New Year resolutions, getting ready for summer… Which fitness goals did you make this year and didn’t manage to keep up? Despite all the determination, in the beginning, it’s far too easy to fall off the exercise wagon after a few months or even already after a few weeks.
If you think that you’ll allow yourself to get off the hook often than this is for you. We’ve put together five ways you can get more motivated and do a better job at staying on track with your fitness goals.
1. Buddy up!
A 2010 study by Stanford University has found that it is easier to quit when we have only ourselves to be accountable for our goals. Having social support from others can help in creating a new fitness habit. Plan workouts together with a friend. It’s way harder to hit the snooze button if you have a buddy waiting for you at the gym. If you don’t have a friend who’s up for it, a buddy can also be a personal trainer or a bunch of online buddies via a social network with fitness experts and others who are on the same track that can support you and help you create accountability.
A study from the University of Pennsylvania in 2015 shows that a healthy social competition and support on social media platforms can motivate people to get out and work out more. Social media can help people stay on track and hold themselves accountable if they share their progress and support one another. If you’re not into any of that, you can also sign up for that HIIT or Zumba class you’ve been interested in.
Scientists have found that social interaction in a group setting can be a driver for encouragement and motivation. Plus, the little feeling of competition you get when nailing that downward facing dog like a champ in comparison with your class neighbour, creates a great setting for accountability. Altogether this can boost the mood and your interest to turn up to the class every time.
Ps: Another pro for having an instructor either in a group class or a trainer is that many people often go to the gym to end up bouncing around all that equipment without knowing what to do. Having a professional trainer on your side can guarantee a full (and efficient injury-free) workout experience.
2. Make a plan in advance
“I don’t have time to work out”. I know, life can get busy sometimes and the hours can get past us so fast that we lose track of it. But using time as an excuse is just another excuse. Not every exercise need to take an hour-long and a ton of intensity. If you don’t have an hour to crunch every day, don’t worry, 30 minutes of training can be just as effective.
Look at your agenda and check what are the best times for you to exercise and reflect on which not-so-important activities you can scrape off to give room to exercise. Those 30 min scrolling Instagram over and over, perhaps? Sparing 15 minutes from the 1-hour lunchtime for a quick run? See what works best, make a plan and stick to it. Schedule your workouts as you would any other important meeting.
But remember to make a convenient plan to give you some extra willpower when you need one. Don’t schedule classes or subscribe to a gym that is too far from your house regardless of how Instagram-worthy and cool it is… and especially do not plan to get there as early as 6 a.m. If you’re scheduling your workouts after work, make sure to always have your gym outfits in your bag and a power snack to keep the tummy satisfied and the energy up.
3. Set small goals to achieve big ones
A good recipe for failure is to set unrealistic goals from the beginning like work out 7 times per week and get a six-pack in a month when you’re starting from scratch. It’s much harder to keep your eye on the prize if it’s so high you can’t reach it. Remember that big, unrealistic goals will only cause frustration. If you start small, you can slowly build your way up.
Besides that, an English study has shown that people who set exercise process-based goals like ‘doing 100 squats in a month’ end up more motivated to stick to their routine rather than an outcome like ‘losing 5 kg in weight’. They also showed higher levels of enjoyment and lower levels of tension than others who set outcome-based goals.
So, experiment and discover what type of goal motivates you the most to keep it going and remind yourself of it daily.
Also, consistency is key. If you start making excuses to push your workouts for next week because you can always go back at it later, this may be the start of a journey for failure. This is a type of mindset that can easily set you off. If you want to reach your goals, you have to commit to yourself that you’re going to stick to the plan you made. Unless you are ill or have an emergency, beware of letting yourself of falling into the trap of escaping your plan. If you’re prone to have this kind of self-sabotaging moves, go back to step 1 and see ways you can create accountability.
4. Track your progress and celebrate your wins
One great method to keep the fire burning is to monitor your progress. Some people find it useful to keep a diary, or apps to track activities. Others like to take photographs of their bodies to see how it is slowly changing. Reaching a fitness goal is a process, once you understand that, tracking the incremental changes and improvements gives you something to celebrate, even the small wins, which is an important part of building confidence and motivation. If you don’t track results, it’s more likely that you don’t see the progress and that is a trigger for giving up.
But keep in mind that change takes time, if it’s not quick enough, don’t think it’s just not going to work. Your progress journey can show where you’re at and what’s left for you to reach your end goal, which can give a super mental boost to keep going. Next to the psychological bonus point, tracking also helps you check if you’re not making any progress at all. This allows you to course-correct your routine to best fit your goals, or perhaps set a more achievable goal instead.
Ps: Track how working out makes you feel too, not only how it looks on you. How you feel can be a reward in itself. Remind yourself of that moment after you finish a routine, when you had more energy, the happiness and satisfaction pumping up… does that motivate you to get back again?
5. Make it fun-ky and switch it up sometimes
No pain no gain?!
If it’s only painful to the muscle with no fun, then it will be hard to stay motivated. You're much more likely to drop that last set of push-ups if you are actually enjoying it. Listen to your body and pick workouts that you like. Not everyone can jog in a treadmill every day for 50 minutes and feel like wanting more next day. There isn’t a single way to work out: you can run, swim, bike, lift or walk. Anything that keeps you moving and excited.
If you love to dance but hate fitness, don’t torture yourself at those machines and go for dance workouts. If indoor exercise gets you bored and feeling blue, then head outdoors if that gives you satisfaction and mental wellbeing. Another way to add a dose of extra fun into your workout is by making a killer playlist. Studies show that hitting the tunes while working out can give that boost you need by increasing endurance and distracting you from pain while eliminating boredom by getting you in the funky mood.
But remember that even the most fun thing ever can get boring after a while if it’s always the same. Design your exercise routine around a variety of exercise methods and pick spots where they change choreography and routines often. Varying your workouts also can help you challenge your body in different ways while getting those muscles you didn’t even know you had workin’.
These are just a few ways that you can try out to see what keeps you motivated to smash a workout regularly and for a long period of time. But there’s no right way of exercising or getting fit. It’s all about you really understanding what your biggest barriers are and how to break them. Write down what are the thoughts or what’s blocking you to stay motivated and see what you can do instead. The key here is to find what works for you and which things that keep your fire burning to continue your fitness adventures.
If you don’t know where to start, why not start from these five things I just mentioned? Set a goal, Get a buddy, Make a plan, Track your progress and Have fun. Then see how you feel about it and if that helps you. If you manage to stick to your routines and keep yourself motivated, you’ll be setting yourself up for better health, happiness, and a bunch of energy that can only bring positive changes to everything else in your life.
This article was written by Laís Oliveira @laisolvrx