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Saturday 28 January 2023 Dublin: 6°C
It’s one thing to start a new fitness regime and quite another to stick to it, writes Andrew McGinley.

BEFORE THE TURN of the new year, I had great intentions of giving my lifestyle a much-needed overhaul. I thought 1 January would be some kind of major turning point in my life. A new beginning.

The countdown to 2016 would be a ritualistic milestone commemorating the exiting of the old, unhealthy me, I imagined.

Towards the end of the year, my desire to indulge had overcome any quality control I once had. There was no limit to the number of cigarettes smoked, takeaways eaten, pints swallowed or hours shamelessly spent sprawled on the couch scanning through Netflix.

There was, of course, a recurring glimmer of guilt. Living this way wasn’t what I was used to. And it wasn’t how things were supposed to be. I felt horrible.

I found solace in pinpointing the date my change would commence. New Year’s Day was my safety net. It was my release from this toxic life I was leading.

My plans were all set firmly in place. Three five-kilometre runs would slot casually into my weekly routine. Liquidated fruit and vegetables would replace greasy sausage sandwiches each morning.

Smoking would go from my most favoured habit to one I would greet in others with a disappointed shake of the head. Five of my evenings would be allocated to developing individual muscles via isolated weight training before guzzling a hefty post workout whey protein shake.

Netflix would still be enjoyed most days, but only from the floor as I executed various flexibility enhancing stretches. Water would be consumed at a rate of 21 litres per week -no more, no less.

One might think that preparation for such a venture should involve a gradual breaking-in process. I’d need no such thing, I thought.

As the final day of 2015 drew to an end, I entered some kind of panic mode – eating, smoking and drinking as much as humanly possible up until 11.59pm.

Dropping out

The plan was exceptionally executed in the beginning and I enthusiastically engaged in it for a total of roughly eight days. But I soon began to lose motivation and dropped out, retreating back to my old ways. I don’t remember consciously deciding to call it quits. It just happened.

This wasn’t the first time I had dived wholeheartedly into a fitness/lifestyle plan like this, beginning brilliantly only to fall off track soon after. It was becoming a recurring theme in my life.

Noticing that many people around me were seemingly encountering similar difficulties, something occurred to me. My body and mind were simply not used to this new role that was being expected of them. They did manage to adopt it in the honeymoon phase of the process, making me feel like one of those Instagram fitness gurus, but that was destined to be short lived.

After contemplating the situation for a while, I arrived at this conclusion: Maybe my continuous failure to reach my healthy living goals came down to the complexity of the targets I’d set myself. I took too much in at once, confusing my body and craving permission to indulge once again.

Manageable goals

Aiming high is good advice in most instances, but when it comes to healthy living, I learned that the best approach is to begin with smaller, simpler and more achievable goals that can be monitored and made more difficult as time goes on.

For example, I could have instead decided to half my cigarette intake, start to drink more water and maybe go for a run or two in the fortnight leading up to the date I had set. Conquering these fairly manageable goals, mini victories for the ego you might call them, would have boosted my morale and given me the drive to continue on.

Difficult goals forced me back into my comfort zone – they didn’t work – so I decided eventually to embark on a different path. Now, weeks later, it seems to be working.

I begin each week with a handwritten list of goals, primarily simple ones and then one or two that could be seen as a bit more far fetched, to eradicate any complacency.

The plan is to continue meeting goals like, “Go for at least two runs this week” and “Drink at least one litre of water every day” and expand them gradually as time goes on.

As I accomplish more, my confidence soars – and all these healthy habits start feeling natural.

Andrew McGinley is a 21-year-old blogger from Co Galway. You can follow his blog here.   

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