By: Nanette Fairley
January 11, 2022
Yesterday was amusing at my gym. It’s that weird January time when there is an influx of people I have never seen before working out really hard. I am pretty confident, that by February we will revert back to an even keel of regulars. I think gyms and other exercise venues do really well out of new year’s resolutions!!!!
But seriously, why is it so hard to stick to our exercise goals? Why is it so hard to stay motivated about staying fit and build it into our life? Intellectually we KNOW that staying fit and healthy is one of the keys to longevity and successful ageing. I can think of nothing worse than being forced to do exercise because my doctor prescribes it due to poor health. Here are seven tips that may help you stick with regular exercise once January is over:
1. Be very clear on your ‘why’ and remind yourself of this often
We each have our own reasons for exercising. Mine is to improve my health span and to be able to travel and be active for as long as I can. For some it may be to avoid the cognitive decline they have seen in other family members, others enjoy the comradery that can come with exercise. Perhaps it is to lose weight or keep up with your grand kids. Before you start a regular exercise programme, do some navel gazing to understand your why and revisit it often.
2. Be realistic
Psychologically one of the biggest issues with setting unrealistic goals that are unattainable, is that they are incredibly demotivating and de-energising. So choose an exercise that is possible, and OK’d by your doctor if you haven’t exercised in a while. Choose a cadence that is doable and you are more likely to stick to. For example, you might start with just 2-3 twenty minute fast walks around the lake per week. Jumping into a 5 days a week, heavy gym session when you haven’t been doing it for some while is too easy to walk away from!
3. Get social and have fun
This is perhaps the most important one! Choose an exercise you enjoy, a trainer or teacher you love working with and a ‘tribe’ of people you like to be around. In my forties, some years ago, I took up fencing for the first time. It was a tough sport that required speed, strategy and real fitness. I think the reason I stuck with it so long was that our coach was such a lot of fun and I worked out and then socialised with a fabulous bunch of people. When they drifted off, in the end I did too, as it wasn’t quite the magnet it had been. I have now moved into cycling and my fellow cyclists, and the smoothies, coffee and cake we consume together, are a big part of the reason I keep turning up.
4. Be prepared
It’s an easy excuse to avoid working out if you haven’t prepared the kit you need prior. Perhaps you need new running shoes, or if your cycling group leaves early, you don’t want to be running around in the morning trying to find your helmet. Without simple preparation, it is too easy to say, ‘I’ll go next week’ and stay in bed just a little longer.
5. Explore any emotional blocks or other obstacles in your path
Sometimes there is something less tangible in operation, stopping you from sticking with your exercise goals. Some examples include:
If you can drill down and identify what is stopping you from achieving your goal, you will be more able to overcome these obstacles by putting specifics in place to address them.
6. Visualise what it will feel like when you have stuck to your new routine for some time
This is a nice part of planning for success, imagining what you will look and feel like when exercise has been a regular part of your life for some time. Part of my visualisation is thinking about being able to walk the Camino or cycle across Italy when I am 70 or even 80. This also links back nicely to my ‘why’ for exercising in the first place.
7. Treat yourself
Last but not least, reward yourself. OK maybe not with cake and chocolate if you are trying to be healthy! Think about something that would be a treat for you or that would motivate you to keep at it. Perhaps a monthly massage if you haven’t missed even one session. One study of more than 60,000 US based gym members, found that awarding reward points to people who returned to the gym after missing a planned workout increased visits by about 16% compared with the norm. Extending a bigger reward for every workout was almost as effective, increasing visits by about 14%. Perhaps find an app that tracks your progress and gives virtual awards. One example is Strava for those who run and cycle, another is My Mission which provides physical medals when challenges are achieved.
Sticking to an exercise program does get easier the longer it goes on but, at least initially, can be challenging to make it a habit. A great book if you want to read more about building good habits is Atomic Habits by James Clear. What other ideas do you have that can help keep exercise a regular part of your life??
#newyearsresolution #exercisegoals #atomichabits #fitspiration #whatnextology