If you’ve ever found yourself starting a new fitness regime only to quit after a few weeks, then you’re not alone: thousands do it every year. Some have to stop through no fault of their own, but others often fall short due to lack of willpower or motivation. Luckily, we’ve compiled these handy hints for keeping yourself focused on your end game, which should help you stay the course even when you feel like giving in.
Top Tip #1: Make it fun
Any task that we feel we ‘have’ to do becomes tiresome and easy to side-line if we’re given the opportunity. By making your lifestyle changes enjoyable – for instance, engaging in an exercise activity that you enjoy, or using a new diet as an excuse to try new and exciting recipes – you’ll help your brain associate these new aspects of your life with positive emotion and physical states.
Top Tip #2: Incorporate it
Another of the big hurdles people face when beginning a new regime is that the rest of life quickly gets in the way. Instead of setting yourself a goal of going to the gym three times a week when really you barely have time to watch an hour of TV one night a week, give yourself activities that fit around your current commitments. Try an at-home exercise DVD that you can do while dinner is in the oven, or allow yourself one night a week eating out if you have meetings that run late.
Top Tip #3: Make it achievable
Many people make the mistake of setting an all-or-nothing goal for themselves – say, to lose 2 stone in a year – and if after three months they’ve still not started their fitness regime, they’ll just give up entirely. Instead, keep that as your total end goal, but set yourself realistic targets for each week or month to help you build up towards that final ambition.
Top Tip #4: Reward yourself
Everyone loves rewards for hard work, and exercise and dieting are no different! If you’ve had a particularly good week, stayed on track and refused to let yourself be tempted, then it’s OK to allow yourself a little treat – perhaps go out for a meal, have a night in front of the TV, or allow yourself a slice of cake with your morning coffee one day. Just remember to keep everything in moderation – a ‘reward’ every night quickly reduces its appeal and your motivation.
Top Tip #5: Track your progress
It’s always nice to get a sense of achievement, so don’t let the little things pass you by on your new fitness regime. If you’re aiming to lose weight, weigh yourself at the same time every week to get a fairly accurate picture of your progress. If you’re trying to eat healthily, either keep a list of your favourite new recipes or put aside some money every time you say ‘no’ to temptation – the pile of coins will give you a good indication of how well you’re doing!
Top Tip #6: Find good reasons
Whatever your reason for starting a new, healthier lifestyle, make sure it’s a good one. You might be losing weight to look good for a special occasion, to be healthier, to enable you to live life more fully. If you’re trying to watch what you eat, you might be trying to avoid future illnesses, or to manage diabetes. The important thing is, a good reason will help you stay strong when your willpower fails; if it helps, keep a list in your bag or purse and get it out to remind you when you’re tempted to stray.
Top Tip #7: Make it social
Working out with friends is one of the best things about being more fit and active, and eating healthy meals with them can spice up even the most boring recipe. Friends can support you, empathise, and give you a pep talk when needed. If your activities incorporate social time, you’re also more likely to make time for them in your life, so you’ll keep up your new habits for longer.
Top Tip #8: Mix things up
Don’t assume there’s a one-size-fits-all approach to fitness. You might have heard that a particular exercise works wonders on tummy flab, or gives you amazing abs, but if you find it too difficult, uncomfortable, too easy or unproductive, then abandon it. Equally, don’t eat ‘healthy’ foods that you dislike, simply because they’re healthy, and don’t limit yourself to a few super-healthy meals in an attempt to find a quick fix. Variety is the spice of life, and this holds true no matter what you do.
Top Tip #9: Get rid of distractions
If you know that when you get home your first instinct is to go on social media and procrastinate, then stop yourself being tempted by keeping your computer turned off and your phone in your bag. If the kids are your worst enemy for finding time, ask your other half to entertain them for twenty minutes – or else get them involved in a family activity such as walking, cycling or trampolining.
Top Tip #10: Make it flexible
At the end of the day, this has to work for you. Not your friend at work, or your sister, or your neighbour: you. So if you’re tired, or super-busy, give yourself a night off. If you feel ill, don’t force your body to expend energy it can’t afford. Don’t commit every night a week when you know you won’t be able to – or want to – give up that much of your time. Make sure you give yourself the opportunity to do the things you love, be with the people you love, and be yourself, otherwise the whole endeavour falls down.
Keep these top tips in mind – and feel free to come back if ever you need a reminder – and you’ve got the best chance of succeeding, whatever your goal.