Did you make any New Year resolutions this year?
If you are like me and sometimes struggle to stick to your fitness goals here are a few tips that might help.
1. Find your why.
Firstly, why are you actually trying to make this change in your life? This is often overlooked but it is key and a large part of why many people fail. Many of us, if we are honest, don’t want to go to the gym. We do it because we think we should. So ask yourself, “Why am I actually doing this?” Motivation can be broken down into two separate groups, internal and external.
External motivators are reasons such as weight loss targets or fitting into that pair of jeans that miraculously seem to have shrunk over Christmas. They might seem like great motivators but in reality they only work in the short term. With short term, target based goals such as losing 6kgs, you either will or won’t make that target. Once that has happened it can often be tough to keep your new habit up, especially if you don’t really enjoy it in the first place.
Internal motivators are much more effective in helping people stick to their goals. That’s because they aren’t target based but are more focused on how you feel. This makes internal motivations much more powerful. Motivations such as being able to play with your kids without getting out of breath, feeling happier and healthier, maintaining your mobility into later life or an activity that you do with a partner or friend will all be much more effective ways of keeping your new habit up. If you tie your goals to how you feel rather than how you look the chances of keeping it up improve significantly.
2. Pick an activity you enjoy.
I have lost count of the amount of gyms I have joined over the years. I usually last two months before I realise that I’m not actually enjoying myself. For me being trapped inside, listening to typical gym music whilst trying to avoid looking at my sweaty, exhausted reflection in the mirror is a fresh kind of hell. But I kept going back as I thought I was the problem. I didn’t have enough will power. The reality is willpower will only get you so far. Ultimately once your willpower wanes (and it will) you will stop going. If you pick something you enjoy you’re going to be much more likely to stick at it during the difficult times when you’re not feeling quite up to it. There are so many ways to be active ranging from nice and gentle to extreme and hideous. Run, swim, cycle, zumba, yoga, pilates, bootcamp (my personal favourite), HIT, spin, exercise classes, crossfit, a brisk walk, pole dancing, aquafit, badminton, table tennis, climbing, rollerblading, capoeira, barre classes, skipping, dancing, hula hooping and so many more. It doesn’t have to be hideous, it’s all exercise. The key is just move. Your body will thank you for it. A patient even recommended this recently.. www.jumpfituk.com It looks bonkers but she loves it 🙂
3. Make it sociable.
A partner in crime can help you stick to your plan and make whatever you do more enjoyable and fun. Picking a competitive sport such as badminton or squash can help too. If you don’t know anyone who wants to take up your specific activity there are local groups and apps like Meetup which are a great way of bringing people of all fitness and ability levels together. I myself am a member of a meet up group called ‘terrible footballers’ where all genders, ages and abilities meet up to have a very good natured, free game of footie once a week. It’s great and there are many other sports to pick from. If you are a runner then perhaps consider joining a running club to help get you out of the door on these cold winter days!
4. Create a plan.
Pick days that you can stick to long term. Don’t be too ambitious, rather than exercise 6 days a week pick 2-3 days and go from there. Avoid the boom bust mentality that can stop people in their tracks. There is a great plan for running called the Couch to 5k or c25k which I have used in the past. It’s brilliant at getting you to run 5k without making it too painful.
5. Have a target.
This one is more for the runners but a target race can really help keep you going. Whether it’s a 5k or a marathon, an event on the horizon is a great way of sticking to your plan.
6. Take it easy.
Hopefully this is the beginning of a lifelong commitment to being more active and mobile. Create a good relationship with the exercise you choose by not pushing yourself so hard you hate it. If you like high intensity exercise then great but exercise doesn’t have to be intense. The reality is any movement and activity is better than nothing. You don’t have to make it so horrific that you won’t stick to it. Keep it simple and sustainable.
7. Be flexible.
Ok.. I know this point is quite similar to the one above but I really wanted to make it to seven points, six just didn’t feel right. The world won’t end if you miss a day. You are trying to create a lifelong habit. It will take a while till it becomes routine but a “bend but don’t break” approach is always best. Along the way there will be colds, bad days, injuries etc. (that’s where we come in) but being active is one of the best ways to remain pain free and mobile which ultimately means fewer trips to the osteopath!
Thanks for reading and good luck! There may be days when you struggle to put your trainers on and get out of the door but if you are like me you will always be glad you did.