January has got to be the Black Friday of fitness centers. Heck, gym owners probably count on the first month of the year for their children’s tuition fees, what with the sheer volume of people signing up for memberships.
But whether you’re resolved to work off the added pounds from weeks of holiday bingeing (to be fair, Lola’s Christmas ham ain’t gonna eat itself), were spurred on by the #NewYearNewMe movement, or have simply decided to act on your #bodygoals this year, getting a personal trainer is only half the journey. If you really want to be fitter in time for bikini season, you really need to make a commitment and put in the work.
The thing is, people often neglect the second part. Why do you think those same gyms that were packed in January often look like desert towns by March?
Now, getting fit certainly isn’t easy, but it’s probably more doable than you think. Here are some strategies that can help you actually stick to your fitness resolutions for 2018:
1. Focus on your well-being rather than on weight loss.
Six pack abs or a thigh gap can look great, but superficial targets can lose their appeal after weeks of constant dieting and exercise.
Exercise offers plenty of benefits apart from a trim figure. Lower cholesterol, higher energy levels, and increased feelings of happiness and satisfaction (thank you, endorphins) are just a few of them. So instead of fixating on flattening your stomach, ask yourself why you want to get fit in the first place.
Do you want to have more energy to focus on other goals? Or do you wish to feel more confident in how you look? Perhaps you simply want to be healthier so you can be around for your family longer? Whatever you choose, reframe your fitness goals into something that will elicit a strong emotional response. You might be surprised at how much more effective this can be at keeping you motivated, and how all the other external signs of success (smaller waistlines, more defined muscles, etc.) are but by-products of the process.
2. Write up your goals and make them specific, manageable, and measurable.
Setting broad, vague objectives for yourself can actually make you depressed, probably because they don’t exactly lend themselves well to a concrete plan of action.
Targets like “lose weight” or “have a better body” sounds much too generic and rather intimidating. In contrast, “lose ten pounds over the next six weeks” or “achieve a 25-inch waistline before June” sound more feasible because they give you a benchmark for measuring your progress.
3. Break it down.
Quick, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. (But lay off eating whole elephants if you’re serious about losing weight, okay?)
It’s the same thing with any goal or objective. You’ll have a much easier time if you divide a big goal into several smaller (but still very specific) milestones.
For example, let’s look at the goal for losing ten pounds over six weeks. On its own, it sounds quite daunting, but when you divide it up into one and a half pounds per week, it becomes more feasible.
From there, you can come up with well-defined steps like bringing your own lunch to work and eliminating fast food takeaway, hitting the gym three to four times a week, and drinking eight glasses of water. Evaluate your results every week, and then make suitable adjustments.
4. Schedule your workouts.
Treat your exercise routine as you would a weekly status meeting with your boss or employees by penciling your sessions into your weekly planner. This way, you’ll be forced to block off time for your workouts instead of putting them off whenever “something comes up.”
Furthermore, don’t feel pressured to work out in the morning. If late afternoons or early evenings would be better for you, those will do just fine. It’s all about coming up with a sustainable schedule.
5. Set up accountability measures.
Gym buddies are a great way to spur you on to action, especially on days when you don’t feel like it. If you have friends who are also aiming to be more physically fit in the coming year, bring up attending workouts together so that you can both prevent each other from sleeping through them or skipping them altogether.
If you prefer to go about things alone, you can also sign up and pay in advance for exercise classes that require attendance. Should you be tempted to cut class, so to speak, take out your receipt and visualize how much money you’d be wasting. That ought to make you think twice about bailing on your workout.
6. Think outside the box.
There are lots of ways to get fit, and even more ways to complement your dietary regimen and trips to the gym.
Drinking lots of water makes you get up more often to use the toilet (as compared to staying seated for long periods of time), running after your kids, or even just taking the stairs at work rather than using the elevator all help you burn a few extra calories every day. Over time, these can add up to a significant difference.
In the same vein, your exercise regimen doesn’t have to be comprised of the usual burpees, planks, or deadlifts either. Sports like jiu jitsu, basketball, or badminton can be highly enjoyable and yet highly beneficial for your weight loss goals too.
7. Get some help from technology.
There are so many free apps that can do anything from helping you keep a food diary to logging the number of steps you literally take every day. Some of them even connect you to other like-minded individuals to foster some healthy competition and to establish a supportive community that keep its members on track.
8. Don’t be afraid to scale back when needed.
It’s normal to feel sore all over after a workout, but you shouldn’t push yourself to finish a set if you’re already doubled over in time and are dry-heaving into a trash can. Sure, some people thrive on intense workouts, but coming to associate exercise with pain will just make you dread it more, and that’s not good for your motivation.
The goal is to make exercise feel like a normal part of your lifestyle. You can challenge yourself by gradually pushing outside your comfort zone, rather than forcing yourself into an intense regimen long before your body and mind are ready for it.
9. Reevaluate your resolutions regularly.
It’s natural for some people to get invested in a certain fitness strategy and then realize that it’s not exactly a good fit for them. You might commit to doing yoga at least a couple of times a week and then realize that you’d prefer something faster paced, or inversely, learn that distance running isn’t really up your alley after having done marathon training for quite some time.
If this happens to you, don’t fret. You can simply change gears and then adjust your goals accordingly (e.g., giving yourself more time to lose those ten pounds when you switch over to a less intense workout).
10. Reward yourself.
When you manage to keep a perfect attendance record at the gym for a month, finish your first 1K run, or hit any other significant fitness milestone, treat yourself to something special.
Just make sure it’s not a reward that can spoil your efforts so far. So, you shouldn’t eat a dozen oily donuts, my friend, but a weekend getaway, a couple of hours at the spa, or my personal favorite, a good half-hour of pampering (scented body scrubs, minty hair treatments, the works!) in the shower after a workout are all great ways to acknowledge your efforts so far and to encourage you to move closer to your goals.
Go forth and have your fittest year yet!