For all of 2017’s many faults, I have to give it this: It was the year I discovered my connection to my body and the joy of being active.
I lifted weights, logged lots of miles on the track, learned to mountain bike, wakeboard, and snowboard. I unexpectedly fell in love with Salsa and am considering joining a dance team next year.
For the first time in my life, I feel a strong connection to my muscles and bones — and for the first time, I think I’ve finally locked this “body confidence” thing down. Not because of how my body looks, or how much it weighs, but because I feel genuinely confident about what it can learn to do. I can look up at a literal mountain and say, “You know what? Sure. A little training and I could climb that.” My body is a privilege and I’m lucky to be inside of it.
I’ve written at length about my fitness journey, my past struggles with food and body obsession, and my deep concerns about America’s obsession with extremes. Our fixation on weight loss, too, is worrying. From fitness websites to your favorite #fitspo Instagram follow, the majority of our language is centered around ways to drop pounds, tone up body parts, and “get the dream body we’ve always wanted.” Fad diets rotate in and out of the zeitgeist faster than fashion trends. All of this language all but assures we work out from a place of self-hate rather than self-love. Instead of painting physical activity as something to be enjoyed, we view it as something we must endure on our way to bodily perfection (which isn’t attainable anyway.)
Is it any wonder diets never work, and why we throw up our hands at our new year’s resolutions by February?
Switching our mindset away from weight-loss goals to activity-based or skills-based goals is not easy. I still catch myself staring critically in the mirror now and again — but now, I’m able to recognize and dismiss those obsessive or cruel thoughts as a consequence of the screwed-up society that raised me, not anything to which I need to give actual credit. It’s hard mental work, but I’m miles healthier and happier for it.
Instead of resolving to lose X number of pounds or drop X number of sizes, resolve to do more of healthy and active activities that make you happy. Resolve to find joy in your body growing stronger.
Here are seven fitness New Year’s resolutions way better than losing weight.
1. Join a league or club
Just because you’re a grown-up doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a sports league — in fact, they’re really popular, typically not very expensive, and an amazing way to have unplugged, weeknight fun and socialize while you do it. Sports leagues are easy to find: Just google the sport you’re interested in alongside “league” and your city. You can also check Meetup to see if there are free or donation-based clubs with weekly meetups.
2. Perfect the push-up (or pull-up)
My memories of failing at push-ups extend all the way back to elementary and middle school. Along with the majority of other girls in the class, I couldn’t even do one full push-up and would have to do them on my knees. Fast forward to 2017 — the year I did my very first full push-up with perfect form. I can’t even describe to you the accomplishment I felt, along with a rueful little middle finger toward the casual sexism that designates upper body strength as a “boy” thing.
Now, I’m doing about 10 full pushups at a time. My goal for 2018 is 50. I’m also going to be trying my hand at pull-ups this year.
Lots of online guides can help you train toward these goals: I like this push-up training guide from Daily Burn and this pull-up guide from Nerd Fitness.
3. Climb a (literal) mountain
I’m not talking about a full-fledged expedition here (but if you’re into that, good for you!). While climbing a mountain is a physically demanding experience, many mountains can be hiked in one to two days with minimal technical knowledge or experience. I climbed Mount Timpanogos in Utah (about 11,000 feet and some change) in 2015. At the time it was definitely the most physically intense thing I’d ever done, but there were 8-year-olds passing me on the trail up to the summit. This year or next, I’d love to climb a mountain above 14,000 feet (and will actually train to do it.)
This makes such a great resolution because there’s an actual, physical goal waiting for you at the summit, so you’ll feel a rush of accomplishment and confidence when you get there.
4. Make flexibility a priority
Flexibility is such an important aspect of physical health that often takes a backseat to more sweat-inducing workouts. You’ll carry the benefits of flexibility with you into old age, so dedicate your time to a specific flexibility goal — from touching your toes to doing a backbend — to start feeling those positive effects.
Youtube is bursting with flexibility videos for beginners. If you need more structure, consider attending a Yoga class a set number of days per week.
5. Sign up for a class (but be SMART about it)
Group fitness classes are great, but only if you actually go. Focusing on a SMART goal (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely) can be a key to fitness class success.
Signing up for a yoga or crossfit membership is one thing, but without more specific goals, you may write yourself off as “too busy” after just a few weeks. Instead, set a goal to attend X classes every week between January and March. Not so hard, right?
6. Drink more water
Diets are controversial (I personally don’t believe in them), but hydration is not. Buy a 32 oz water bottle and set the goal to drain that thing twice a day. From skin and hair health to energy levels, your body will thank you.
7. Run a race
An actual race with an actual date is going to be a much stronger motivator than a goal to “run more.” Whether it’s a 5k or a marathon, pony up and buy the race ticket, then use the SMART strategy discussed earlier to make a training schedule.
If you’re starting from zero, I personally love the C25K app. The 3-day-a-week training plan takes you from nothing to running three miles in thirty minutes in nine weeks.