Being unable to stick to a regular routine, is a common stumbling block for many people trying to create an exercise regime. Finding motivation can be a real challenge. And we’ve all been there. Every January, many of us set out a clear intention to keep fit. We do all the right things in an attempt to set ourselves up for success. We join the gym, subscribe to the app, and buy all the fitness gear. But then after a few days, weeks and perhaps months, the mental blocks kick in and we manage to find a reason as to why we ‘can’t exercise today’. And the more we convince ourselves of those reasons, the less motivated we become.
So, what is the key to staying committed and motivated around our fitness goals, for the long term?
Mindset is one of the biggest factors we need to master. We need to encourage thoughts that reinforce to our minds that we mean business. We need to tell ourselves, and other people regularly, that we are working towards and will be getting fitter. The more we affirm positive statements like this, the more our mindset shifts and believes it.
Here are 5 other ways you can develop a fitness mindset:
1. Set achievable goals
One of the main reasons people fail to achieve their goals is because they are far too unrealistic. We start with much enthusiasm and want to aim high, and when we try to meet that goal and fail, we fall at the first hurdle. We realise that this is too big a task, and so we become demotivated and give up completely.
The best way to set any goals in life, and certainly around fitness, is to create a goal you want to achieve and within that goal, set out several smaller goals that will help you reach that one big goal. This helps your mindset in a number of ways.
Firstly, you become motivated because you are able to achieve the smaller more achievable goals. Secondly, you almost feel victorious for having achieved that smaller goal that you feel more encouraged to keep going.
So, to put it into context. If you have set yourself a goal of running say 5k within a month, and have never run before, start small. On day 1, go for a brisk walk. On day 2, take that walk for up to half-hour. On day 3, do a half-hour power walk and by day 4, turn that into a slow jog for 20 minutes. By the end of the week, reach a goal of jogging gently for 30 minutes without a break. And then each day slowly increase the distance and speed until you reach your goal.
2. Stack your habit onto another to make it really stick
Another powerful way to create a fitness mindset is by making your goal a habit. And the easiest way you can create a habit as the guru of ‘habit forming’ James Clear talks about in his book ‘Atomic Habits,’ is by ‘stacking’ the goal you want to turn into a habit, on top of another existing habit. James describes how when we do things repeatedly and create habits, synaptic connections are created in the brain, which helps us form routines and sustain habits.
The key to success with habit stacking is to tie your fitness goals to something you already do each day, without consciously thinking about it. So, for example, before you go to bed at night, lay your gym clothes out next to your bed, and when you wake up in the morning, get into the routine of putting them on straight away. Once you have them on, you are already halfway there, as your mind makes the connection that the next thing you will do in your morning routine is go exercise.
3. Get some accountability
Another great way to make your fitness routine stick is to hold yourself to account. Once you have set those goals and started to stack your habits, you need to ensure you keep up the momentum and having some form of accountability helps hugely with this.
And research backs this up, evidencing that when you openly tell someone you are going to achieve a certain goal you have 65% chance of sticking to it. And that chance increases to 95% when you become accountable to or with another person or a buddy.
You will also have noticed that there has been a huge rise on social media over the last few years, whereby people post their daily run, swim, bike ride and distance publicly and regularly, thereby charting their progress and achievement. This is a public form of accountability. It’s also a great way to document your progress.
Alternatively, some people use journals to document their daily achievements and from a positive psychology perspective, this also creates a sense of positive emotion for having accomplished the goal that has been set. And additionally, when you write down how you feel about having done that task, you are more likely to do it again, as you begin to enjoy that feeling and the sense of positive emotion it brings. All these actions will keep you motivated and wanting to accomplish more.
4. Visualise yourself becoming fitter
Visualisation techniques can be very powerful and play a big part in positive psychology when looking at how to become your best self. Now, you don’t have to go too heavy by visualising yourself as a bodybuilder or triathlete but take some time to think about how you want to look and feel once you have achieved or created a regular fitness routine.
Imagine yourself having completed that run, that bike ride or lifting those weights. This is a technique many pro-athletes use. They often admit visualising themselves having already won before a competition, to get their mindset prepared. And because they have visualised it in their mind, the mind doesn’t know the difference between make-believe images in our minds and reality, so it thinks we are what we have visualised. So you can do things like picturing yourself going through your workout from beginning to end. And then physically sense the emotion you will feel once you have finished.
5. Give yourself a reward
Another way to really keep you motivated is to acknowledge how well you have done in meeting your fitness goals, by rewarding yourself for your accomplishment. Of course, you will have rewarded your body and mind with the effects that come with exercises such as better health, less stress and all those wonderful hormones will make you feel happier.
But when you set out your goals, include rewards against each one, to pat yourself on the back. It can be anything from going for a nice coffee with a friend after a brisk walk to a massage after a long run.
There are so many different things you can incorporate into your daily life to create sustainable fitness habits.
The key is to set achievable goals with a view to forming habits around them that become part of your subconscious routine. Think, see, and visualise yourself as a person that exercises regularly and hold yourself to account against those goals, or allow others to.
Finally, make sure you acknowledge your achievements and give yourself well-deserved treats.