Author: Mike Inglis
This is the classic time of New Year's fitness resolutions. We go in with good intentions and a new fire in our bellies. But unfortunately these resolutions usually don't amount to much in the long-run. There's usually a "honeymoon" period of time right after the new year starts where we're gung-ho and excited and living up to our resolution is easy. But 3-4 weeks into the new year, it's inevitable that some of the roar that we started with turns into a whimper. We start to prioritize other things over our fitness and pretty soon that resolution is toast! So how do you keep your motivation so that the great intentions you have aren't wasted? Let me give you some ideas.
Set and Track Goals
Picture this....you want to take a vacation. You have a vision of yourself laying on a beach in the hot sun, sipping a cold drink and relaxing without a care in the world. Then, without another thought, you get in your car and start driving. Now, do you think you'll actually end up on the beach of your dreams without actually setting a DESTINATION first? Of course not! It's just as likely that you'd end up at Aunt Celeste's house being forced to eat her leftover fruitcake that nobody wanted during the family holiday party! (the egg nog was a hit though)
Well, it's the same thing when you talk about improving your health and fitness. It doesn't work to say "My resolution is to get healthy". No matter how much you want it, without concrete goals in place and a plan to make them happen, you will find yourself floundering, with no direction, and eventually you'll give up on your resolution. Pick an achievable, desirable goal and write it down where you can look at it every day. Lose x pounds by y date, workout x number of days per week, whatever. Then figure out HOW you're going to make it happen.
Setting goals for yourself, putting a plan together to reach them, and then tracking them regularly help make them become a reality for a number of reasons. First, when you set a goal, you now have a destination to aim for. You know exactly where you want to go. Second, thinking through a realistic plan makes your goals actually seem achievable and gives you a starting place to take action. Third, tracking progress regularly is a great way to maintain motivation. As you see progress towards your goal, you will gain in confidence that you actually CAN achieve the goal and be that much more motivated to continue pursuing it. And finally, it is a fact that whatever you measure, you improve. So set goals and track them if you really want to achieve them.
Sure that's easy for me to say as a coach. But it is absolutely true! There are a few very special people who can take all of this on by themselves, knowing what to do, how to do it, how often, etc. and be able to stick with it. But the vast majority of us do NOT have the expertise to know how to structure a health and fitness program nor how to successfully follow it. A certified fitness coach can provide that expertise for you. Just as you invest your resources to ensure your family's financial security, you should be consistently investing in your long-term health. Like any other professional, a coach provides the expertise and skill sets that you don't necessarily have to help you achieve your goals. Don't be penny-wise and pound foolish with your health!
As a kid, I remember that when I got straight A's, my mom used to take me to Baskin Robbins for an ice cream as a reward (Mint Chocolate Chip was my favorite!). Now I did not necessarily strive for good grades JUST to get the ice cream (although ice cream is STILL my favorite treat!), but I remember how fun it was to celebrate that achievement. In the same way, when we've achieved a goal or milestone in our fitness journey, it is important to celebrate! Now ice cream would probably not be an appropriate reward for most of us today. But getting yourself a new workout outfit, or treating yourself to a massage/facial, or going to a nice (healthy!) dinner out are all examples of fun rewards that we can treat ourselves to when we reach our goals.
Be Flexible (But Consistent)
Stuff happens....we all know that. And when it comes to our fitness, there are tons of things that have the potential to derail our efforts. Work gets crazy, kids get sick, trips and vacations happen. While it is admirable to lay out a strict schedule of workouts and diet rules to follow, there will inevitably be times when that schedule and those rules will need to be tossed out the window. Does that mean that all of your fitness goals and efforts should be abandoned off-hand? Of course not! Be flexible with yourself.
Have you heard of the 80/20 rule? Be good 80% of the time and the 20% of the time that you break the rules will not ruin all of the progress you've made. Of course, the 20% needs to be within reason, but for the most part you should be OK. What's NOT OK is for you to expect to be 100% compliant with your fitness program and diet rules. Because when you inevitably miss a workout, have an extra helping, or celebrate President's Day a bit too much (for some of us, any holiday is a good excuse!), you will become discouraged and be tempted to throw out your whole long-term plan. Your fitness and health is a marathon, not a sprint. So take the long view and don't abandon good work when you slip up.
Folks, be serious about this. We get one life to live and we NEED to take care of our health. That means getting in your workouts, eating moderately, getting professional coaching, and being consistent with all of the above. I know how hard it can be to keep it up, but as with most things in life the only real failure is to give up and quit. Don't let that be you!