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Why Resolutions Are for Quitters: Or, How Socks Make Superheroes

09/01/2015 17:57 GMT | Updated 11/03/2015 09:59 GMT

What? You just signed up for your first marathon? Well, high five #NewYearNewYou! You basically just filled in an online form and paid some money. Like, seriously, YOLO and stuff. Trust you're doing dry January and going organic while you're at it? OK, I'm kidding, but I do have some serious news. And you may have to sit down.

Come on, you remember sitting down? It was that thing you just did for ten days solid, in a Santa onesie, hooked up to intravenous chocolate. Although, you're right, Stollen is so dense that eating it most definitely counts as weightlifting. In fact, it counts about as much as Prosecco doesn't count as alcohol - you know, because it's mostly bubbles and bubbles=air=oxygen=whatyouneedtoLIVE.

But the news is this: you're not that much more likely to get superherofit in January than you were in December. Especially if all you've done differently is buy new plimsolls.

I know, I know - it's all out of your system now. You had to hit a new lard low before you could really lavish the love on lettuce. I hear you. And, of course, you used to be quite a good runner at school and if you'd kept it up, who knows? Except, everyone says that, up until about ten days in, when things start going all Old You. And, statistically, you are not the next Mo Farah. You are a newyearsresolution with a head full of dreams, a belly full of Yule log and willpower that expires way, waaaaay sooner than your gym membership.

But don't fear. I can help because I'm a psychologist-in-training (academic not clinical so feel free not to tell me all your problems). I'm also one of those masochistic freaks that does the gym thing all year round, so my not-that-scientific tips are enhanced by personal experience of good, old-fashioned obsessive behaviour. Read on: it might mean that this time you don't give up (nooow, little dooonkey, Bethleheeem's in sight).

1. Take measurements. I mean, your own, not other people's (#awkward). Whatever you track - whether it's heart rate, body fat, improved-Candy-Crush-Saga-finger-flexibility - use that to gauge progress, not how you feel. Feelings confuse things. Remember your first ever big crush? Exactly. Your feelings are not to be trusted.

2. Set appropriate goals. If you've always wanted to test your friends' tolerance to noxious gases then hit Veganuary, embrace your inner bean-eater and knock 'em out. If, on the other hand, your spiritual diet guide is Henry VIII, maybe just try eating one less sausage a day or something. And probably also limit the wives.

3. Know yourself. Don't rely on willpower - it's probably let you down before, (drunk-dialling, that's all I'm saying) and chances are, it will do again. Instead, hatch a plan that makes it harder to balls things up and easier not to. For example, I know I am not a moderate woman. I therefore choose athletics training six days a week because, on balance, I suspect it's better than crack.

4. Walk before you run. There's a time in your life when it's entirely possible to push yourself to extremes, oblivious to all signs of pain or weakness, and able to run on empty. This time is either called 'misspent youth' or 'that-week-just-before-you-got-injured'. Basically, just like your mam said: don't show off.

5. Don't compare yourself to other people. It's a bit pointless and will probably make you sad. And the weighty tears of bitterness will be burdensome in training sessions. Plus, trying to cry whilst in an anaerobic state is actually quite difficult and a bit chokey. If you want to test this out for yourself, try doing sprint reps on a treadmill while watching Million Dollar Baby. (Do not actually do this. It is an excellent film, which deserves your full attention).

6. If all else fails, bring out the big guns. Yes, I'm talking tailoring and tresses. A real-life, look-it-up-if-you-want study of athletes found that, in addition to streamlined technical clobber, aerodynamically friendly hairstyles can improve speed. I myself sport a very fetching pair of knee-length compression socks and a nosebleed-tight low ponytail. Ignore people who suggest your pageboy legs and cue ball barnet make you look peculiar. You are an inverse, stocking-clad Samson, working with air, not against it.

And finally, don't expect it to be easy. While January's particularly grim, training properly all year round can be pretty arduous. And sometimes boring. That's why not that many people do it. But if you stick with it, there are loads of pay-offs. Endorphin highs are An Actual Thing. And you can lift heavy stuff and run fast and feel like a superhero and make sexy people want to kiss you (even, nay, dare I say it, especially, when you're wearing your compression socks).

Oh, and you'll probably not die young. (But mostly it's about the sexy.)