This is the time of year that many people begin making New Year’s resolutions, and most often that includes a fitness goal to exercise more and get into shape. But 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by February. That’s why your gym is packed full in January, but by February most people have given up, and scoring your favorite elliptical machine is easier.
While the intentions are good, many folks lack the discipline to stick with a regular fitness program. They start fast and furious with the New Year but lose steam after a few weeks and can’t maintain the intense schedule they’ve created for themselves. Part of the problem is that New Year’s resolutions are a short-term objective based on emotions, and this type of motivator can’t last long. Motivation helps with short-term objectives, but for goals that require a longer length of time to accomplish, it is ineffective.
What then will help you stick to a fitness program and help you reach your goals? Simply put, it requires discipline. Discipline requires the drive to do what it takes for success when it is hard to do. Discipline is when it’s dark and cold outside at 6 a.m., but you still get up and lace up those running shoes and head out the door. The only way to accomplish your goals is through practice and consistency. Consistency is what will get you the results you want.
Once you have the motivation to start an exercise program and understand that you need to develop the discipline to stick with it, you need to change your mindset and make fitness a priority. Adjusting your attitude about how exercise fits into your daily routine is key. Exercise shouldn’t feel like a chore or something you need to check off an already long to-do list every day. Instead, if you learn to view exercise as a way to relax and recharge after a busy work day and as a way to maintain or improve your physical and mental health, then you’re on the right track.
Put exercise first.
For family obligations or work, you don’t really need to make a conscious decision to do these things, because if you don’t, there are usually unpleasant consequences. But with exercise, you do have to make a daily decision whether to work out or not. It’s easy to let other things take priority and skip a workout when you’re feeling stressed or are extra busy, but exercise should always be a priority.
Changing your mindset that exercise shouldn’t take a back seat to everything else in your life is the key to making fitness a priority. Exercise will keep you healthy and allow you to work and take care of your family and do all of the things you enjoy, such as travel or sports, well into old age. If incorporating exercise into your life doesn’t become an important priority, your body and health will eventually begin to suffer.
Make exercise a habit.
A habit is something you don’t even have to think about doing; you just do it. Create a habit by exercising consistently for 30 days; once you’ve been at it for a month or so, you’ve already created a habit. By making exercise a habit, you’ll begin to feel less stress and sleep better, and you’ll start to feel stronger and more energetic. Once you begin to reap the benefits of exercise, you probably won’t even need to add it to your daily to-do list—you’ll just do it.
Take it slow.
A surefire way to burn out on an exercise program is to rush into it and do too much too quickly. This is why so many New Year’s resolutions fail. Similarly, if you expect fast results, like losing 10 pounds in a couple of weeks, or being able to run a nine-minute mile after being sedentary for months, then you are setting yourself up for failure and disappointment.
Set sensible and attainable goals that you can accomplish bit by bit, and then build on those goals gradually. For example, set a goal to work out three times per week for 30 minutes. After a few weeks of sticking to this routine, increase the number of days and the duration of your workouts to four days per week for 45-minute sessions, and so on. Eventually, you’ll want to do some sort of physical activity most days of the week.
To really commit to making fitness a priority this year, you have to stop thinking of exercise as being optional, but rather begin seeing it as a requirement.