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The Great New Year Resolution.. why we fail

Ok, so we've established we love fresh starts and we're about to get the ultimate fresh start opportunity! Now we need to understand we so many resolutions to exercise more fail (sorry, depressing post coming up).

Let's just get it out there, we all fail at things. We like the idea of things, we start stuff, then we stop it. We fail. Fail once and you might not want to have a go again, because you now know you might fail. Gloomy outlook.

Right - let's get a little more light-hearted for a moment - it's New Year after all!

How often do you forget to brush your teeth before bed? Ok, you could say that's an unfair question because you REALLY HAVE TO do that. But you don't. You don't HAVE TO brush your teeth. It's not the law (too far?). If you don't you'll probably suffer from a related health issue. Brushing your teeth is a preventative measure and you've done it daily, for ever.

What's the difference with exercise? Arguably, the health issues you're trying to prevent by exercising are equal or greater to those you're trying to prevent by brushing your teeth (not opening a debate here, just making a point...) Is it time (it only take 2 minutes to brush your teeth)? No. You'd do it, even if it took 10 minutes. So what's the difference between exercising and brushing your teeth?

Brushing your teeth is a habit.

Brushing your teeth is something you had done for you when you were too young, something you had to do when you were old enough, something you were told off for if you didn't do, something that was so habitual with daily life that you just did it, still do and probably will forever.

Turning daily exercise into a habit and making it part of your lifestyle is your ultimate aim.

So the question we're really asking is "why can't I turn exercise into a habit?"

Studies quote that creating a habit takes anywhere from a few weeks to a year, although the average is 66 days. That's not really that long an investment if it creates a habit that will last a lifetime and pay huge dividends. So here's my top reasons why people fail with their exercise routines (note - I'm coming at this from the gym angle):

High expectations

Set a bar too high and you will fail to reach it. Fail and you'll feel rubbish. It may even be harder to motivate yourself to get back up and try again than it was before.

Lack of early results

You want to lose weight (the common aim in January). You've stayed off the booze and chocolate for two weeks, sweated it out in front of the TV every day and you're no slimmer. "This is rubbish, what a waste of time". "I give up."

Lack of accountability

You haven't made yourself accountable to anyone. You've done this on your own. There's no one to check in with, no one to motivate you when you're down and no one to say well done when you're smashing it.

It's hard and not fun

Exercise can be tough. You're not in shape, not fit. You're struggling to do the exercises. They make you feel tired and sore. You're not very good at it and you certainly don't enjoy it.

Easy to make excuses

"I haven't got the time right now", "I've got too much going on at home", "I'm too tired to exercise", "I can't afford it", "I've got this niggling injury".... blah blah blah.

Poor planning, strategy and goal setting

You haven't set small, short term goals for quick wins (see point 1). You haven't put a strategy in place with milestones for achievements. You haven't written a schedule for this week with what exercise you're doing each day.

So, this post is a rather negative one. It's about establishing why people fail to make exercise a habit. There will be more reasons than those I've listed but these are common ones.

When I have a problem at work (the type of problem is irrelevant) I try to really break it down and understand what it is. What's causing it? Why is it happening? How did it start? Why isn't it getting better? I find I really have to understand the reason before I can set about solving it, and do my best to prevent it happening again,

It's the same with exercise. Although exercise is obviously a physical activity, I would urge you to really try to understand what makes you tick, what makes you feel awesome and, importantly, what is likely to cause you a problem.

Are you super disciplined and self-motivated or do you need a push to get moving (spoiler - vast majority are the latter). Are you competitive or are you happy just doing your thing? Are you organised at home or cluttered and frantic?

If you've had a think and decided you're a bit lazy, need a push, life's frantic and you not the competitive type, that's ABSOLUTELY FINE. The important thing is to recognise that these traits mean you've got a few extra challenges to deal with. You need to employ some help. Lazy? Exercise with a friend. Disorganised? Time to get the pen and paper out. Not competitive? Fine, just make sure you make your routine a bit tougher each week.

Failure doesn't just happen. There are always reasons. You need to understand as much about your personality as possible (ooooh, deeep) and get your game plan together. Know what's gonna trip you up (normally a small dog in the dark) and plan for it.

Oh, and remember, don't forget to brush your teeth tonight. That's right, you didn't need reminding. Point made.

Next post: "Making that New Year Resolution Stick" will be posted on 01/01/22.


In January 2022 you can book a tour of the club and some informal exercise advice.

You can also buy a two-week Club Pass for £15. A great way to try us out before hopefully coming on board as a member!

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