If you’re anything like me…and a good portion of humanity, Motivation is a hard thing to master. There are some things in life that I’m highly motivated to do, others not so much. So for those hard to do things in life, I’ve come up with five strategies to jump-start your motivation for fitness.
Step One: Have a plan
Winging it almost never works. What type of person you are determines your approach for this step but it’s safe to say that a vast majority of people can’t visualize something unless they see it written down or typed out. First identify what some things are you can do today that lead to a healthier lifestyle.
An example would be opting for water in place of sodas or juices.
Developing a plan has a couple different steps. Firstly, you want to identify your Long term Goal. We’ll use the example of “I want to have abs.” Now you must implement REALISTIC (this is important) short term goals to get to that long term goal. A good rule of thumb is to have S.M.A.R.T goals.
S P E C I F I C
M E A S U R A B L E
A T T A I N A B L E
R E A L I S T I C
T I M E L Y
It may look something like this
Long Term Goal: I want to have abs (Not very specific)
How do I reach this goal: (We’ve specified and now have made it measurable, it is attainable and realistic) I need to get my body fat percentage down to 14% or lose 27lbs
Short Term Goal 1: Research Nutrition and exercise programs
Short Term Goal 2: (We have made the goal timely) Lose 2.25 pounds each week for
Long Term Goal: 12 weeks.
For my particular goals, I don’t need extreme detail but if you’d like a longer list and that helps you visualize better then by all means do so! Just don’t let your list become overwhelming. Now the key to the success of the plan is to have it posted somewhere you see it every day. I like to tape mine to my mirror or save it as a phone background.
The important thing here is to set specific dates, mark these dates on your calendar, make a big deal out of them.
Step Two: Develop a reward system.
Your rewards are going to be different from everyone else’s. Let’s say in order to reach your goal you have given up your daily trip for coffee. As an alternative, you can place that money in a jar and at the end of each week, buy yourself something. Whenever I reach a short term goal, (let’s say I lose 3lbs in my first week) I will treat myself to a new pair of workout leggings or a pair of gloves. Your reward system can be in the form of a cheat meal, however I urge caution when it comes to this tactic, too many indulgences can be counterproductive. But if you have accomplished something amazing, feel free to treat yourself as long as it doesn’t hinder your goals!
Step Three: Track your progress
I mentioned in step one it was important to set dates. This is an effective way of tracking your progress. If you’re not hitting your short term goals you need to go over your regimen and be HONEST with yourself on where you are going wrong.
If you’re unsure, perhaps speak with a trainer. Most trainers are willing to sit down and talk with someone and offer them a little bit of advice. Or if you have a trainer and you’re not seeing results, you need to be honest with them about what you’re doing outside of training so they can help you.
Pictures are a good way to track progress. I say good (and not great) because a transformation can be very impactful but our bodies go through different looks at different times of the day. In the mornings my stomach tends to be flat and my abs show, by 5pm I’m fuller and depending on what I ate, either retaining water or slightly bloated from the food.
Measurements are great because you can see where you’re growing and shrinking and have something measurable to record for your progress!
Step Four: Holding yourself accountable.
Before you get started, write down any potential excuse you may have for not working out or not eating healthy. Make a giant list and come up with anything you can think of. Here are some top ten excuses, some of them I have used myself.
- I don’t have time today
- I’ll workout extra hard tomorrow
- It’s okay to take a day off
- I don’t feel like going
- (Women) I’m on my period
- I can’t find a babysitter
- One cookie won’t hurt
- I’ll only eat this today to make up for the extra calories or I’ll eat healthy the rest of the day
- Everyone else is eating [Insert food item here] at work today
- I’ll start again on Monday
For the next step, your job is to come up with your realistic answer as to why that excuse is just that…an excuse. Answer them in first person so that way when you find yourself thinking of that excuse you can shut your bargaining brain down with some tough love.
