There is a reason New Year’s resolutions never seem to last, and it’s not because you do not have what it takes. There is a right way to build long-lasting habits and avoid losing interest, so it’s time to change the way we pursue our training goals. No amount of willpower will keep you in the gym if you do not learn to make your new habit easier to pursue, as well as being fun and rewarding.
- Start small and build momentum
The more ambitious your goal is, the more likely you are to fail following through and in turn give up. While it is great to have big ambitions, you are more likely to be successful at building a long-lasting habit by setting small targets. If your ambition is to go to the gym 5 times per week, give yourself a goal of twice a week and progressively increase the number of days as you develop your confidence to follow through on a larger goal.
This is also valid for exercise type and duration. Start with short low intensity sessions and aim to increase both the time and intensity as you build self-confidence and momentum. Starting small and gradually moving on to more challenging goals will give you a sense of progress and accomplishment, which will help keeping you motivated.
- Remove obstacles
One of the secrets to success when it comes to forming a new habit is to establish set triggers that act as cues, such as a particular object, time of day or place. These simple reminders will put your routine on autopilot and eliminate any element of decision that may mean you talk yourself out of exercising.
For instance, things such as leaving work, hearing your alarm clock or seeing your trainers could all be triggers that mean going straight to the gym. Pick what works for you and fits in well within your daily routine. Having a set time works particularly well as scheduling your workouts means the decision to exercise has already been made. Much like we are more likely to successfully attend an appointment than doing a chore on our to do list.
Make the process easier by planning your workouts in a way that removes potential personal barriers. Exercise in the morning if you are a morning person, or in the evening if you are not. Prepare your gym clothes the day before. If you go to the gym after work, keep your gym bag in the car so you do not have to go home and get tempted to stay there.
- Reward yourself
Exercising brings long-term rewards such as better sleep, increased energy levels, a healthier body, and a greater sense of wellbeing. Thinking of shorter-term rewards is important, particularly if you are starting out a new routine. Immediate rewards could be anything you like, such as allowing yourself to have your favourite cup of tea only after a workout. Or if your gym has facilities such as a sauna, steam room or jacuzzi, make sure these are post-workout treats only. You can even pair your workout directly with a treat. For instance, watch your favourite TV show while on the treadmill or stationary bike.
Reward yourself as regularly as needed, whether it is while you exercise, after you successfully complete a workout or when you reach a new fitness goal.
- Make it fun
You are highly unlikely to stick to your workout if it is unpleasant and makes you feel inept. Choose an exercise routine that makes you feel happy and confident in addition to fitting your abilities, lifestyle, taste and goals.
There are plenty of new exercise concepts out there to make your workout fun such as Zumba, Clubbercise, Skyrobics, Hula Hooping, BungeeFit and Aerial Yoga to name a few. If you dread the thought of the gym and classes, find an outdoor activity you enjoy such as horseback riding, rollerblading, hiking, paddle boarding, kayaking or rock climbing. If you hate both the outdoors and the gym, try ‘exergames’ at home such as Wii and Kinect games that get you exercising.
There are endless alternatives to choose from to be active so you are bound to find something that suits you. You can even incorporate some of your hobbies into your workout routine, such as taking photographs on a scenic hike or cycle.
- Make it social
Exercising with friends and family is a great way to stay motivated as well as making your workouts a more enjoyable time. And there is nothing wrong with a little competition to keep you going! It will all work in your favour whether you find a tennis partners or join a basketball team, or simply go to the gym and exercise classes with friends.
Making your workouts a time to see friends and family will also help you avoid partaking too much in unhealthier ways to socialise such as going out for a drink or a big meal. Seasonal activities such as ice skating in the winter and swimming in the summer can also make your socialising activities more active and help you enjoy exercising while making memories.
- Log your activity
Keeping a record of your workouts and fitness results is highly effective to hold yourself accountable and increase your commitment. It will help you stay motivated, particularly as you progress and observe how your improvements are changing both your body and mind.
Use a calendar to mark the days you have worked out and use a scale that read different measures such as body fat and muscle mass to track your progress. Keep a fitness journal to track how your energy levels, mood and physical abilities are improving over time.
Having it all written down in black and white will make you feel accomplished and keep you going to get more of the rewards that come from being active.