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Stretch Yourself Strong

Tired of the same old stretching routine? Functional Range Conditioning can help you build flexibility, athleticism, and real-world strength in a whole new way.

Popular wisdom says stretching doesn’t build muscle, burn fat, or shave time off a 5K. As a result, many of us shortchange or skip the practice altogether in our workouts.

But according to many fitness experts, popular wisdom is wrong —and we’re missing out on its benefits.

Stretching has been shown to help prevent injury, heal old hurts, improve range of motion, reduce muscle tightness and imbalance, and improve athletic performance. In fact, it’s so important to overall fitness that it’s not something to approach haphazardly.

Welcome to stretching 2.0 by way of Functional Range Conditioning (FRC). This stretching protocol — created by Toronto-based sports-specialist chiropractor Andreo Spina, DC, FCCSS(C), CPT, who advises several pro sports teams — aims to build strength and flexibility systematically and progressively.

Though commonly treated as separate skills, flexibility and strength are closely related; together, they comprise mobility. Often, says Spina, mobility restrictions occur because our muscles lack strength or flexibility (or both) at their end-range positions.

This may take the form of tight hips that make it hard to squat, or tight shoulders that make it tough to raise your arms overhead.

Another expression is hyperflex-ibility, which often forces people to avoid certain movements for fear of going too far and injuring themselves. Common examples include over-rotating your lower back or overextending your neck.

Whether the problem is too little or too much flexibility, FRC practitioners address the issues with dedicated exercises that aim to find balance in strength. It’s an effective approach that has caught the attention of trainers, therapists, and pro athletes alike in recent years.

Spina based the FRC method-ology on careful analysis of existing research about the best ways to make muscles simultaneously stronger and more supple. It builds on tried-and-true techniques from yoga (in which practitioners actively move themselves into poses) and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, or PNF (in which a coach applies resistance as practitioners attempt to shorten a stretching muscle). (Learn more about PNF at “Smart Stretching“.)

By focusing on building strength and flexibility in the end ranges of motion, FRC is an innovative way to improve mobility and overall movement quality.

Length With Strength

Mobility is essential both in athletics and in daily life: It helps you maintain control of your body and avoid injury, even when unusual circumstances — slipping on ice, jumping to catch a Frisbee — place your joints in potentially dangerous positions.

It’s no secret that our modern lifestyle has deleterious effects on our health, joints included. “We sit rather than stand, drive rather than walk,” says Spina. “The body has no reason to hold on to mobility it doesn’t need. So we lose it and then wonder why we hurt ourselves squatting or doing Olympic lifts in the gym.”

FRC aims to restore those lost ranges of motion so that complex movements — be it reaching into the back seat of a car to retrieve a purse or performing a deficit deadlift — become easy once again.

One way FRC does this is by focusing on building your joints’ passive flexibility, while also increasing their active range of motion. To feel the difference, try this test: Stand on one foot and lift your other knee as high as you can. Then grab your knee and see how much higher you can pull it.

The first position is the limit of the active range of motion you can control, or your mobility. The second position is the passive range your joint can reach but over which you have little control — your flexibility. There will always be some difference between these two points; the goal of FRC is to reduce this gap.

“Passive flexibility isn’t very useful,” says FRC instructor Dewey Nielsen, owner of Impact Performance Training in Newberg, Ore. At best, haphazard stretching, no matter how well-intentioned, can be ineffective, resulting in little functional improvement. At worst, Nielsen notes, it can be outright dangerous to passively push your body into ranges of motion it can’t actively control.

Forcing your body into the full expression of an exercise when you cannot control it is asking for trouble, agrees personal trainer Hunter Cook, NASM, AFAA, FRCms, based in Long Beach, Calif.

“Injuries happen when your body encounters a force that exceeds the load-bearing capacity of the tissue,” he explains. Imagine, for instance, a 200-pound man who gets injured by putting his full weight on an ankle joint that can’t handle his weight. “If he doesn’t increase the capacity of the tissue to bear load beyond what it did before the injury, he’ll reinjure the same area when he puts that same force on it again.”

When FRC practitioners are working with injured clients, they take care to rehab the area so it can withstand more force than it could before the injury, resulting in an ankle, joint, or knee that’s more resilient and injury-proof.

Ready to try FRC? The following workout just might change your mind about the value of stretching.

The FRC Workout

An FRC-certified trainer can help you learn and refine the method, but having a coach isn’t necessary to get a feel for the FRC system. For a primer on this tough-but-effective approach to amping up your stretching routine, add these moves to your workout program — once or even several times a day. You can do the exercises on their own, or right after a workout, when muscles are warmed up and pliable.

CARs Shoulder Rotations

CARs Shoulder Rotations
Illustrations by Kveta

Purpose: To increase the functional range in your shoulder joint.

How to Do It:

  • Stand tall and contract your legs and core so that your body is stable.
  • Slowly and with maximal tension in your left shoulder, rotate your left hand so that the palm faces your thigh.
  • Keeping your elbow straight and your thumb pointed upward, lift your arm forward and overhead as high as possible.
  • When your arm is vertical, reach up as far as possible, then internally rotate your shoulder so that your thumb faces forward and your palm faces outward.
  • Without flaring your arm out to the side, continue circling your entire arm backward and down behind you until your arm is by your side again.
  • Repeat the same movement a total of three times.
  • Reverse the movement, circling your arm back, then forward in the same manner a total of three times.
  • Repeat the movement with your left hand.

Segmented Cat–Camel

Segmented Cat Camel
Illustrations by Kveta

Purpose: To increase control and awareness throughout your spine.

How to Do It:

  • Assume an all-fours position with your hands under your shoulders and knees below your hips.
  • Minimizing movement further up your spine, tip your pelvis forward so that your tailbone lifts slightly toward the ceiling.
  • Beginning with your lowest vertebra, slowly lower your back into a fully arched position, one vertebra at a time. Pay particular attention to the vertebrae between your shoulder blades. The entire sequence should last 30 to 45 seconds, and your head should be the last thing to come up.
  • Starting at your tailbone, slowly reverse the movement, taking 30 to 45 seconds, until your back is rounded up toward the ceiling and your head is hanging toward the floor.
  • Repeat three to four cycles.


Illustrations by Kveta

Purpose: Trains muscles to support the joint at the outer edges of their range of motion, giving you more control and usable range.

How to Do It:

  • Sit on the floor with your right leg straight and your left leg bent so your foot is near the inside of your right thigh.
  • Keeping your back straight, hinge from your hip joints and bend as far toward your right foot as you can, grabbing it if possible. Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Back off the stretch a little, then push your right heel into the floor as hard as possible for 10 seconds. (This is the PAIL stretch.)
  • Release the tension, then reach forward again. Hold the stretch for 10 to 20 seconds.
  • Back off the stretch again, and, keeping your right leg fully locked out and your toes pointed upward, raise your right heel from the floor as high as possible. Hold for 10 seconds. (This is the RAIL stretch.)
  • Release the tension, lowering your leg to the floor, and reach toward your foot again. Hold for another 10 seconds.
  • Repeat the entire sequence with your left leg extended in front of you.

90–90 Hip Opener

90-90 Hip Opener
Illustrations by Kveta

Purpose: Builds and maintains range of motion in the hips, and prepares joints for challenging strength-training and athletic movements like squats, deadlifts, and jumps.

How to Do It:

