I’m a fan of making regular resolutions that address areas of my life where I’d like to see change, and I’m also a fan of being specific and methodical. My resolutions (and you can read or listen to what I’ll be working on here) are few and narrow in on what I want to do and how I want to do it.
“Move more” or “get more exercise” is one of the top three items on most resolution lists. But resolutions are notoriously hard to stick to, and I suspect that’s because they tend to be vague and uninspiring. Movement is crucial, so if you’ve got the resolve, I want to help it stick. Below are some ways you can focus your intentions beyond “move more”; I’ll expand on each of these over the next month.
Get stronger doing half of an exercise
In order to get stronger, you have to regularly give your muscles a load to carry that’s more than they are used to. This could mean lifting something heavy, but that’s not the only way to improve strength: you can also lower heavy things.
Imagine curling your arms to bring a heavy rock toward your chest. The shortening action of your biceps muscles while carrying the heavy load is called a concentric contraction. When you lower that same rock slowly, your biceps are still working to control the descent of the arms. The action of the biceps muscles working while getting longer is called an eccentric contraction.
Recent research on eccentric contractions showed that “those who only lowered a weight saw the same improvements as those who raised and lowered weights—despite only performing half the number of repetitions.” This is good news if you’ve been wanting to work on practical body strength moves like a pull-up, using your abdominals to sit up from the floor, or using your legs to stand up from the floor but you feel like your current body strength is too big a barrier. You can focus your approach by making 2023 the year of the eccentric. Create a short workout that’s mostly the lowering-down part of a handful of moves. Lower-downs tend to be easier, and the cool thing is your ability to do the “up” part will improve too.
Resolve to place your walk well
I just can’t say this enough times: You can radically change your life with a daily walk.
And still, I know this sounds dull to a lot of people. We know it needs to be done, but “take a daily walk” turns everyone into a teenager. Just ugh, so boooring, I can’t, don’t wanna, leave me alone, I just want to hang out with my BPF (Best Phone Forever).
Walking isn’t only great for your dynamic body parts, it’s something your brain and mental health can also benefit from as well. Research has shown that brisk walking can be as simple and cost-effective way to improve specific aspects of academic achievement and enhance cognitive control during preadolescent childhood—and likely for us adults as well. If you want to improve your cognition, focus, creativity, and mood, you and your family can take a 20-minute walk BEFORE sitting down to desk work.
If a walk for walking’s sake isn’t your jam, don’t resolve to walk more. Instead, resolve to place a walk in your day so that it makes the rest of your day better. Are you feeling particularly stressed right now? You can start the morning with a 15-minute lap or two around the block to tune into nature, listen to your own breath, and prioritize yourself before things/people start fighting (pinging!) for your attention.
Want to feel less distracted at school or work? Walk all or part way to feed the brain some movement before letting it gorge on sitting down, and dedicate a short portion of a lunch break to striding around taking deep breaths.
Are you having trouble getting screen-free conversation time with a kid in your life? Invite them on an after-dinner scroll-free stroll.
The point here is that you’re not making a general, bland movement resolution. Instead, you’re thinking about the changes you’d like to see in your life that go beyond movement (better focus, mental wellbeing, creativity, connection with loved ones, feeling like your life is more than just “go to work” repeat, repeat, repeat) and using a walk to give those feelings a boost.
Get a grip
Raise your hands if you can’t be on your hands and knees 1) at all or 2) for more than a few minutes. In exercise classes all over, people are needing to bail out of exercises for their arms, shoulders, and core because their hands and wrists can’t take it.
Just as the feet’s need for movement has been off the radar for most, the hands’ need for movement is also rarely addressed. Instead, we keep trying to move AROUND the fact that these parts we depend upon can’t be put upon at all. This year things will be different: put “hands” on the top of move-more list.
Instead of “move more,” focus on this uber-important yet neglected body part by setting up your workout routine and your day to nourish this body part better. Create a hanging station in your house so every time you walk by it you’re reminded to nourish your hands and wrists with a little movement. Get down onto your hands and knees, if only briefly, a few times a day so they grow stronger in their ability to support you. Stretch your hands daily. Tight hands are weak hands, so start them on a path to strength with gentle movements. You can use this move to start with. Bonus stack: working on the eccentric “lower down” part of a pull-up also works on your grip strength!
These are just a few ways to focus your intentions to move more. You can probably think of other ways that make movement more relevant and interesting to you and your life. If you want more ideas, check out Three Ways to Move Your DNA for simple starts to moving more this year and beyond. Happy New Year!