You know how it goes. January 1st, the gyms are packed. Goals are high, excitement is in the air, and people are itching for a new, clean start. Then May 1st comes around. People are discouraged. 'How did I get off track?' they ask themselves. They are scrambling for the next new diet, asking their friends what the fastest way will be for them to get their "summer bod," and feeling down on themselves for not sticking to their goals.
Do you fall into this category?
If so, don't worry. I'm here to help. It's not too late, and you are NOT a failure. We all get off track every now and again.
My friend shared with me an interesting article from The Wall Street Journal about people who were consistent exercisers and what their secrets were. I chose the top three takeaways from the article and took my own spin on them. I wanted to share these secrets with you so you don't find yourself caught in that rut.
1. Loosen your expectations of what exercise "should be."
Let me cut to the chase: leave the "all or nothing" mentality behind. Studies show that people who are exercising consistently don't pressure themselves to fit their "exercise" into categories of how long or vigorous they exercise. If only an hour of hard, sweaty exercise at the gym "counts," then you'll never be able to keep up with yourself. You'll get discouraged when you miss that one day during the week. Instead, loosen up those expectations a little bit. Be a little more forgiving and flexible. Remember that most of the "health game" happens in the kitchen... the things you eat. And no matter if you're getting exercise in that day or not, you can always control what food you choose to eat that day. So loosen up your expectations on your exercise.
Today I woke up feeling exhausted, and I knew my body needed something less demanding than heavy weights or too much cardio. So Ellie and I walked a couple miles at the park, and it felt amazing. That was my exercise for today, and you bet I counted it. If you are willing to be a little more flexible on this, you take away the psychological punishment of, "I didn't _______ and so I failed."
Do what you can. Listen to your body. Loosen your expectations. Remember even 15 minutes of HIIT can be especially effective. You've got this!
2. Find something you love.
I hear this all the time. "I wish I loved to run so I could get in some good cardio. But it's torture!!" Here's the bottom line: If you don't love to run, don't do it. There are PLENTY of other ways to get amazing cardio in. Hop on your bike, go for a swim, adventure on a hike, sign up for a basketball league... DO WHAT YOU LOVE. You are way more likely to stay consistent doing something you enjoy, and even mixing things up a little bit to keep your interest.
3. Have a plan and stick to it.
This comes with two ideas. The first, is to try and exercise at the same time each day. For me, I do much better when I get it done in the morning. For some reason, having it behind me and being able to lead out my day in a good sweat does wonders for me mentally. I also find myself happier and more productive when I begin my day this way. That works for me. But maybe you're a night owl and have to get up early for work... then maybe working out for you may come easier at the close of the day. Choose a time and stick with it. Studies have shown people who exercise consistency at the same time have better chances sticking with their long term goals.
Other studies have shown that having a plan and visual cue to prompt you into exercising, will increase your chances of staying consistent as well. For me, when I lay out my gym clothes by my bed at night, I am way more likely to not press the snooze button. Put a water bottle by your bed, leave a big sign on your mirror reminding you of your goals... start getting into a routine with visual cues. Have a plan and stick to it.