  • Sit on the floor with your feet flat and your knees bent.
  • Turn your body 90 degrees to the right, dropping your knees so that the outside of your right knee and the inside of your left knee are touching the floor. (This is the 90–90 position: The thighs form a 90-degree angle, and each knee is bent 90 degrees.)
  • Rotate your torso to the right so that your right thigh is on the floor directly in front of you (position 1).
  • Keeping your back straight, hinge forward at your hip joints until you feel a deep stretch in the muscles surrounding your right hip (2). Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Come back to an upright position and rotate your shoulders to the left so you are facing your left leg. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds (3).
  • Keeping your right leg planted, extend the toes of your left foot and lift your left knee. Forcefully contract your left glute, lifting your leg and opening your left knee as far to the left as you can; this is a RAIL stretch (4). Hold for a five-count.
  • Lower the inside of your left knee back to the floor in front of you, then hinge the left knee back and forth three times, contracting your left glute for a five-count each time (5).
  • Open your left knee to the left once more. Hold the middle position — legs splayed wide, the outside edges of the feet on the floor — for 15 seconds, squeezing the glutes so that your knees press closer toward the floor (6). This is also a RAIL stretch.
  • Keeping your feet on the floor, rotate your body so you are sitting in the 90–90 position on the left side.
  • Repeat the entire sequence on this side

Illustrations by Kveta

 Andrew Heffernan, CSCS, GCFP, is an Experience Life contributing editor.

Illustrations by Kveta

Full Article can be found on Experience Life Magazine:

The Workout: The Cardio Challenge

Cardio Challenge

This HIIT routine reimagines the treadmill jog, burning fat and building endurance in a quick workout.

Whether you’re looking to round out your Easy Strength sessions or simply craving a sweat-heavy cardio burst, the following treadmill routine may be just the rut-busting routine you need.

Designed by Jill Coleman, the California-based owner of JillFit Physiques and creator of the TreadLift program, this 30-minute high-intensity routine will challenge you with alternating incline sprint and recovery segments, helping you build muscular endurance while supporting postworkout fat burn.

Perform this workout just two or three times per week. “This helps manage recovery so you can get up the next day and train hard again,” Coleman explains.

The routine can be done walking or running, making it scalable for both new and returning exercisers. The speeds and inclines for running and walking are suggestions, so feel free to adjust the levels to suit your needs.

Remember: Don’t skimp on the prescribed rest periods, and don’t be afraid to take a break — especially if you feel lightheaded or nauseated.

“The key with a workout this intense,” says Coleman, “is to listen to your body.”

The Routine

 is a Minnesota-based health and fitness writer.

This originally appeared as “The Workout – The Cardio Challenge” in the January 2018 print issue of Experience Life. View the original article on the Experience Life Magazine:

Chicago Half Marathon Ignited by Athlinks

Expert Answers: Non-Running Exercises to Increase Your Speed

Our expert has tips to get you moving faster and more efficiently.

Q | I’m a runner, and I’m curious if there are any exercises I can do beyond running to get faster?

A | Because we run on one leg at a time, unilateral power movements are especially effective at building speed.

“Training modalities that have the individual on one leg have a great carryover to running performance,” says Andrew Long-Middleton, a personal trainer at Life Time in St. Louis Park, Minn. Practicing unilateral power movements “will translate into a more efficient, faster runner,” he explains.

Long-Middleton recommends exercises like the Single-Leg Bound (below) for building speed. Perform five to 10 sets no more than twice per week after a warm-up.

It’s important to remember that single-leg power moves increase the force affecting your lower legs. With running and jumping, some people may experience shin pain. Take care to land softly when jumping, and periodically check in with your body by running your thumb down your shin. If you feel pain, it may be helpful to increase the recovery time between sessions and make sure your whole-foods diet is well balanced (calcium; vitamins D, K, C, and E; phosphorus; and magnesium all play vital roles in bone health). If the pain continues, see your healthcare professional.

(For more on unilateral training, check out “Taking Sides: The One-Sided Strength Workout“. Learn more about speed training at “Speed Workouts X 3“.)

Single-Leg Bound

Single Leg Bound

  • Standing on your right leg, swing your arms back slightly, and gently bend your standing knee to assume a single-leg athletic stance.
  • Swing your arms forward for momentum and jump off your standing foot. Drive the left knee up for additional power.
  • Land softly on your right foot, slightly bending your knee, while allowing your arms to swing behind you once again. The distance of the bound will vary from person to person, but aim to keep each repetition about the same length.
  • Repeat the movement on the same leg without stopping until the distance between bounds shortens — or no longer than 20 seconds.

