#FindYourFuel: A Year in the Life of a Fitness Resolution
By Paul C. Focazio

When we start anew – a year, a job, a relationship – we often resolve to one-up ourselves, fueled by a desire to accomplish what we didn’t get to do. It’s to say next time, I’m hoping to do that or improve upon what I did last time. As I learned this past year while powering through 365 workouts in as many days, these promises we make ourselves are particularly challenging to keep. And the reason boils down to how we respond to temptations in the present.

Around the time the ball dropped us into 2016, many news outlets – including National Public Radio, The Daily Beast and The New York Times – once again engaged in these perennial discussions on resolutions, which all have a key component to unlocking achievement: set the target, but be realistic with the aim.

On January 1st, research out of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania suggested that people see New Year’s Day, their birthdays and even the start of a new month or week as “temporal landmarks” — an imaginary line demarcating the old “inferior” self from a new and improved version. That explains why we often fail at resolutions — our new selves are usually not much better than the old ones. But it also suggests how we might stick to what we set out to do — use more temporal landmarks to reach our goals.

There is a reason I reached my finish line in late December 2015, some 12 months after I set my intention to run, lift and sweat my way through a veritable obstacle course of classes and challenges: Giving birth to my goals was great, but keeping them alive would only come by nurturing them.

Also, though I made my assurances known, I wasn’t so vocal about them – It proved wise to map out my plan by journal or calendar (For the latter, I found Google Calendar syncs nicely between my desktop and phone app). Charting my progress in a series of Instagram posts proved beneficial as well, but permeating those posts on numerous other social media platforms seemed more an attempt to impress followers and therefore would’ve been superfluous. I find that to loudly announce such things like the ringing of Wall Street’s opening bell can drive down their stock price. Also, why go so public when you’re not fully sure where this journey will take you?  Take some time to mark your path and identify motivations as you gaze forward.

When I began walking down my road, I did so with little fanfare: I simply wanted to build endurance, fortify core strength, cut down my per-mile run time and graduate to using heavier weights. And so I explored a wide variety of studios and styles and then set up routine visits at the ones that, for me, quickly rose to the top. This will be different for everyone, as will be the rhythm with which you train.

For me, I found it best to counter-balance a cardio/muscle-focused mix of classes at studios like Barry’s Bootcamp, Brick, EVF Performance and BFX with some high-energy but lower-impact full-body workouts at Row House and spin centers such as Peloton, CYC, Swerve and Flywheel. To help shave down my running pace – which came in handy for spring and summer 5K runs in Sag Harbor and Southampton – I made regular appearances at Mile High Run Club. And to keep myself both limber and centered, I relied on chill and flow yoga at Exhale and meditation yoga at Aqua. Most importantly, as my tolerance level grew I found that I could double and triple up on workouts certain days (being careful how I paired up activities) so that I would be certain to give my body one to two days rest per week.

After finding my footing in those first few months, I realized this resolution could be much grander than initially planned. So, by late-March, when I recorded my 100th workouts in less than 100 days, I re-evaluated, modified and expanded my self-imposed challenge. Then, with a more certain goal and a greater gain of confidence, I really began to self-propel both faster and steadier. I made notes before each month on the workouts I wanted to take on, all the while remembering to remain flexible about my planning.

If I couldn’t attend a studio on a specific day or with a preferred trainer, I wouldn’t cancel, I would reschedule. At Barry’s, for instance, Mondays means there’s a focus on arms and abs, which has become a fave of mine. But Wednesdays can be just as beneficial, as the class is centered on chest, back and abs. So, while conflicts may arise in the workout schedule, don’t let it stop you from getting in some great exercise another time.

Training for several 5Ks kept my fitness objectives well-fueled in the spring and summer months, as did switching up how I sweat. During this time, I was spending most weekends in the Hamptons, but kept the fire going with bootcamp and spinning at, respectively, several local Barry’s and Flywheel locations. I also plugged into some paddle boarding sessions in both Sag Harbor and East Hampton. So, nicer weather just meant adapting my routine. The modifications helped me to sprint past my 150th class in June, 175th in July and, by end of August, my 200th workout.

As the summer sun waned, I stared down my prize and bolted toward winter’s horizon, capturing flags for my 250th workout (in September), 275th (in October) and 300th and 325th (both in November). I marked my 350th by early December, at which time I used the force that quietly motivated me up to this point to help finish off the expedition: my dad. For well over a decade and a half, my father has struggled with the neurological roadblocks set up by his Parkinson’s disease. Simple everyday gestures – cutting up food, walking, showering– are an increasing struggle for him. So, I run for him. I lift those heavier weights for him. I stretch out my sore body for him. Because he can’t. Because he wishes he could.

I say this to light a fire under us all, to #FindYourFuel, if you will. That’s become my go-to hashtag this past year and it continues to drive me forward in 2016. There are things we can go to in our mind to remind ourselves how fortunate we are to be doing whatever we can do, because there are many who cannot. And when we strive for what we can do, we oftentimes find that we end up doing so much more.

My 6 Insta-Tips for Inspiration

    • #FindYourFuel WHEREVER YOU GO
      Motivation is our fuel for doing anything, and the quality of our motivation affects whether our resolutions stick or fade away. Research shows that our primary reason for initiating a change determines whether we experience high- or low-quality motivation. So be sure to look up when you aim.

          • BE INSPIRED, NOT SET BACK If we don’t feel comfortable giving ourselves permission to prioritize our own self-care – whether it be eating better, exercising regularly, getting more rest – it’s unlikely that our resolutions will feel compelling enough to stick with once the post-holiday grind kicks in mid-February. My late-February 2015 shin injury while doing box jumps during a crossfit class could’ve derailed the year-long challenge, but after allowing myself a few days off, I pushed the obstacle aside and sprung back into action.