Ask Stew: Embrace the Power of a Fresh Start

morning workout murph
Early morning, 0500 Memorial Day, May 28, 2018, members of the 678th ADA BDE, South Carolina National Guard conducted their work out of the day (WOD), by performing the Hero WOD called "The Murph", in honor of Lt. Micheal Murphy and those servicemen and women who have given their lives in the line of duty. (Photo by Capt. William Duvall/263rd Army Air Missile Defense Command)

The reason people push the life "reset" button after big days or momentous occasions is simple: Fresh starts work.

A study from The Academy of Management/Hengchen Dai researched fresh starts for a variety of people and found that starting something new or building new habits helps people ignore previous failures and outcomes so they can better focus on new goal setting.

Whether it is New Year's Day, a birthday, a new duty station, the birth of a child or a new school year, these days can make it easy to get excited about starting from scratch with a clean slate.

Here is an email from a gentleman who is trying for a new start and realizes the last time he was successful in starting over was on New Year's Day during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Stew, I have let myself slide and gained 20 pounds after I lost 40 during the COVID New Year. Getting started again should not be that hard as I have created a nice home gym and early morning exercise works for my schedule. Unfortunately, I am just not being consistent enough. Do you have any recommendations to get me back to where I was 18 months ago? Zach

Zach, First of all, great job losing 40 pounds when the average weight gain during COVID was 29 pounds. Though you picked back up 20 pounds, you still have a lot to be proud of with a net loss of 20 pounds.

True, those COVID days were different, and many took advantage of the extra time to do more healthy activities, not eat out as much and generally start building good habits. Unfortunately, many did not.

Now as our lives get busier, many cannot find the time to train, take longer walks and do other activities at the levels they maintained during COVID seasons. The problem is difficult but not impossible if you make a few minor life changes.

Goal achievement typically depends on two habits, the one you must create and the one you must quit. This is true regardless of why or when you begin the process.

For you, having a home gym is great if you use it. Perhaps you should look at your nighttime schedule. Do you spend time being idle, staying up too late or watching one of the many screens that impact our lives? The habit of waking up and checking your small screen (phone), going to work all day on a medium screen (computer) and then spending the evening watching the big screen (TV) while simultaneously looking at our small screen can disrupt your ability to fall asleep.

Reduce your screen time, especially in the evening. That decision can help you get to sleep earlier, fall asleep quicker and make it easier to wake up earlier to exercise before the rest of your day begins. Focus on your nighttime rituals, and you will be less tired in the early morning.

As you break the nighttime activity habits that are not conducive to good sleep, you'll find it easier to reestablish your morning training habit. Getting started may require some toughness. Remember that you have succeeded at this before.

Morning workouts often test our will. Sometimes I wake up and do not feel like being at the gym at 6 a.m., but I do it anyway mainly because I did not feel like it.

New fitness goals, better study habits, attention to general health and wellness, and work performance goals can all get a boost when you allow yourself to push the RESET button and start over again. Remember your past successes and work hard to disassociate from those times when your bad habits won in the morning. Tomorrow is a new day if you need a reset.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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