Illustrations by Colin Hayes

A version of this article first appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of Experience Life magazine. Click here to subscribe


Modifying and Progressing the Single-Leg Bound

Make It Easier: Double-Leg Bound

Newer exercisers can begin with a two-legged bound to get their bodies accustomed to the stress of power movements. Perform the above move while jumping with both legs. Once you build up your comfort with the bilateral version, try the exercise on one leg.

Make It Harder: Triple-Tuck Jump

  • Perform three single-leg bounds on one leg, then jump to bring that knee to your chest.
  • Land softly, and immediately perform the next series of three bounds on the same leg.
  • Stop when height or distance shortens, or no longer than 20 seconds. Repeat on the other leg.

Lauren Bedosky is a Minnesota-based health and fitness writer.

Chicago Half Marathon Celebrates Chicago History In 2018 Shirt and Medal Release

Chicago’s Hometown Race Draws Inspiration from Chicago’s Past to Lead Us Into the Future

The Chicago Half Marathon and 5K presented by My Fit Key is held annually in Chicago’s historic Jackson Park, once home to the 1893 World Columbian Exposition.  In 2018 Chicago celebrates the 125th Anniversary of the World Columbian Exposition.

The 1893 Worlds Columbian Exposition ushered in a new area and changes with the introduction of many new products, entertainment and technology. The first ferris wheel and brands such as Quaker Oats, Wrigley Gum, Aunt Jemima and Pabst Blue Ribbon to name a few.

As Chicago prepared to set the stage a contest, sponsored by Chicago’s Interocean Newspaper, was designed to place Chicago on the map and leave visitors with a lasting impression. As a result of this contest multiple Chicago icons were born. Most notable; the Chicago Y symbol, and artist Charles Holloway’s goddess and with the motto “I WILL”.

The Y symbolizes the three sides of Chicago; north, south and west. Forever divided by the branches of the Chicago River.  This symbol is found throughout Chicago in architecture and municipal seals.

Chicago Artist Charles Holloway entered one of these contests with his goddess figure suited for battle. Reflecting her defiant attitude, she wore a breastplate that read “I Will.” With her crown depicting a phoenix rising from the flames, she also seems to symbolize the resolve of Chicago to rise from the ashes of the Chicago Fire, which destroyed much of the city.

I WILL become the motto of Chicago. Symbolizing the spirit of the people of Chicago rising from the ashes of the Great Chicago Fire.

As we celebrate this historic event, we celebrate the changes coming to Jackson Park. The park will soon go under an expansion to include the site of the President Barack Obama Library and the existing golf course to transform to an 18-hole Tiger Woods Golf Course. 2018 maybe the last time we hold the Chicago Half Marathon and 5K in this exact location and certainly will be the last time we hold the event in it’s current state.

We couldn’t think of a better time to bring the Chicago motto and Holloway’s goddess to the Chicago Half Marathon & 5K.

2018 Chicago Half Marathon and 5K Participant Shirt

Half Marathon Participant Shirt

5K Participant Shirt

Chicagoland Half Marathon Series Medal

The Chicagoland Half Marathon Series honors participants who take on both the Byline Bank Chicago Spring Half Marathon and Chicago Half Marathon within the same year with the 26.2 Challenge medal.

It takes a lot of ambition and will to take on multiple endurance races just 5 months apart. It is with this, we reveal this year’s 26.2 Challenge medal featuring the Chicago “Y” which will hold the Chicago Spring Half Marathon medal and Chicago Half Marathon medal together as one.

26.2 Challenge Medal

26.2 Challenge Medal Set


Welcome My Fit Key to the Chicago Half Marathon | 5K

22nd Annual Chicago Half Marathon & 5K Announces New Partnership with MY FIT KEY

Chicago, June 6 — Life Time — Healthy Way of Life today announced a new partnership for one of its marquee Life Time Events, beginning a two-year presenting sponsorship between MY FIT KEY and the Chicago Half Marathon & 5K.

The 22nd Annual Chicago Half Marathon & 5K Presented by MY FIT KEY, will take place on Sept. 23, 2018 and will introduce the endurance community to DNA testing for athletes.

