Traverse City Record-Eagle

January 4, 2014

Strategies for actually keeping New Year's resolutions


---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Diane Parker and Sue Ballard have a plan to help them keep their New Year’s running resolution.

The women, both teachers from Gaylord, recently signed up to run in the Bayshore Half Marathon. They will train together, keeping each other accountable for the next five months. They’re both seasoned runners, but say it helps having a partner.

“As long as you pay and sign up, you have a reason to keep running,” Parker said. “And I find if I hook up with somebody who is more motivated than me, it helps.”

Parker smiled at her running partner while Tim Hinkle, a salesman at Running Fit in downtown Traverse City handed her a shoe to slip on her foot.

Hinkle says he sees plenty of runners walk through the store’s doors each January with ripe plans to be more healthy or active during the new year. He watches many of them hit the streets or the gym for a few months, trying to keep pace with their goals. And most of them fall off the wagon along the way, reverting to old habits or routines, he said.

Less than half of resolutions live past the six-month mark, according to statistics released by the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

That means, if you’re one of the people who buys a yearlong gym membership in January and use less than half of it, you’re not alone.

“You have to get out the door,” Hinkle said of keeping a running resolution. “The hardest step is the first one out the door. The things in life that are easy usually aren’t worth as much as those you work for.”

It’s that will to stick with it that has kept the 67-year-old running regularly for the past 40 years.

But, according to experts, Parker and Ballard did two things that likely will help them complete their goals in the new year — they’re not going it alone and their goal is within reach.

“I live in a resolution free zone,” said Shann Vander Leek, a life coach based in Traverse City. “I’ve seen more fail than succeed.”

Vander Leek encourages her clients not to set goals, but to make a list of intentions for the coming year. Then she tells them to find a partner who will hold them accountable, someone with whom they can be honest about successes and failures.

“I’m really about incremental change and being really gentle with yourself when you don’t show up,” she said. “Please understand it takes a minimum of 40 days for a new habit to kick in. If you find yourself backpedaling, think about how you will feel if you absolutely move forward.”

She also encourages clients to consider the longer lasting effects of trying to achieve something.

Last year, Vander Leek spent five months trying to eat healthier by eliminating all sugars from her diet. The effort was an uphill battle, one that was difficult to maintain at times. And it’s not something she continues today.

“If I told you I was going to be sugar free for 2014, I would be setting myself up for failure,” she said. “But when I think what is in my grocery cart now when I go shopping as compared to a year ago, I see success. That all or nothing mentality will kick your butt.”

Whether you’re pledging to save more money, stop smoking or eat healthier, Vander Leek suggests you keep those intentions at the front of your mind. She uses sticky notes at home and in her office to remind her of the goals.

Vern Gauthier, co-owner of Fit For You health club echoes Vander Leek’s suggestions.

The former professional body builder has watched membership at his gym spike every January since he opened his doors in 1986. But within a few months, the surge of enthusiastic new members begins to fall off.

Gauthier encourages clients in his gym to start off at a reasonable pace, to avoid hurting themselves and to stick with the workouts for the long run.

Hinkle echoes Gauthier’s assertion about starting at a reasonable pace. In the running world, if you can’t carry on a conversation while running, you’re going too fast, he said.

“Everybody thinks they can do it on their own,” Gauthier said.

But the reality is, they often need someone helping cement the routines set at the gym, he said.

The 20 people displayed in a monument on the wall of his gym all lost at least 100 pounds. None of them did it overnight or with New Year’s resolutions.

They all made lifestyle changes.