By Linda Chuss
Over 4,000 years ago, as part of an annual planting celebration, some Babylonians made vows to repay debts or return borrowed items. Today, about forty percent of people ritually make New Year’s resolutions, with nearly half of them seeking more physical activity. According to Strava, an exercise tracking service, only ten percent will meet their goal and maintain it for two years. Most people quit in the first month, with January weather a contributing factor in Massachusetts.
Studies have shown how to make it more likely to fulfill a resolution:
• Only commit to one resolution.
• Understand the reasons behind the goal. What improvement will it bring? Why is that important?
• Make the goal challenging but achievable, defining specific results to attain. For an exercise resolution, choose something enjoyable.
• Identify near-term steps to take, including how to address foreseeable obstacles.
• Rely on supportive resources.
• Don’t give up, even after a slip-up.
Bill Taylor, President of Friends of Upton State Forest, points out a waterhole built nearly a century ago to a hiking group. Contributed photo
Following is an example that anyone who wants to be more physically active can draw from.
Chris wants to get back into running. It will make climbing stairs easier, decrease fatigue, and set a good example for Chris’s children. Completing Milford’s Hot to Trot 5K race in July is a realistic target. To make time for the workouts, Chris plans to run while the children are at their own sports programs. Chris will look for other runners to get advice from and sometimes run with. Through the winter, Chris will use a treadmill at the nearby gym, starting with one mile three times a week and increasing the distance every week. From April until the event, Chris will instead run on the paved trail in town. After the race, Chris will set a new goal.
There are considerable local resources for getting exercise. Trails, for instance, are free, scenic, and serene places for walking, running, biking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. They can be even more enjoyable with family, friends, or a dog along. In Mendon, the Town Forest offers easy, thirty-minute walks and longer routes that are also good for biking. Milford boasts the Upper Charles paved trail and the renowned New England Mountain Biking Association wooded trails, named Vietnam.
Bike tracks and footprints in the snow show the trails at the Upton State Forest are well used even in winter. Photo by Linda Chus
In Upton, the State Forest has many paths, ranging from wide and flat to narrow and hilly, with unique structures as well. As Joyce Sandvik of Sutton says, “The trails at Upton State Forest have historical significance. The park was built by the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) and is the last remaining CCC headquarters in Massachusetts." Remains from structures built in the 1930s are still visible from the trails. Trail maps can be found online or via free apps like Open Street Map.
For using the trails with others, there are groups such as the Hopkinton Trails Club and the Upton Recreation Department, which have Facebook pages listing their events, and the Mendon Senior Walking Group, which follows different area routes three times a week.
Taking classes at a gym can make it easier to keep a commitment, like those at CrossFit in Mendon. While Planet Fitness has a Milford gym, their thousands of other locations can be used with the membership, allowing workouts near home and work, and when traveling. There are some businesses that provide fitness facilities and classes on site.
The Milford Community School Use Program has classes for fitness and yoga, plus a pool for aqua aerobics and lap swimming. Upton’s Recreation Department sponsors weekly volleyball at the Nipmuc gym, and later in the year has an outdoor pickleball program. Ponds can be used for ice skating in winter, and for swimming in summer, like at the town beaches in Mendon and Upton; plus there are two free public pools in Milford.
Yoga, known for improving strength while decreasing tightness and stress, can be done alone at home or in a class. JTB in Uxbridge or The Yoga Exchange in Holliston have introductory rates and provide options for more experienced students. According to Melanie Harrington, who owns and leads classes at The Yoga Exchange, “We help students practice yoga with mindfulness, compassion, and gratitude.” Doing yoga at home just requires floor space, but is easier when following a video, like on the “Yoga with Adriene” YouTube channel. Benefits from karate also extend beyond fitness. In Milford, American Karate aims to develop discipline and instill confidence through their classes. For something daring, there’s paintball at Friendly Fire in Upton or axe throwing at PiNZ in Milford.
With far more resources than the Babylonians had and practical tips to achieve goals, anyone stands a good chance of fulfilling their New Year’s resolution to exercise more.