It cannot be easy to keep a routine up. Let’s face facts: It’s easier to set fitness goals than to maintain them. However, we all start the year with the best intentions. Our motivation, energy, and confidence decrease as the year go on. It’s possible for something that seemed impossible a few days ago to become impossible, such as going to the gym five times a week or running a half-marathon/entering resolution there. It’s easy for us to blame our lack of focus on the real world, but the greatest threat to a realistic resolution to this problem is the narrative we create in our heads.
What if the year was different this year? Here are the mental strategies that exercise professionals use to motivate clients to stick to their workouts and achieve their fitness goals.
You should be able to get to your exercise routine
Kellen Scantlebury, D.P.T. C.S.C.S. founder of Fit Club NY, tells SELF that the hardest part of sticking to a workout program is getting to the right place or facility to exercise. He says that simply showing up to work is only half of the battle. Instead of worrying about how hard or tired, it will be, focus on the logistics of getting there.
Scantlebury says, “Once you’re there, you’ll feel so much better just by the fact that it took the effort to get there.” This little boost can often give you the mental push you need to get started with your workout.
Play the long game and be patient
Maryam Zadeh is a certified personal trainer and the founder of the Brooklyn-based HIIT BOX. She tells SELF, “At the start of the year, there is that frenzy [to attain fitness goals]”. It’s easy for people to expect instant results in this frenzy. After putting in the hard work for a week at the gym, you are bummed that you can’t do a perfect push-up. Depending on your fitness level, it may take weeks or even months to perfect the push-up. This gap between reality and expectation can be very demotivating.
It is better to recognize that lasting changes cannot be achieved overnight. By being patient, you will eventually see the results you desire. This is something you should remember whenever you feel frustrated or antsy about results. Fitness is no different. It takes time to achieve your goals.
Get rid of the all-or-nothing mentality
The all-or-nothing approach to exercising is very common, Stephanie Mansour, a Chicago-based certified personal coach, told SELF. Some people believe they must do their work out exactly as they imagine it. For example, they may need to exercise for 60 minutes at 6 A.M. and then quit if they feel they are not getting the results they want.
This black-and-white mentality is problematic because it doesn’t adapt to life’s challenges. It will. Mansour explains that if our high standards aren’t met, it can lead to “a lot more discouragement and feeling overwhelmed.”
It’s important to have a structure for your workouts. However, if things don’t go according to plan, you shouldn’t feel like you’re failing to do your best. Instead of feeling defeated, Mike Clancy, NYC-based certified strength- and conditioning specialist, tells SELF.
He says that ten minutes is better than five, and five minutes are better than zero. Clancy says that this mindset means that “it’s not all about getting a perfect workout every time.” It’s okay not to hit all your goals. Instead, consistency is what matters over weeks, months and even years. Clancy says that getting up at a specific time, even if you don’t make it to the gym, can be considered a win. It builds consistency and supports your goals.
Visualize your success
Many people start new workouts to reach specific goals. This is great because goals can be very motivating. Mansour suggests that you define your success by clearly defining what your goal will look like. How to set realistic fitness goals can be found here.
Next, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Now, visualize the moment you achieve this goal. To visualize the moment, use your senses (sight, sound and touch). Mansour suggests that you open your eyes, then write down all the thoughts. These notes can be referred to on the reg–daily basis to keep you motivated.
Accept the fact that you may not always want to exercise
Mark DiSalvo is an NYC-based certified strength conditioning specialist. Avoid judging yourself or reading too much into your low motivation. Scantlebury says that this aversion is normal. Understanding it upfront can help you accept those difficult feelings and move on from them.
Do not make judgments about the day before you get up in the morning
Imagine waking up feeling stiff and sluggish. It’s a H.I.I.T. class, and you immediately start to dread it. Instead of canceling it on your phone as you lay in bed, tell yourself that you will focus on getting through the day, and then review your workout plans once the time is closer.
Maybe you’ll feel the need to let go of some stress by H.I.I.T. at 5:30 P.M. You might decide that H.I.I.T. is not for you, and you prefer to do yoga. You might need to take a day off the gym. That’s fine too. You can’t make assumptions about your day before it begins. Not making snap judgments will ensure that you attend more workouts than you miss. You’ll be happy you did.
You can tell yourself that you will only go to the gym for five minutes
Sometimes, the thought of going to the gym can make you feel worse than the actual workout. You can choose to go to the gym for five minutes or do one or two things. Mansour says that you will want to stay longer once you are there. However, even if it doesn’t, you have helped yourself get into the habit and make fitness a regular part of your daily routine. Simply showing up can make a big difference in your mental health.
Start with something simple
A great trick to help you get motivated when you are struggling is to reduce the fear factor and tell yourself it will be easy. DiSalvo suggests that you do a longer warm-up and gradually increase your intensity. For example, if you plan to run 20 minutes on the treadmill, you can tell yourself that you will only do 1 minute. Then, after you have completed this quick goal, you can reassess your feelings. You can always try another minute if you feel up to it. You can reassess and go for another minute. This will help you build confidence and make it easier to get into a routine.
Break down your workout into smaller pieces
Think about the time and effort involved in completing the workout instead of focusing solely on how long it takes to complete your workout or how many reps you are attempting (30 push-ups? ). Eek! Zadeh says to focus your attention on the next 30 seconds. She says that “you can get strong for 30 seconds at a stretch.” This division will help you keep your workout in manageable chunks so that it is easier to stay focused and present.
Use your vocabulary carefully
Use words with positive and negative associations when describing how you feel about your workout, whether before or after. Instead of thinking of the “uncomfortable” moments in an exercise class as “uncomfortable”, Zadeh suggests that you think of them more as “intense”. This gives you a more positive, empowered, and can-do mindset while acknowledging the difficulties. You can shift your vocabulary to help you have a more positive, I-can do-it mindset that will get you through the difficult parts.
Accept the little wins
Perhaps your goal is to hold the plank for 20 seconds. After two weeks of your new exercise routine, your ability to do this has improved from 20 seconds to 30 seconds. Although you may not have reached your goal yet (and it might still feel far away), be proud of reaching this small milestone.
Recognizing that these goals have been reached can give you the confidence boost you need to continue working towards the larger goal. Zadeh says, “You get stronger every time you exercise.” This is something to be proud of.
Set up a reward system
Mansour suggests that you reward yourself with a small reward system on low motivation. You can reward yourself with small rewards, such as a 10-minute neck massage or watching an episode of your favorite Netflix series. These rewards are available if you keep up your daily routine. These little incentives can give you the motivation to get out of bed even if your bed is a bit too comfortable.
Do not compare yourself with others
Do not compare yourself with other gym-goers. Why? It is easy to see someone do a set of single-leg deadlifts and feel frustrated, intimidated, or discouraged. You may not be aware that the person you are watching was probably new to single-leg deadlifts and had to put in a lot to reach their current level of fitness. Many factors can determine a person’s fitness level, so it’s not productive to assume.
Instead of comparing yourself to your gym-goers and classmates, change your mindset and see everyone as working together towards the same goal: fitness and health, however that may be defined by each one.