It doesn’t matter how well intentioned our fitness goals are, life has a way of getting in the way. The result, often, is that we fail to maintain consistency and, as a consequence, are unable to achieve our goals. In This article we uncover fifteen ways that you can stay on the road to fitness.
Revisit Your Goals
When you first start out, your goals are fresh and clear in your head. A little way down the line, though, it is easy to lose sight of them, and become unfocused. A good habit to get into is to revisit your goals regularly, and revise them if necessary. But be aware of having too many goals to try to achieve at once, or of conflicting aims. You must have clear priorities.
Reward Yourself for Commitment
According to the latest British research, 54 percent of the population doesn’t exercise, so even if you’re only managing to fit in one or two sessions a week, it is more than most, and you are entitled to feel proud about your commitment. Rewarding yourself is a good way of reinforcing your good behavior.
Do whatever takes your fancy; it might be buying yourself something that will further progress your journey to fitness, such as a set of personal training sessions, a gym membership or a new bicycle.
Enjoy Your Time Off
You don’t have to exercise seven days a week to benefit, just as every morsel that passes through your lips doesn’t have to be low fat, low calorie and bursting with vitamins. We are here to enjoy life, after all, not just to live it. So, when you don’t manage to fit in a session, or find yourself mysteriously drawn to the sofa instead of the gym, don’t waste time feeling guilty about it – enjoy your time off, and remember that it is during rest that your body is making the adaptations necessary for you to become fitter and stronger.
Don’t Make Exercise a Chore
Judging by the expressions on the faces you often see at the gym or in the swimming pool, many people don’t seem to be getting much pleasure from the exercise regime they have selected.
If you hate swimming so much that you dread every session, you are not likely to be able to sustain it for very long. It may take you a bit of research to find something you do like, but it is time (and money) well spent.
Don’t Become Too Outcome Focused
This is an interesting one!
While it is important to set goals, rather than just working out with no particular purpose in mind, you do not want to become so obsessed with beating your best time, improving your performance at every session and beating yourself up when you fail to do so. Yes, it’s good to have goals, but try to think about the journey that gets you to the goal rather than merely the destination. Research has shown that ‘process’ oriented people are more likely to adhere to exercise in the long run, than those who are strongly outcome-oriented.
Whether it’s Tracey Morris’ phenomenal performance in the 2004 Flora London Marathon (knocking over an hour off her Personal Best and qualifying for the Olympics), or Phil Health claiming his 7th Mr. Olympia victory, find something that makes a statement to you about what you want to achieve. Stick a picture, a poem or a quote on the fridge, the bathroom mirror or on your computer, so that you see it regularly.
Don’t Go It Alone
Whether it’s a tennis partner, a gym buddy or a whole group of women at your local aerobics or yoga class, it’s great to have a support circle in your fitness world, who you can share stories, tips and advice with, have a laugh and motivate. Someone who can inspire you to get off the sofa when you can’t do it yourself is an invaluable workout buddy and it’s just as gratifying when your phone call is the one that gets her into her trainers, when she was about to open a bottle of wine instead!
Research in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine also found that having a personal trainer was a successful way of keeping to regular exercise and fostering a more positive and committed attitude to working out. Even booking a course of half a dozen sessions can help -it doesn’t have to be a long-term thing.
Keep Track of Your Progress
A training journal is a useful tool for monitoring our fitness and keeping track of our workouts. While you’re in the gym, you might think you will easily remember how many weight plates were on the lat pull-down, but chances are that, by the time you go back next week, you will have completely forgotten. So it’s not just a touchy-feely look how far I’ve come kind of thing. It prevents you from slipping into the rut of repeating the same workout week after week without taking into consideration the principle of progressive overload.
You can make a training diary as detailed or as brief as you like – it could just say, ‘Ran 30 minutes, steady, or it could wax lyrical about your mood, the weather, what route you took and the fact that you had a niggly pain in your calf. You can buy designated training journals or use an online version.
Act ‘As If”
This is a concept borrowed from neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), and it means rather than viewing how you want to act, look or be as something distant from the present, try imagining what it would be like to be like that now. You are already a regular exerciser, having a bad day, not someone who can’t get things off the ground.
Don’t Get Stuck in a Rut
Research from the University of Florida on over 100 people found that adding variety to an exercise routine was an important way of increasing enjoyment and, therefore, helping people stick with it. The exercisers who were asked to do exactly the same routine at each session were the most likely to drop out.
It can sometime feel hard to add variety when you have set goals, and are following a specific route to reach them. Surely, throwing in an impromptu kickboxing class during your 5km fun-run training isn’t in the spirit of focused goal setting! That may be true, but you can add variety within an activity as well as between different ones. For example, you may normally do a 20-minute effort with a rest between, so set the speed a tad higher. Variety is essential for preventing staleness and boredom. But don’t add it simply for its own sake.
Organization doesn’t naturally come to some people. They need to put in an extra level of planning and preparation that helps to oil the way to regular exercise. Your organization may involve finding out when the swimming pool is quietest, how to book an induction or tour at the local gym, whether you need to bring your own mat for yoga class or what time your local rowing club welcomes new beginners. Be sure to also plan when you are going to do your workout rather than leaving it to chance and hoping you’ll fit it in.
Have a Point
If you’re doubting your self-discipline or motivation to do a workout, set one really clear, focused purpose for that workout. For example, your weights workout with perfect technique from start to finish, or you will finish, or you will focus entirely on your breathing throughout your yoga class. Having just one thing to hone in on will filter out many of the distractions that are ganging up to put you off the whole idea.
Pump Up the Volume
There is evidence that music can help you exercise for longer and with less perception of effort. A recent study also found that combining exercise and music resulted in greater mental ability and in problem solving and verbal fluency. Funnily enough, it seems that the beat of the music is more important than whether or not you like it, as far as keeping you going is concerned; whereas when using music to relax and chill out, your preferences are much more important.
Create a Mantra
Think of a meaningful word or phrase that you can repeat to yourself when you are struggling to carry on. The essential ingredients of a good mantra are positive words, short phrases and ideally, something that has a nice rhythm to it – ‘Fitter and stronger with every step,’ for example for walkers and runners.
Make Bite-Size Goals
How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time. You don’t think you can get to the end of the workout you’d planned to do? Ok – forget about getting to the end of it and concentrate on something that is just moments in the future. Say to yourself, ‘I am going to pedal 20 more times,’ or ‘I am going to do two more reps of this exercise.’ then when you reach that target, set yourself another mini goal.