5 WAYS TO STAY ON TRACK
Change is uncomfortable. Starting a new routine is equally as challenging as quitting a bad habit. When it comes to health these are often happening simultaneously (eat less AND exercise more?!), leading many to throw in the towel before they start actually reaping the benefits. While there are a number of motivational strategies to help you stay consistent with a lifestyle change, I've found the below methods to be the most useful in ensuring that your health resolutions become a daily practice....
1. Set Goals - The single most important factor when it comes to a nutrition and exercise program. Without a plan your motivation wanes, your performance stagnates, and it becomes all too easy to fall back into your old ways. Goals will provide you with the template for the types of foods you'll be eating as well as what type of training program is right for you. Have chronic joint pain and difficulty performing certain exercises? Start incorporating more strength and mobility workouts into your program. Want to look good in a bathing suit? Start monitoring your macronutrient intake to ensure you're not going over your daily limit. The goals you set for yourself should be manageable enough to adhere to regularly yet challenging enough to give you a sense of accomplishment. I'd recommend breaking them down into daily/weekly/monthly intervals. For example...Daily - exercise for 30 minutes and ensure calorie intake doesn't exceed BMR, Weekly - focus on a weak area 2x a week (ie. cardio, strength, mobility, balance, etc), Monthly - lose 5 lbs of body fat.
2. Find a Gym Buddy or Swolemate - Maybe you have a friend or family member that has been talking about getting healthier for a long time and never been able to follow through. Maybe your gym crush or significant other is looking for a spotter. Whatever your goals are, having a gym buddy, training partner, or trainer there by your side is a game changer. Not only will they help keep you accountable and consistent but they'll also help push and motivate you in ways that would be nearly impossible to achieve on your own. With few exceptions, I was a disciple of working out solo until I begrudgingly accepted a workout invite from my now training partner. The effect was almost immediately noticeable. Just like having home field advantage, the energy of the game changed when someone was there to cheer me on. I gave my best on every workout and was challenged in ways I'd never been before. The things that you tend struggle with most...the last repetition, final sprint, or even something as simple as waking up early to make time for a workout are ten times more manageable if you're not doing it alone.
3. Keep track - This applies to exercise as much as nutrition. Reading nutrition labels, recording workouts, and weighing protein isn't rocket science but can be a hassle to keep up with. With respect to the goals you set for yourself, don't expect to achieve them anytime soon without being a dedicated scribe. You're bound to wind up lost if you don't know which way you're going. These underlying metrics give you a daily path to follow...from how many calories you've consumed to how much weight you should be lifting during an exercise. You can reference my previous posts for some tips on monitoring diet, starting a workout program, and some alternatives for measuring fat loss. The main thing to remember is that you're better off not trying to remember. Write it down! A few basics to invest in...a workout journal, food scale, and an app for monitoring nutrition on your phone (such as MyFitnessPal).
4. Out of sight - Regardless of how committed you are to eating healthier, temptation will usually prevail if it's in close proximity. To become the true master of your dietary domain, take a good look at all the small things keeping you down. It might be a morning pastry, treats around the break room at work, or a quick snack before bed, but slowly all the little indulgences add up and can sabotage your goals. If you've been exercising consistently and are still scratching your head every time you step on the scale or look in the mirror wondering why your body hasn't changed, it's very likely that your habits in the kitchen are to blame. Start taking note of the foods and beverages you're consuming regularly and do a little research on their nutrition facts. If it turns out to be a calorie bomb, get it out of the kitchen. Save your favorite indulgences for a weekly cheat day and never buy more than you can finish in one sitting. Start preparing meals and snacks in advance so that you're left with some options when temptation is staring you down.
5. Treat yo' self - Sometimes you have to spend a little to make a lot. Because jumping into a diet and workout routine can be both mentally and physically taxing, treating yourself with small rewards along the way can help break up the monotony and keep you consistent with your goals. These can vary by individual but I'd like to throw out a few examples. Buy some wireless headphones for rocking out during your workout. Replace the gym attire you've probably owned since high school with some fresh duds. Ditch your baggy shirts and pants for ones that will help accentuate your new physique. Get yourself some new kicks. Change up your gym routine by going on a bike ride or jog at a beach or park. Have a cheat day once a week where you can enjoy your favorite foods. Get a sports massage or buy foam roller and yoga mat. Start experimenting with healthy recipes if you like cooking. You get the idea.
Change is uncomfortable but not impossible. If you want to stay on track be mindful of your goals, record your progress, avoid flying solo, and don't forget to reward yourself along the way.
Dave Kunes, C.S.C.S, is a Personal Trainer and Online Coach based in Naples, FL.