Have a clear fitness goal
So many fitness resolutions are doomed to fail before they even start because there isn’t a clear plan or target. It’s all well and good to have bags of enthusiasm, but if you are vague about your goals, your exercise will ultimately be aimless and you simply won’t achieve results. Make sure you have a clear goal that is non-negotiable. That could be weight-related such as dropping several dress sizes or fitness goal orientated such as running a 10k or half marathon.
When you have something to aim for it gives you focus and clarity on what you are doing and where you want to be in a few weeks’ time. Write it down and make a commitment to achieve it. Use the SMART model to help you focus by making your goals; specific; measurable; achievable; results-focused and time bound.
Be realistic about your fitness goals
While setting goals is vital, they have to be realistic. Don’t suddenly decide that swimming across the Atlantic is a viable objective, if you haven’t swum since school and that was only a few lengths in a 25m pool. Alternatively if a marathon is a long-term ambition but you haven’t run regularly for years or indeed ever, then target a 5k to start off with and then build up to a 10k and so on.
Your programme might involve walking at the start, but by slowing building up the miles you’ll be amazed by how far you run after a few weeks and what you feel you can achieve. Be sensible and build up to your targets gradually. Change happens gradually and steadily, it doesn’t occur overnight and your body will need time to adapt depending on your previous fitness history. That also means not doing too much too quickly or you will burn out, hurt yourself or just lose motivation.
Schedule your workouts
Part of making your challenge non-negotiable is making sure you stick to your fitness plan. Yes, life can get in the way sometimes and having to skip a workout every now and again is okay, but not every week. Exceptional circumstances notwithstanding you really should have a schedule and stick to it.
Look at your work/social diary carefully and schedule your exercise. Fit in runs/workouts at work during the lunch break or make a workout part of your commute (for instance you could run or cycle to the office). If you allocate that slot on your calendar/diary then you are much more likely to do it. If it’s in your diary it will feel like a commitment which feels more difficult to break.
Keep an exercise diary
Keeping a fitness journal is another weapon in the fitness armoury. Keeping track of how much you’ve done is a wonderful way of feeling inspired by your efforts and how far you’ve come. It’s also a brutal reminder if you haven’t done any exercise. Empty pages in a diary might just shame you back to the gym. Holding yourself accountable - personal accountability - is the number one way to improve yourself. The exercise isn’t the problem, it’s only ever you that is the problem - if doubting thoughts ever come to your mind. To take an extreme, world champions don’t become world champions by saying that the rules of the sport are flawed. Instead they understand where they fail within the rules of the sport and work to plug the holes in their fitness bucket.
Make exercise a group activity
A great way of staying motivated is by involving others in your project. If you are training for a 5k or a 10k then join a running group. You won’t want to let other people down by not turning up, so it will help you stay motivated. If the gym is your thing then why not book some exercise classes or a personal trainer? Whatever it is you want to achieve involving other people can help you get there.
Vary your exercise routine
Having been almost evangelical about setting goals and schedules, it is important to remember that you must also structure in a variety of workouts. Runners chasing a long-distance target should cross train to keep their mind and body fresh.
Instead of going for a run why not swim or cycle? If you are weight-training why not do a spinning class instead? It gives the major muscle groups a break whilst also keeping you mentally fresh. If you feel stale and de-motivated it can be a recipe for quitting.
Be a solution finder not a problem provider
Let’s face it sometimes we all have moments when we just don’t want to exercise. We have all been there, when the lure of the sofa and a good movie is simply more appealing than a run in the rain. The mental battle of sticking to an exercise plan can be more strenuous at times than the physical aspect.
Write down all the excuses you can possibly think of as to why you can’t do something and then come up with lots of reasons why your fitness goal matters so much to you. It will help you come up with strategies to deal with those negative thoughts about why you ‘can’t do’ something and make you more ‘can do’ about it all.
Remember to give yourself a treat
It’s easy to get lost in the focus of an exercise goal to the point where it becomes all-consuming. Sometimes that’s the way it has to be for a little while if you are to achieve a huge goal. But remember to give yourself a pat on the back at regular intervals and don’t forget that a little treat every now and again is a great motivation.
Whether that is just your favourite chocolate bar or a spa weekend away, a treat is a great way of rewarding you for how far you’ve come and more importantly, it will keep you coming back for more.
Listen to your body
Learning to listen to your body is so important if you are to avoid being a quitter. Yes you will have moments when you ache a bit and let’s face it, working out regularly will certainly hurt from time to time. However there is a big difference between an ache and an injury.
If something really hurts then stop immediately and get it looked at by a medical professional. Don’t be so stubborn that you make an injury many times worse by ploughing on regardless. By the same token don’t wimp out the first time you feel an ache or pain. Tune in to your body and you will be able to distinguish between your mind playing tricks on you and a genuine injury.
Get the right training gear
Many a new fitness regime has been blown off course by a lack of appropriate training kit. You can’t train for a marathon in tennis shoes and you certainly won’t be able to swim the Atlantic without some decent goggles.
Invest wisely in some sensible and appropriate training kit for whatever challenge awaits you. Without it you will have a brilliant excuse to quit and we don’t want that! Remember shopping for training gear and gadgets to support your goals can be fun and more importantly it will help you get where you want to go.