Thinking about Zeal

I read an article in WSJ this morning using Facebook data to show that gym attendance drops off 10% at the beginning of February.  “Oh, yeah”, you say to yourself, “New Years’ resolutions gone sour.”

But what’s going on here?

I’ve been coasting through January on my fitness goals — 185 lbs, 120/80 blood pressure, and 22% body fat — effortlessly (well, more or less) doing my diet stuff and my exercise stuff.

Is that “will power”?  I don’t think so.  I think it’s zeal.

I’ve been through this a lot over the years: some behavior change, either starting up a good habit or ending a bad one, is unbelievably difficult, day after day, year after year, attempt after attempt.  Until, suddenly, one day, I’m… ready.  And once I’m ready, the change is easy.

What’s changed?  Something happens.  In the case of smoking (which I quit years and years ago), it was the birth of my son.  Not my first child.  And I had struggled to quit after my first was born, without success.  But suddenly, I had reached some tipping point, and it was easy.  I did the same things I had done before — the Nicorette, the rewards, the toleration of overeating, the whole bag of tricks — but now it was effortless.  I would (probably!) have done the same thing if I were living with a smoker.  My zeal had kicked in.

A few questions:

What is zeal?  No idea.  Some kind of limbic-system switch flips to the other position.  Kind of like falling asleep.  or maybe falling in love.

Can you command it?  No idea.  Maybe.  My best guess today is you’ve got to keep trying and simply recognize when the zeal has come.  If you keep trying, your bag of tricks will be ready when the zeal is ready for you.  But maybe there are things you can do to hasten or enhance the probability of getting zeal.

OK, well, New Years 2015

New Years resolutions have about the same status in the circles I move in as chiropractic: “Yeah, that stuff doesn’t work.”

But I love them.  For the same reason I like self-improvement and the 7 Habits and everything else: there’s wisdom in there.

I have an essay I’ve never finished about why intellectuals hate self-help… Some New Years I’ll finish it.

In any case, I’ve gotten pretty good mileage out of resolutions at the beginning of January and assessment at the end of December.

And so here I am in 2015, re-beginning blogging (part of a couple of resolutions) and, in January, trying to cobble together a new fitness regime.

I’m a big fan of “Younger Next Year” and what Chris Crowley, the main author, has come to call the “Younger Next Year” books.  I read the latest, “Thinner This Year”, over the holidays.  And it contained, to my surprise and pleasure, a better routine for warm-ups and strength exercises.

Chris C. has my number: his new routine is aimed at strength training done wrong.  He claims — and it makes some sense — that doing the right exercises wrong makes you worse, that form (and the mother of all form, posture) is quite important to fitness.

So I’m trying, first the warm-ups, and then the strength moves themselves, over the month of January.

I’ll keep you posted.