- I don’t have time today. Everyone has 24 hours in a day, I’m no different. I will give up my hour of tv tonight in order to make time for my workout. Next time I know I’m going to have a busy day I will rearrange my workout schedule accordingly or wake up earlier in order to get my workout done.
- I’ll work extra hard tomorrow. This is just a bargaining tactic. I should be giving my full effort for every workout I do. I am going to go and do my workout today because an extra hard workout never comes into fruition.
- It’s okay to take a day off. It’s absolutely okay to take a rest day, but today is not my rest day. Why do I want to take this day off? Is it because I genuinely need to recover or just because I don’t feel like going?
- I don’t feel like going. I may not feel like going, but I know I’m going to feel worse if I do not go. If I fall off of my program before I develop a habit, I am more likely to fall off of my program entirely. I feel great after I workout and have never regretted going to the gym
- Women: I’m on my period. I’m going to hop out of first person for a moment with this one: For women how have a heavy cycle it is fine to take that first day off, but do not let your cycle be an excuse to take off the whole week (there are of course, exceptions to this for those with medical conditions). For the rest of us, let’s suck it up, find our blackest pair of pants, wear a panty liner and a tampon, throw a sweater around our waist while we irrationally fear a leak that probably won’t happen.
- I can’t find a baby sitter. I am more than capable of working out at home with my kids. I have a back up at home workout (everyone should at least have 1-2 in their arsenal for those days everything just goes wrong, they happen) and I will take the time to do it. I will set my kids up with an activity while I do my workout, or wait until I put them down to bed. No matter what I’m going to sweat today.
- One cookie wont hurt. Do I have the self control to just eat one? No? Then I’m not going to. I spent 45 minutes of my life today working out at the jump for the body and health that I want, I don’t want to unravel it all for the sake of a cookie. Also, if I eat this, my meal later will suffer as a result.
- I’ll only eat this today to make up for the extra calories or I’ll eat healthy the rest of the day.How honest am I being with myself right now? High fat or unhealthy foods tend not to be very satisfying. Am I still going to overeat today? Is that healthy for me to binge at one meal? No.
- Everyone else is eating [Insert food item here] at work today. I do not have to eat food to fit in. My friends, family and coworkers love me and enjoy my company regardless. I want to accomplish my goals and one day of not eating pizza isn’t going to kill me. There will be time for pizza on my cheat day.
- I’ll start again on Monday. I saved this excuse for last because this has been the detriment to many-a-gym goer who is trying to change his or her life. I’m also slipping out of first person to explain to you why this mindset is a horrible one to have. Monday does not exist. This magical world of monday is nothing more than a bargaining tool to be used as an excuse after you’ve missed a day or two…or three and this gives you the green light to just say “fuck it” and give up for the rest of the week. Stop breaking up your workouts by specific days of the week and break them up by your specific workouts. Here is how I break up my workouts: A, B, Cardio, Rest Day, A, C, Cardio, Rest Day
3 days on, 1 day off. If I have something coming up, I start to shift my workouts around to accommodate and I never have to worry about a monday again. If I do happen to miss two days in a row, no big deal I just pick up where I left off. Do yourself a favor and never fall into the monday trap. There’s nothing magical or special about Monday. Start today.
Step Five: 12 Weeks
I’ve read research that claims it takes 21 days to create a habit, 32 days to create a habit, and what have you. While various research may either validate or negate those claims, I do know one thing for certain.
12 weeks is where the magic happens. This image is more accurate than most think. During 12 weeks you are developing new, healthier habits. Most people get discouraged when they look in the mirror and search aimlessly for changes day to day that we may not even notice. But after 12 weeks of staying consistent you will notice the difference.
The most important thing about staying motivated is to always remember why you started and where you’d like to be. Nobody can do the work for you. There’s no magic pill you can take, it takes hard work and dedication and you have to prepare yourself for that. Don’t rush in blind, find what works for you and do it.
Good Luck (: