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UTRGV Experts Offer Tips to Avoid Dropping the Ball on Those New Year’s Resolutions

by Maria Elena Hernandez

EDINBURG, TEXAS – The clank of weight room equipment and the scuffling of shoes on the basketball court at the UTRGV University Recreation Center is louder than usual these days. Like gyms across the United States, membership gets a boost at the start of the New Year.

“We’ll usually see the weight room floor a little more full than usual,” said Melissa Duran, the communications supervisor at the University Recreation Center in Edinburg.

And, like at those other fitness centers, participation will drop after a few months.

“I would say, about three months into the year, that’s when we start seeing the dip,” she said.

That’s the typical timeframe for people who make fitness resolutions. By February, almost half the people who made resolutions involving fitness already have given up on their resolutions, according to a survey by BodyBuilding.com. And while they might forget their resolutions, their pocketbooks may not.

“They decide they’re going to get something that will help them keep New Year’s resolutions – for example, something like a Fitbit, which probably won’t work,” said Dr. Michael Minor, a UTRGV marketing professor and department chair.

On average, seven of 10 people who fail to keep their resolutions spend about $1,000 on them, according to a 2013 study by VitalSmarts, a Top 20 leadership training company that helps people and organizations perform better by changing behaviors.

Dr. Mark Winkel, UTRGV psychology graduate department coordinator, said people often make vague resolutions they won’t keep.

His advice is to have a specific plan: “A step-by-step plan. What are you going to do? When are you going do it? How are you going to do it?”

Students can compete in events at the Edinburg URec like the Climbing Wall Challenge, shown here, where they complete various activities and games to win T-shirts and prizes. Photo: Silver Salas/UTRGV Archive

STRATEGIES FOR IMMEDIATE REWARDS

Winkel believes another obstacle to keeping resolutions is the time it takes to see the results of new healthy habits.

“It may be a year later before you actually see the benefits of those activities. People tend to sometimes be over-influenced by the more immediate consequences, rather than by the long-term, larger benefits,” he said.

URec’s Duran said she has watched people give up, and she has watched people be successful.

“At the beginning, it’ll be a chore,” she said. “But as you keep on doing it, it’ll be something that you like.”

She suggests making a favorite playlist you can listen to while working out, or getting a workout buddy, a strategy Winkel agrees with because a workout partner could be encouraging and re-enforce goals.

“I think that would be really effective,” he said. “If you don’t have a lot of re-enforcers – rewards coming at you – then you’re more likely to give up some plan that you’ve initiated because you want more immediate rewards. You want rewards right now,” Winkel said.

SMALL GOALS ALONG THE WAY

Winkel suggests setting up sub-goals as a way to get more immediate rewards.

Events at the URec, like the Climbing Wall Challenge, could be used as smaller goals for UTRGV students. Outdoor adventures and intermural sports also are available.

And unlike many signing up for new gym memberships, UTRGV students will not face additional costs for using the university recreation centers in Edinburg and Brownsville.

“Students, since they already pay the membership through tuition, are more than welcome to come and take advantage of all our programs, events – everything we have to offer,” Duran said. “And we have a lot to offer.”

A list of URec events and activities can be found on the University Recreation website.

SUCCESS STORIES

While the odds might be stacked against people hoping to keep their New Year’s resolutions, Duran said there have been many success stories at URec.

“They came here, they got a tour, they felt more comfortable, and they started using the gym,” she said. “And because of that, they’ve been able to achieve their fitness goals.”

For those interested in making a purchase to ensure they meet their healthy New Year’s resolutions, Minor has a suggestion: “There is a way to make an expenditure that will help you keep your resolution,” the marketing professor said. “Go to the shelter and buy a dog, and you’ll walk every day for the next 10 years.”

TIPS LIST FOR SUCCESS

Winkel says the following strategies can help people keep to their New Year’s resolutions:

  • Have a specific plan and implement it.
  • Keep it simple. Focus on one resolution.
  • Set up a series of sub-goals to reach your larger goal.
  • Establish clear rules for when you’re keeping your resolution, and when you’ve broken it.
  • Write down your plan, and post it somewhere visible as a reminder.
  • Make a personal or public commitment to follow the plan.
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