How many times have you done this? January comes, New Year’s resolutions are fresh and you’re ready to get healthy. (I will use January here, because it seems to be the most popular month for new beginnings.) You go to the gym, clean up your diet and you’re feeling pretty good about yourself. February comes, you start skipping the gym here and there, eat out a little more, and maybe hit the vending machine a few times a week. March arrives, the gym becomes a “when I have time thing” and the Oreo cookies and chips are now calling you daily from the pantry. By April the “get healthy” initiative is a distant memory and you make yourself feel better by convincing yourself that when things slow down a bit, you’ll get back into it. Guess what? Life isn’t slowing down. Why does this happen to so many people and how can a person sustain the motivation they had in January?
I have a few theories about why people stray from their health goals and some ways to change your thought process and maintain the motivation year-round. First, if you did set a goal for yourself to get fit and eat healthier, congratulations! This is an important step and like other lifestyle changes, may take a few tries before something “takes”. Second, don’t beat yourself up if you stray from your goal. It’s never too late to start over. Try to avoid the following common mistakes:
1. Too much too soon. It’s great to be excited about your new endeavor, but easing into this like a hot tub of water is actually better in the long run. I see so many people start their new training programs in January, hitting the gym every single day without rest. This has several negative consequences. The first is simple burn out. More often than not, it’s a pace the is unsustainable and will soon be something you dread doing everyday. Find a schedule that works for you and be realistic about your time commitments. Secondly, if this starts to cut into time you need for other interests, you may end up resenting exercise. Find the right balance.
2. Feeling the burn is good, feeling scorched is not. If you are out of shape, ease into it. Yes, feeling sore is part of the process, but being unable to get out of bed the next day means your workout was excessive. I’ve seen people work so hard, and get so sore, that the mere thought of going back and doing it again is excruciating in itself.
3. Don’t try to change everything at once. This is related particularly to diet. If you have been eating the same way for years and years, what makes you think you can change this behavior overnight? The answer is simple, you can’t and won’t be successful if you try. Take baby steps and change behaviors slowly. For example, if you typically drink soda, diet or not all day long, start be eliminating one can each day until you wean yourself off of it. Set a goal to pack your lunch and or snacks twice a week increasing that number by a day until it becomes habit to pack. You get the picture. Start slow, gain momentum.
4. Don’t deprive yourself. This is a big one for me. Yes, I follow a pretty strict diet and yes, it’s pretty much habit now to avoid junk, but damn it, when I want pizza, I eat pizza (now and then). I follow the 80/20 rule. Eat healthy 80% of the time and give in to cravings…just a little. If you don’t, all you are going to do is focus and dwell on the things “you can’t eat anymore”. Also, be honest about the 80/20, the only person you are cheating by lying is yourself.
5. Love what you do. Whatever form of exercise you decide to pursue, love it. It’s going to be hard work and if you don’t love it, it will end up being JUST HARD WORD. I love to run. It doesn’t feel like exercise to me because it means so much more to me than that. Think outside the box when it comes to this. Running isn’t for everyone. Biking isn’t for everyone. Maybe your exercise is shooting hoops with your son/daughter on a regular basis, yoga, swimming, hiking, walking the dog, the options are really endless. it doesn’t always have to mean a trip to the gym, just get moving. Once you find something you like, it won’t be something you check of a list anymore for the sake of doing so.
6. Do a reality check on your goals. The best way to explain is like this; if you’ve never run a mile in your life, and make it your goal to run a marathon within a month, there’s a really good chance that’s not going to happen. Think this through, and come up with something a) that you really believe you can accomplish and b) you think is worthwhile to achieve. The second of those being more important. You have to believe in what you are trying to accomplish. If you are truly convinced that getting into shape, running a 5k, being thinner, or eating healthier will truly make you feel better, the chances of you sticking with a program that will get you there is stronger.
Hope these tips help you reach your healthy lifestyle goals.
What has motivated you to maintain your healthy habits? Comments and suggestions welcome!