On Habits, Resolutions, Intentions, Challenges and New Year’s

by Valerie on January 5, 2012 · 17 comments

As I was walking to yoga this morning at 6.45 am in 14 degree weather, wearing so many layers I could barely move my arms, I had several thoughts:

  • I am so glad I borrowed my husband’s super thick fleece scarf.
  • A tank top + a long sleeved shirt + a sweater + a fleece + a warm coat does not constitute too many layers – in fact, I was wishing I had two long-sleeved shirts on.
  • This is why I left Massachusetts after living there for four years for college – four winters like this was quite enough (cue memories of frigid icy campus paths or crossing the Mass Ave bridge at 1am in howling wind).
  • I must really have this morning exercise habit thing  ingrained (my thoughts don’t happen in eloquent sentences that early in the morning).

I have talked before how a morning exercise habit was a foreign concept to me for years, yet how I slowly transformed my mornings.  This change in habit has been endlessly fascinating to me, because, for me at least, it represents a dramatic shift.  It was also not as gradual as how I went from having a regular yoga practice to aspiring to having a regular yoga practice again (starting with my Tuesday Night Yoga promise) to actually having meeting this goal without realizing it.  That said, this second time around, it feels far more solid and sustainable – the first time I had a regular yoga practice was very much early on after discovering yoga, where it is all shiny and new, as opposed to now where it feels more like a fundamental part of me.

While rebuilding my yoga practice feels far more gradual than shifting to morning exercise, the thing is – while both were years in the making, the key shift in habit occurred over about the same length of time: 6 to 8 months.  Both were long-term resolutions (though never New Year’s since, until 11 for 2011, I avoided New Year’s resolutions) that benefitted from small measurable and ever-accruing goals.  Both benefitted from some amount of strategizing and anticipating roadblocks (see, for example, anticipating the end of summer and dark mornings).  At various points, both benefitted from daily intentions -  for example, when I completed a 21 day yoga challenge, I took it one day at a time because I was so.sore.all.the.time.  And with morning exercise and movement in general, I also had the same approach.

So why discuss all of this? Mainly because in recent days I have seen many pros and cons discussions of resolutions versus daily intentions versus short-term goals versus long-term goals. I think at the end of the day, some combination of any of the above is suitable for different personalities.  The key is to figure out the right permutation.

The one thing I cannot get behind? Quick fixes.  I have gotten a lot of emails these past two months about detox diets and cleanses, and too often those just strike me as unsustainable – not to mention, with an eating disorder history, the rhetoric can be very triggering for me.  I do, to a guarded and reasonable extent, like certain shorter-term challenges though – I know participating in a 21 day yoga challenge was incredibly beneficial for me but, to be clear, I didn’t go from 0 to 60 with that challenge. I spent the 6 weeks leading up to the challenge practicing yoga about every other day to get on track for said challenge. 

This January, though, I wanted to highlight sustainable healthy habits in some fashion, and two opportunities that came my way struck me as good fits. 

Balanced Healthy and Gluten Free 250x250

First, The Balanced Platter a new gluten-free website created by Maggie of She Let Them Eat Cake and Amy of Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free, which launched on January 1 of this year.  The Balanced Platter’s purpose is to provide you with gluten-free diet tips from your favorite gluten-free bloggers.  This month, The Balanced Platter is hosting a month long event called Balanced, Healthy, and Gluten-Free in 2012. Every day this month, several of your (and my) favorite bloggers will be sharing their top recipes and tips for staying balanced and healthy. This is all about kicking off the New Year on a positive note.  And, I am thrilled to be participating – my day to host is this coming Sunday, where I will sharing some lunchbox thoughts and a recipe for a gluten-free, protein-rich, alternative grain pilaf.

Second, I am also participating in the Food Network’s Healthy Eats blog January Healthy Every Week Challenge. The idea is to get started on a healthier 2012, one week at a time. The weeks are broken out as follows:

  • Week 1: Eat breakfast daily
  • Week 2: Eat more whole grains
  • Week 3: Cook at home
  • Week 4: Eat more fruits and vegetables
  • Week 5: Stay on track

These are the same folks who hosted the Brown Bag Challenge I participated in back in September.  For this challenge, I plan to do one post a week.

Finally, on a personal note, I am doing another 21 day yoga challenge, starting this coming Monday.  I am mainly doing it to keep up with my morning movement practice because, even though I got out of bed this morning, I need a little extra motivation this month.  Also, the walk to the yoga studio I go to is far less windy than the walk to the gym, so I was already leaning towards more yoga than gym jaunts this month anyways.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lexi January 5, 2012 at 5:04 am

I find your chat about developing your morning exercise habit beautiful. It really resonated with me. Thank you for sharing your journey and showing it is not always easy to create a routine that is good for you.

Also, thank you for linking to The Balanced Platter. It looks wonderful and as someone with Celiac I am always looking for new gluten free resources.


2 Valerie January 5, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Thank you Lexi – I am so glad this post resonated for you. :)


3 Lexi January 5, 2012 at 3:26 pm

It definitely did resonate with me and I am looking forward to seeing your post on The Balanced Platter.


4 Victoria (District Chocoholic) January 5, 2012 at 2:12 pm

I’ll take your “crossing the Mass Ave bridge at 1am in howling wind” and raise you a “crossing the Mass Ave Bridge at 7 pm in January with wet hair after swim practice #2 of the day”


5 Valerie January 5, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Wet hair + Boston winters is such misery!


6 Maggie January 5, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Yay for lunchbox ideas on Sunday! Thanks so much for your support Valerie. I can’t wait to see your post. Good luck on the 21 day yoga challenge. That will feel AWESOME!


7 Valerie January 5, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Thanks so much Maggie :)


8 Liz January 5, 2012 at 5:05 pm

I just joined Tranquil Space after giving up Bikram yoga (I practice mainly in Arlington) and recently signed up for the 21-day challenge so I enjoyed reading this post (as well as your previous post about the 21-day challenge). I agree with your statment that it’s all about finding a balance between long-term goals and short, measurable goals. I’m still working on figuring my long term goals out for the year, but I know I’ll probably have to revisit them in June to see if they still work for me. Good luck with the challenge!


9 Vicky January 7, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Thank you for your comment, I’ve left a reply! I so admire your determination and energy! There is no way I can be so motivated in the early mornings! I shall just accept that I am a night owl and have done with it! Also, I totally agree with creating short term goals and achieving, rather long term goals which fail! It leads to a much more positive lifestyle. I’m really looking forward to your lunch box post tomorrow.


10 Valerie January 8, 2012 at 12:46 am

Thank you Vicky. I think for me, I was never a night owl, but just a very tired all the time owl, so I was making changes in my life, I set my sights on working out the only time of day my schedule truly allows it – I am still so not a morning person though. My post tomorrow will have both a lunchbox and a pseudo grain pilaf :)


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