Are you living up to the goals you set at the beginning of the year? Neither are we. (But that’s OK.)

Are you living up to the goals you set at the beginning of the year? Neither are we. (But that’s OK.)

By now you’ve had a good few months or so to really sink your teeth into your New Year’s resolution. So how’s that going? Are you the fittest, fastest and healthiest you’ve ever been? Did you quell that chocolate craving? Drop those holiday pounds? At this very moment are you stretching your atrociously tight calf muscles? Devoting a Sunday morning to balance and enjoying brunch with your beloved, rather than biking your favorite climb? Getting that eighth hour of sound sleep? I didn’t think so. „

I mean, I understand. Like any major challenge, a resolution requires a warm-up period. A bit of a trial run. Some training, if you will. You’ve got to give yourself a chance to gain momentum. We all know Rome wasn’t built in a single day. Likewise, an Ironman may seem to be conquered in just one, but not without months of advance preparation. And don’t be fooled by your fast-talking friends. Whatever your individual New Year’s initiative, you’re not alone in lacking 100 percent compliance to date. Have you ever noticed that gyms are full to overflowing throughout January, attendance wanes in February and by March there’s an eerie emptiness on the exercise floor? Whoops, my bad—how could you notice without being one of the dedicated souls still there?

Maybe your plan was to revamp your eating habits. You bought your groceries (from Whole Foods, no doubt) with all the best intentions. Your pantry and fridge are overflowing with labels marked “all natural,” “low-fat” and “organic.” Heck, some even say “gluten-free.” But then there were those leftover Christmas cookies. That deep need for fat-laden nachos. Kick-off-the-new-year cocktails and hors d’oeuvres carried you straight through to Valentine’s candy. Invitations for post-swim pizza and beer beckoned, and now your belly bloat stretches beyond your toes.

Or perhaps you renewed your personal commitment to cross-train. Strength and core work were priority No. 1. You’d master free weights, Pilates and planks. You planned to be a veritable yogini by spring, and boy were you eager to achieve Zen. You’d transform into a natural-born Gumby and boast your own personal gun show, all the while embracing inner peace. But somehow that muscle tone has yet to materialize, and you still can’t touch your toes.

And of course, outside of training, your significant other truly appreciates all that extra time you’ve devoted to him or her, the promise to keep your triathlon obsession to a dull roar. She swooned over the flowers you sent for no reason—until you dropped the bomb that you’d signed up for three full Ironmans in the space of six months. That cooking class you took together was going great—until you fell asleep face-first in the foie gras, exhausted from your morning track session. Your kids can’t wait for the weekend quality time you’ve committed to them. Just as soon as you finish your eight hours of training, they’ll love chilling on the couch with you, watching your Recovery Pump boots fill and deflate. “That’s cool Daddy, now can we play football?”

Was this the year you resolved to train smarter, not harder, therefore improving your triathlon times as well as your social skills? Free time would open up for you, once you realized that a focused two-hour effort trumps a hundred junk miles. You’d be psyched to attend every afternoon barbecue and dinner party, excited by your increased energy and proud to parade your interest in something other than swimming, cycling and running. To your credit, you honestly thought you could hold a conversation totally unrelated to triathlon. Until about five minutes in, when these words somehow snuck out of your mouth: “That totally reminds me of my last Ironman …” Doh!

But don’t beat yourself up. You deserve a break. You’ve been trying, after all. Effort may not count for everything, but it’s certainly a start. And like any effective training program, lasting change requires a steady progression, not a sudden 180. Be realistically patient with your personal goals, no matter how high you aim. Go big, but get there with baby steps. And fear not. It’s not too late. You probably haven’t even tackled your first race of the season yet, when you’ll produce proof positive of how unfit you really are. Don’t flip out and fret your way into an over-training frenzy. For if you do utterly fail and mangle your 2013 makeover, you’re only 10 months away from making your resolution anew.

Look for Bennett’s “Confessions of an Age-Grouper” column every month in Triathlete magazine, and visit every Thursday for her “Dispatch” column.

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