At the beginning of the year, you made a list of ways you wanted to improve in 2017. You probably said something about wanting to exercise more, eat better, read more books, and start flossing.
Suddenly, it’s February. How are those resolutions looking now?
If we had to guess, we’d say you started off strong… but then work got busy, or you got sick, or family commitments got in the way… and one by one, all your good intentions fell by the wayside. The closest you get to a gym now is scurrying past it in shame as you buy yet another breakfast doughnut on your way to the office.
You’re far from alone in struggling to meet your great gym expectations. It turns out a lot of us don’t have a clue about what it takes to set and reach our health goals (where was that lesson in phys ed?).
It’s time you started making positive changes and KEEPING them. Here’s how to build a fitness habit that actually lasts.
Focus On One Goal At A Time
There’s a major problem with resolution season. In the excitement of a new year’s fresh start, we set way more goals than we can possibly manage. Then we realise we bit off more than we can chew, get overwhelmed, and start dropping intentions left and right.
Welcome to square one. It’s good to see you again.
Avoiding this is simple: have the willpower to focus on one thing at a time. If you want to get fit, make that your priority. The books and the flossing can wait until after your gym habit is firmly entrenched (and you’ll have a better shot at making those goals stick if you take them one at a time, too).
Automate What You Can
Make your life as easy as possible. Make it so easy to achieve your goals that it’s almost harder not to do it. Automate your habit-changing process as much as possible so you don’t lose motivation or get bogged down in excuses.
Let’s say you want to start hitting the gym before work. Before you go to sleep, lay out your workout clothes and shoes. Have a filled water bottle ready to go. Pack a gym bag with your favourite essentials. Sleep in your workout clothes if you have to. Then set your alarm on the other side of the room.
You’ll be forced to get up to turn it off, and since everything for your workout is already waiting, you’ll have no excuse not to put it to use.
Look For Little Wins
This is key to habit forming of any kind: start small and simple. The smaller and simpler your goals are, the more likely you are to reach them – and then keep reaching higher.
Make it a goal to exercise one day per week. Or just 10 minutes per day. Or to take the stairs.
Identify little wins and celebrate each one. This creates the momentum needed to eventually reach big wins. Each little win builds on the wins that came before… meanwhile you’re getting faster, stronger, and more motivated… and then the wins start getting bigger. Once you get the ball rolling, it’s hard to stop.
Who doesn’t love being a winner?
Internal rewards are the most motivating, but external rewards (or punishments) can be an added boost in your quest for fitness. Eliminate the opportunity to make excuses by creating a system of accountability for yourself.
Accountability comes in many guises. You could book sessions with a personal trainer. You could ask a friend to check in with you weekly about your progress. You could make a bet that you owe money or a chore or a dare to someone if you don’t follow through. You could enlist an exercise partner (proven by multiple scientific studies to improve the consistency and efficiency of your workouts).
When no isn’t an option, yes becomes a hell of a lot easier.