That's What She Said: New resolution

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The S.E.L.F.I.E. Method has a painful punishment if you fail to get to the gym: You have to donate to a hated political cause.

If you're anything like me, you've had some variation of "start a diet" or "work out more" at the top of your New Year's resolution list for years. The first day of a new year always feels like the perfect time for a fresh start -- a box on the calendar you can point to and say, "That's when everything changes."

OK, maybe the second day of a new year. The first is usually spent on your couch with a raging hangover, grubbing on a greasy cheeseburger and repeating that old lie: "I'm never drinking again."

Of the millions of people who resolve to get healthier, it always seems like just a few make their resolutions stick. The majority of us fall back into old habits, letting the demands of work, family and social events take precedence over exercise.

Courtesy of Sarah Spain

Sarah Spain and her friends post selfies as evidence that they’ve done their required workouts.

There's even a joke going around right now about opening a gym called Resolutions. It has workout equipment for the first two weeks of the year and then turns into a bar. It's funny because it's true; we've all seen the newbies flock to the gym in January and fade by February.

It was easy to mock that crowd (the "Reso-losers," as the Internet is now calling them) when I was a college athlete and working out every day was the norm. Or even in my early 20s, when I had the time and energy to hit the gym six or seven times a week for two hours or more at a time.

Now I understand the Reso-losers. I guess, if I'm honest with myself, I've been one of them for a couple of years now. I start out the year determined to get back to being the gym rat I once was but end up working out only when I put something on my schedule with a personal trainer or when I'm playing one of many rec league sports with friends. It's better than nothing, sure, but I miss enjoying a good daily sweat rather than viewing exercise as some sort of punishment.

It seems most days now I'm too busy or too tired to get to the gym, and when I do go, it's so much harder than it used to be. All those years of competing are catching up to me. A bulging disk, a torn rotator cuff, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, creaky knees, swollen ankles -- you name it, I have had it or still have it.

When you have no coach or teammates to answer to, you're the only one who has to buy those flimsy "too busy," "too tired" and "too old" excuses. But I'm not even convincing myself anymore. Not after writing stories about people like Diana Nyad, who swam 110 miles across the ocean at age 64, or Melissa Stockwell, an Iraq war vet and above-the-knee amputee who completed her first Ironman triathlon in November.

My excuses are weak and it's time to make a change, but it's become clear to me that I can't do it alone. That's why I came up with a new approach this time around. Not only did I start my New Year's resolution a month early (to battle prime holiday eating season), but I also elected to make this year's resolution a team effort.

The S.E.L.F.I.E. Method

Some people are fans of positive-reinforcement techniques like "Lose 10 pounds, buy yourself a new shirt!" or "Eat healthy for six days, treat yourself to dessert on the seventh!" Forget that. I'm an overworked, sleep-deprived, instant-gratification-seeking adult, and I'll buy a shirt and eat dessert whenever I please.

The stakes must be higher. Much, much higher. Negative reinforcement is far more effective for people like me.

That's why I created the S.E.L.F.I.E. Method, which combines the following key elements: Shame, Economic Loss, Fear, Indignity and Exercise. Oh, and actual selfies.

I recruited three friends who also wanted to get into a regular workout routine, and we agreed to commit to the plan for at least three months. We began in the first week of December and must follow the rules at least until the first week of March, when we all head out to Cubs spring training in Arizona and unveil our hot new bods.

Here are the rules of the S.E.L.F.I.E. Method:

• You must work out at least four times a week. Two-a-days don't count as two workouts. The key is to get into a routine where exercising at least four times a week is the norm.

• There are no time/activity requirements, but at least an hour or so is expected. This is all about getting your butt to the gym. Once there, you'll work out harder than you thought.

• The activity must be an intentional workout that you've made time for, not just a rigorous activity. No exceptions made for things like "I walked a lot today" or "I moved furniture, which is like a workout."

• Each workout must be documented via selfie and emailed to the rest of the group as proof.

And here's the kicker:

• If you do not complete your four workouts, you must donate $20 to your least-favorite politician or political cause and post a screen grab of the online receipt to your Facebook wall. Every week you come up short means another $20 donation and another shameful Facebook post.

• You must hate the cause, but it must not be anything truly awful, like a campaign for a candidate who wants to euthanize cats or something. (Can't imagine one of those exists, but if it does, it's not getting our money!)

• You get one mulligan to use if you come up short one week, but only one for all three months.

So far, the S.E.L.F.I.E. Method has been a roaring success!

Normally, holiday parties and trips home would mean skipping the gym altogether, but instead we're forced to plan ahead at the beginning of the week and get the workouts done. When traveling for work, I've hit up hotel gyms in places like Seattle and Oakland, Calif., and hiked Torrey Pines State Reserve in San Diego.

My neighbor Kara would head to the gym in our condo building in the morning, getting the workouts out of the way before work commitments or social events threatened to derail the day. My married friends Jonathan and Aubre were real troupers, going for runs outside in freezing South Dakota when they traveled there for Christmas.

So far, not a single politician from either side of the aisle has received our hard-earned dough. One month in, we're all starting to understand the sacrifices necessary to make good health a priority but also starting to realize it's not so hard to make time for the gym if you just plan ahead.

Get on board

If you, too, are motivated by a little healthy competition and negative reinforcement, consider giving the S.E.L.F.I.E. Method a shot. You'll quickly realize how effective the plan is. You'll never miss a workout when you face the fear of losing money to a cause you hate and the shame and indignity of failing in front of your friends and loved ones.

(As a bonus, you'll be far less vain after you've sent out your eighth or ninth ugly, sweaty, post-workout selfie.)

If you're not particularly political, consider donating money to your least-favorite sports team ("shares" in Packers stock, anyone?). Whatever gets you going, choose that. Just don't make it something positive. Nobody really minds giving $20 to a friend or chipping in to a beer fund.

Spread the word! The S.E.L.F.I.E. Method is the next big thing! Grab some friends, hit the gym and cc me on those sweaty selfies!

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