If you’re like most people, January found you energized and ready to do anything necessary to start a new fitness routine in the new year. And if you’re like most people, by February, your motivation vanishes along with the cookies you swore you wouldn’t eat. Studies show only four percent of people who join a gym in January step foot in that gym in February.
If you are one of the many who wanted this year to be different, there’s no way around it. You’re going to have to work for it. But there are three things you can do before you even lace up your sneakers to lay a foundation for success.
1| Find Your Why
You’d be surprised how easy it is to figure out how you’re going to commit to your fitness journey when you know why you em-barked on the mission in the first place. Ask yourself why you want to get in shape. Then ask again. And again… Maybe even once again. You’ll know when you’re done. Once you get over the awkwardness of having a conversation with yourself, you might be sur-prised how powerful your “why” is. The conversation might go something like this:
Why do you want to get fit? Because I want my jeans to fit better.
Why do you want your jeans to fit better? So I can feel good about myself.
Why do you want to feel good about yourself? Because I want to be confident.
Why do you want to be confident? I want to be a role model for my daughters.
Or maybe it will go something like this:
Why do you want to get fit? Because my doctor said I’m pre-diabetic and I want to live a long, healthy life
Why do you want to live a long, healthy life? Because I want to see my kids grow up.
Why do you want to see your kids grow up? Because I love them and I want to share in their joys, sorrows, and adventures.
Or maybe it will sound more like this:
Why do you want to be fit? Because I want to try my first triathlon
Why do you want to do a triathlon? To see if I have the strength and endurance to do it.
Why do you want to see if you have the strength and endurance to do it? Because if I can finish a triathlon, I can do anything I set my mind to.
It may not be easy to keep peeling back the layers on your “why.” But the cliché is true— nothing worthwhile is easy. Once you’re crystal clear about the source of your desire, it becomes a million times easier to say no to the snooze button or girls night, and say yes to your workout—and yourself— instead.
2| Have a Measurable Goal
I love fitness. As an Ironman triathlete, an avid runner, a running coach, a spin instructor and an all-around fitness geek, it’s fair to say I am obsessed with fitness. But I can’t support a goal of simply “getting fit.” The same goes for “getting in shape” or “toning up.”
Fitness goals must be objective and measurable. In other words, you should be able to attach numbers and dates to them.
If you have a weight loss goal, make sure it includes a number of pounds and a date. “Lose weight” becomes a long-term goal of “Lose twenty pounds by December 31st.” Once you have a long-term goal, add a few short-term goals to keep you motivated and to provide benchmarks of your progress.
Short-term goals might be:
- Lose two pounds by March first.
- Lose ten pounds by July first.
Say your goal is to complete an event, such as your first triathlon. “I will finish a triathlon” is a measurable, objective goal, for sure. But making it as specific as possible optimizes your chance for success. Choose a specific race, put it in on your calendar, and “finish a triathlon” becomes a long-term goal of “complete the local sprint triathlon, which requires a 300-yard pool swim, a 10-mile bike ride, and a 5k run, on August 14th.”
Short-term goals might be:
- Swim 50 yards without stopping by March first.
- Bike eight miles and run one mile immediately after without stopping by July first.
Thinking of your fitness goal in measurable terms lets you determine where you need to be each month, each week, and each day to achieve it.
3| Schedule Your Workouts
“A failure to plan is a plan to fail.” Benjamin Franklin knew this was true way before we dreamed of holding tiny computers with calendars, alarm clocks, and timers in the palms of our hands. As all successful people know, what gets on the calendar gets ac-complished.
Treat your workout time as you would any other appointment. Create an event on your Outlook or Google calendar, pencil it into your planner, or create an alert on your phone 20 minutes in advance. Do whatever works for you to carve out the time.
If you’re having trouble keeping your workout appointments, try a different approach. In her book, Better Than Before: Master-ing the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, author and happiness expert Gretchen Rubin classifies most people as what she calls “oblig-ers.” Obligers find it much easier to follow through on a commitment to a friend, than to themselves. While most of us would easily hit snooze and skip the 7 am spin class, we’d never stand up the friend we promised to meet at the gym.
There’s no shame relying on external accountability to help establish a new habit. You could start by:
- Finding a friend, neighbor, or co-worker to work out with.
- Attending classes at a group fitness studio with a strict cancellation policy. It’s hard to skip a workout you’ve already paid for
- Joining a group fitness studio, running club, cycling club, masters swim team or hiking group for the community aspect. You won’t want to deal with the FOMO when you skip a workout.
- Becoming a member of an online accountability group. Or, gather your like-minded friends and create one yourself.
- Hiring a personal trainer.
Before you give up on fitness—or better yet, before you buy that fancy workout tracker and the pricey yoga pants—ask your-self the hard questions. Being honest with yourself about your fitness goals will pay dividends over the long haul as far as keeping you on your fitness path. Because once you know your Why, your What, and your When, the question of How becomes a whole lot easier to answer.
Pam Moore is an author, occupational therapist, and certified personal trainer who helps women push through fear to become their best selves. To get her free guide to crushing Impostor Syndrome visit pam-moore.com.