This article originally appeared in “Chicago Tribune.”
I’m never really ready for New Year’s resolutions. The concept usually sneaks up on me, somewhere between my kids’ bouts with the stomach flu and my nibbling through leftover Christmas cookies.
Then every year on Dec. 30, I proclaim, “New year, new me! I’m so excited to wake up on Jan. 1 and start my new lifestyle of clean eating and KonMari organizing and drinking more water than coffee.”
Ha. Actually, I’d like to shout, “Shame on you fitness industry and Pinterest people for bombarding me with photos of bikini models and vertically folded clothes! Let me be at peace with my winter weight and messy house!
But, alas, I’ve been around long enough to know that resolutions are a big thing for many people. And I understand the urge to start the year with a fresh start, a change in habits, a shift in priorities.
Fitness-wise, you might be considering joining a gym, starting a new diet, training for your first 5K, or simply continuing to chug along with your workout regimen. I’d like to make just one request:
Put health before “fitness.”
Before you dive wholeheartedly into your New Year’s fitness agenda and a “no excuses” mentality, consider whether your actions are in the best interest of your overall health.
When you’re deciding whether to get up at 5 a.m. to work out, and you’re sleep-deprived and fighting a cold, put health before fitness.
When you’re opting between yoga and the treadmill, and deep down you know you need to breathe and stretch more than you need another run, put health before fitness.
When you claim you don’t have time to see a physical therapist about the leaking that happens when you jump, but somehow you find the time to do CrossFit, put health before fitness.
When you find yourself struggling with signs of depression, anxiety or stress and you attempt to bury them in exercise addiction, put health before fitness.
When you’re considering a restrictive diet to get the weight off, put health before fitness.
When your knee is killing you, but you have the urge to run just one more mile, put health before fitness.
I know every one of these women. I’ve been most of these women. So often we know our decisions are not in our bodies’ best interest, yet we continue to exploit our health in the name of “fitness.”
In the long run, it catches up to us. The pursuit of an aesthetic, of physical strength, of a constant flow of endorphins, of a PR (personal record), of the image of being fit. None of these matter if our health is in question: If we’re injured, fatigued, depressed, undernourished, anxious, sick or on the verge of one or more of these.
So by all means, go ahead and start fresh with your fitness goals. Challenge yourself. Lose the excuses. But be honest about what your body really needs this year. Put health first.
Nicole Radziszewski is a freelance columnist. She lives in River Forest and is a certified personal trainer and mother of two. Check Nicole out on Facebook at Facebook.com/mamasgottamove.