“More than 12,000 runners from across Chicagoland, the United States and the world join us for a truly unique Chicago event with sweeping views of the famed Chicago skyline and premium race amenities at the Chicago Half Marathon & 5K,” said Dan Lakin Senior Run Brand Manager at Life Time.  “Together with Life Time, the nation’s premier healthy living and entertainment brand, MY FIT KEY will help deliver the premium experience that makes the Chicago Half Marathon a signature event in the fall racing season for new and veteran athletes at every level.”

Fritz Gartner, President of MY FIT KEY said of the partnership; “MY FIT KEY is excited and proud to sponsor the Chicago Half Marathon & 5K.  This as an ideal opportunity to showcase one of the fall’s most anticipated races through one of the country’s most beloved cities, and we trust our products and services will help endurance athletes better understand how their DNA impacts their performance.”

The Chicago Half Marathon & 5K Presented by MY FIT KEY is the second of two races in the 2018 Chicagoland Half Marathon Series, which also included the May 20 Byline Bank Chicago Spring Half Marathon & 10K.  Participants who complete both half marathon distances will earn a custom, 26.2 Challenge finisher medal at the final event. Currently, more than 1500 athletes are registered for the Series.

Benefiting charity partner Chicago Run, the Chicago Half Marathon & 5K is centered around Chicago’s historic Jackson Park, once home to the 1893 World Columbian Exposition. The course highlights Chicago’s historic south shore and features a traffic-free Lake Shore Drive–the only Chicago race to completely shut down this main transportation artery.  Runners traverse the streets through Hyde Park and the Museum of Science and Industry before taking on the north and south Lake Shore Drive lanes and finishing at the Statue of the Republic or “Golden Lady” as she’s known to locals.

Participants receive a participant shirt commemorating the 125th Anniversary of the World Columbian Exposition, finisher medal (the largest in the midwest) and access to the legendary finish festival featuring a live concert, Lagunitas beer, pizza and more. Registration is $105 for the half-marathon distance and $40 for the 5K, and is available at


MY FIT KEY provides DNA testing for athletes.  We help unlock the potential for better training, improved performance, fewer injuries, and optimal recovery through genetic insights.  By marrying the knowledge, practice and standards of medicine with the science of DNA and genomics, we give athletes the tools to reach new levels of achievement, personal empowerment and health. More information is available at

About Life Time® – Healthy Way of Life

Life Time champions a healthy and happy life for its members across 135 destinations in 38 major markets in the U.S. and Canada. As the nation’s only Healthy Way of Life brand, Life Time delivers an unmatched athletic resort experience and provides a comprehensive healthy living, healthy aging and healthy entertainment experience that goes well beyond fitness to encompasses the entire spectrum of daily life for individuals, couples and families of all ages. More info is available at

Chicago Half Marathon to host USATF – Illinois Championship


10K and Half Marathon State Championships Coming to Chicago

Chicago, IL  (March 22) — The Byline Bank Chicago Spring Half Marathon & 10K, and Chicago Half Marathon & 5K produced by Life Time® Healthy Way of Life, are partnering with the USA Track & Field (USATF) – Illinois Association to host state champioinships. Together with Life Time, the nation’s premier healthy living, healthy aging and healthy entertainment brand, USATF – Illinois will be a driving force in providing a premier race experience for local developing athletes.

Set for Sunday, May 20, the Byline Bank Chicago Spring Half Marathon & 10K will host this years’ USATF – Illinois 10K Championship. While on Sunday, September 23, the Chicago Half Marathon & 5K will host the USATF – Illinois Half Marathon Championship.

“Life Time has grown the interest and demand for a quality race experience using an athlete first approach and including participants of all abilities” said Gregory Evans, Long Distance Running Chair for USATF – Illinois Association. “USATF Illinois is proud to bring the national governing body to the Chicago Spring Half Marathon & 10K and Chicago Half Marathon, adding another level of benefits to the participants and other race partners.”

