may need to recruit a friend for motivation. If moving on the elliptical for hours on end sounds boring, take different classes at your gym every week. Mix it up and keep it interesting. Hire a trainer and tell them your likes and dislikes so he or she can make sure your routine is not routine.

Give yourself the gift of fitness goals. You can achieve those.