“Partnering with USATF – Illinois is the next step as we continue to build on providing quality, premier race experiences for our athletes.” said Life Time Run Brand Manager, Dan Lakin, says of the USATF – Illinois partnership,  “Life Time is dedicated to improving our local communities, and providing events that are best-in-class. Whether an elite athlete or a beginner,  Life Time and USATF provide a vehicle to foster athletes at every level along their healthy way of life journey. We’re excited to to welcome the State Championships to Chicago at this years’ event and for years to come.”

An estimated 8,000 runners are expected to participate in this year’s Byline Bank Chicago Spring Half Marathon & 10K and another 13,000 are expected to take on the Chicago Half Marathon & 5K this September.  In addition to age group and masters awards; each race will offer a prize purse to the top 3 men and women:

10K Championship Half Marathon Championship
1st Place $500 $1,000
2nd Place $250 $500
3rd Place $250 $500

To place in a championship race, registered participants must be a current member of USATF at the time of the race. Information on USATF membership and it’s benefits may be found at

About the Byline Bank Chicago Spring Half Marathon & 10K

The Byline Bank Chicago Spring Half Marathon & 10K, in its 10th year, benefits the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Participants will run either 13.1 miles or 10K (6.1 miles) starting along famed Grant Park traversing South along Columbus Drive, and run through Museum Campus and along Chicago’s beautiful lakefront before finishing in Maggie Daley Park. In its inaugural year, 1900 people signed up for the race, today it is one of the most in-demand racecs in Chicago selling out at just over 8,000 participants.
More information is available at

About the Chicago Half Marathon & 5K

The Chicago Half Marathon & 5K, in it’s 22nd year, highlights Chicago’s south shore. Stepping off from historic Jackson Park, participants traverse through Hyde Park before navigating along a traffic-free Lake Shore Drive. The Chicago Half Marathon is a flat and fast course offering up stunning views of Chicago’s famed skyline and a triumphant finish at the foot of the “Golden Lady” (Statue of the Republic).
More information at

Both races are part of the Chicagoland Half Marathon Series which includes the Byline Bank Chicago Spring Half Marathon & 10K (May 20) and the Chicago Half Marathon & 5K (September 23) and awards participants for completing 2 half marathons within the same year. 

About Life Time®, Healthy Way of Life

Life Time champions a healthy and happy life for its members across 131 destinations in 37 major markets in the U.S. and Canada. As the nation’s only Healthy Way of Life brand, Life Time delivers an unmatched athletic resort experience and provides a comprehensive healthy living, healthy aging and healthy entertainment experience that goes well beyond fitness to encompasses the entire spectrum of daily life for individuals, couples and families of all ages. For more information visit 

About USATF – Illinois

USATF – Illinois seeks to promote the sport and its local athletes across the state, and is one of 57 USATF Associations across the country. Visit for more information.

Based in Indianapolis, USA Track & Field (USATF) is the National Governing Body for track & field, long-distance running and race walking in the United States. USATF encompasses the world’s oldest organized sports, the most-watched events of Olympic broadcasts, the No. 1 high school and junior high school participatory sport and more than 30 million adult runners in the United States. Information on USATF membership and it’s benefits may be found at

All the Awesome To-Dos in the New Year

New Year’s vows to change often bring more pain than actual gain. Here’s how to get real about your good intentions.

Expert Source: Cheri Huber, Zen teacher and coauthor of The Big Bamboozle: How You Get Conned Out of the Life You Want and What to Do About It.

For many people, the New Year feels like a fresh start. With the slate wiped clean, it’s an ideal time to spruce up our lives. So we make resolutions to lose weight, to play the piano daily, to learn Mandarin. These vows are an ancient practice: The Babylonians and the Romans also made solemn promises to their gods at New Year’s, though they may have been no better at fulfilling their resolutions than we are now.

We typically throw ourselves into life-changing pursuits with unbridled enthusiasm — for about a week or two. Then we find ourselves halfway through a dinner-plate-size cookie at the coffee shop or lounging in front of the TV, having “forgotten” the scheduled language class or the workout. After this comes the self-reproach: Why do I even try?

Fewer than one in 10 Americans actually keeps resolutions, according to University of Scranton research. The reasons have less to do with a failure of character or consistency than with unrealistic resolution-making and inadequate resolution-keeping techniques, says Zen teacher and author Cheri Huber. Her insights can help make your New Year’s vows more achievable, less stressful, and even more fun.

Challenges to Overcome

  • Holiday guilt. One of the biggest problems with New Year’s resolutions is that they come at the end of a season when you tend to yield to your cravings. “During the holidays, your overindulgence has broken the structures that support you in being the person you want to be, so you feel guilty and are hard on yourself,” Huber says. “Now’s the time, you think, to really clean up your act.”
  • The rebellious negative. We’re inclined to assert our autonomy by breaking rules — even ones we set for ourselves. “Often, ‘I don’t want to’ or ‘I don’t feel like it’ is much stronger in people than ‘I want to,’ ” she explains. “It’s our ego talking us into doing things that we are going to feel bad about later.”
  • Unrealistic expectations. Resolving to finish a marathon after training for two weeks is unmistakably impractical. But self-deception can also sneak into our most pragmatic intentions: “We have a problem if we make resolutions that are completely counter to our day-to-day choices,” Huber asserts. “If I have an ingrained habit of drinking a Frappuccino every morning and then vow to stop drinking anything sweet in the morning altogether, I’m going to rebel, and then the power of the negative is going to kick in.”
  • Magical thinking. “We hope that making a resolution at New Year’s will have a magical effect,” she says, “and that magic will somehow overcome our resistance.” But overcoming habits almost always requires a series of carefully considered steps.
  • Forgetting. “At our meditation center, we regularly check in with people on the vows and decisions they’ve made,” Huber notes, “and it’s amazing how often they say, ‘Uh, what did I decide?’” She adds that the more far-fetched a resolution is, the more likely it is to simply slip our minds.
  • Feeling better. You feel good after practicing guitar every day for a week, then you lose focus. Or after dropping some weight, you reward yourself — with a doughnut. The moment we’re no longer motivated by misery, says Huber, is often the moment we’re in danger of forgetting our resolve.

Strategies for Success

  • Make small resolutions. “Don’t let the voices in your head talk you into something extreme that is just going to set up another failure,” says Huber. Instead of vowing to lose 20 pounds, commit to 5. Instead of resolving to give up all sugar, start by replacing your daily pastry with a banana and almond butter. “Wholesale change almost never works,” she says. “But incremental changes do — and then you build on them.”
  • Celebrate little successes. If you vow to lose 5 pounds or practice yoga five days in a row, Huber believes that’s five chances to praise yourself. “Celebrate each lost pound — or each day you stay on your training regimen,” she recommends. These celebrations don’t have to be a big deal. You could listen to a podcast you’ve been saving, or treat yourself to a box of fancy tea.
  • Enjoy the process. Huber suggests that if you’re having fun during the first five days, you’re more likely to say to yourself, Hey, I might really enjoy practicing yoga these next five days, too.
  • Be accountable to someone. “Finding somebody outside of yourself who can keep you on track can really help,” Huber advises. Join a class, get a coach, or partner with a friend. Accountability can make all the difference.
  • Listen to yourself. Make a recording of yourself stating your goals, and listen to it every morning, she suggests. You can also write your resolution down on a daily calendar as a memory prompt.
  • Go for positive change. If you’re discouraged by past resolutions gone wrong, try simply setting some good intentions: Write down things you’re grateful for once a week. Make a list of friends you’ve missed and contact them to make dinner plans. These changes will have plenty of positive impacts on your life while steering you clear of the achievement conundrum — because you can’t fail at them.
  • Cultivate self-kindness. “All change is easier if we are kind to ourselves,” Huber says, because self-kindness isn’t the same as self-indulgence — that’s more ego-driven and rebellious. “Kindness to ourselves is doing those things we know we will never regret.”

Reprinted with permission from Experience Life.