Tell me if this sounds familiar: “My bathing suit is telling me, ‘Get off the couch and get yourself in that gym.’ But my sweatpants are like, ‘Come on in, there’s plenty of room!’”
The winter months can be some of the most difficult to find motivation. We naturally want to hibernate, stay warm, drink Gluhwein, enjoy the crackling fire, and use every excuse in the book to stay on the couch. Be honest, which one of these sounded like you this winter: “It’s too cold,” “It’s dark and rainy,” “But these sweatpants are so comfy!” “But I have so much catching up to do on Netflix,” or “It’s so warm under these blankets”?
Waking up every morning to darkness can be a bit depressing and definitely ruin any chance to make good on those New Year’s resolutions. Don’t worry, you are not alone. A 2014 study by the University of Scranton suggests only 8 percent of people actually achieve their New Year’s goals.
Luckily, daylight saving time gives us more daylight and temperatures are on the rise. Spring is a season for new beginnings, and that’s not just for blooming flowers. You can have a new beginning too! If you’re still struggling and those sweatpants still feel “oh so good,” the following tips can get you back on track and keep you motivated.
Let’s be serious. No one is expecting you to get up on Monday morning and run 10 miles or lift heavy weights. You shouldn’t expect that either. One of the biggest reasons people trade in sweating at the gym for sweating in front of the fireplace is because they go too hard too soon. If you haven’t been doing anything at all, make it a priority to simply get yourself moving. Once you’re off the couch, you can move on to the next tip.
Set specific goals.
We’ve all heard the statement “failure to plan is planning to fail.” But have you ever heard “begin with the end in mind”? Now is the time to decide what kind of results you want. Do you want to lose weight, or are you simply interested in getting more active? Do you want to get out of the house a few times a week, or do you want to try a new activity such as yoga or spinning? Knowing what you want to get out of your efforts for a lifestyle change can make a world of difference. It’s not enough to just say “I want to lose weight.” Setting specific, realistic goals will motivate you and create a path to success. For example, “I want to exercise 3 days a week for 30 minutes” is a specific and realistic goal.
Knowledge is power.
There’s a reason for the small print on TV and in magazines telling you to consult your doctor before making any major changes to your diet or exercise routine. Knowledge is power, and that definitely applies to changing your lifestyle. Moving more and eating less junk food is a great start, but how do you know you’re actually on the right path? If you’re planning to start walking, do your research. You may need to replace those sneakers that have been sitting in your closet. How often should you exercise if you want to lose weight? What should you eat to feel better and have energy? If you’re planning to cut out certain foods from your diet, such as red meat, or want to try a new diet, vegetarian, vegan, etc., learn what you need to be aware of and what kind of effects it will have on your body.
Schedule, time manage and plan.
A 2015 Harvard Business School study revealed that people who make goals are 10 times more successful than those without goals. The study recommended smaller, well-organized milestones can make everything less overwhelming. Whether you want to use a calendar as a guide or a notebook to keep track of your progress, use tools to stay on track.
As long as you’re making goals, let’s talk about your plan to reach these goals. Many people feel like they need a personal trainer to get results. While personal trainers can be effective, they can also be costly and are not always the kind of motivation we’re looking for. If you’d rather not go that route or that’s not what your goals entail, there are plenty of other ways to plan for success. If your goal is to get outside more, schedule time to walk the dog or go for a walk with your spouse or children. If you want to try a new class at the gym, figure out where it fits into your schedule.
What if you look at your schedule and feel like you don’t have a moment to spare? Get creative! Use the last
15 minutes of your lunch break to take a quick walk. Park the car far away from the door at the office or take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Bring your family.
Recruit your partner and/or children to get active with you. A 2013 study from ExerciseFriends.com showed that finding a partner to hold you accountable for your activity raises success rates to over 95 percent. Do yourself a favor: grab your partner and/or children and get started. Even if neither of you are ready to go running or lift weights, you can go for a walk, ride a bike or learn a new sport. This is also possible in times of social distancing. Follow the security rules, keep your distance and nothing can keep you from working out together in the outdoors.
Changes in lifestyle and habit can be daunting, especially if you dread anything or everything that has to do with exercise or the gym. If you’re buying new shoes, get ones you love. Make a killer playlist to listen to while you’re doing whatever activity you choose. Buy a fun printed T-shirt — my favorite: “Shh, don’t tell anybody but I’m training to be Batman” — to make you smile. When you’re having fun, you’re more likely to stick to your goals.
Make good choices.
Food is your friend. That’s right, I said it. But as much as we might love to scarf down pizza every night, set a goal to try something new. Start small. Pick one night a week when you’re not only going to eat a healthy meal but also make something new so you actually see what ingredients go into your food. Too often people assume that if they want to change their lifestyle they must restrict their favorite foods. This is absolutely not true. Much like making a plan, educating yourself about food is just as important.
My husband and I say to each other, “Abs are made in the kitchen.” While neither of us have six-pack abs, we repeat this mantra to each other when we know we’re making poor food choices. Although we don’t restrict our diets — everything in moderation is ok and I don’t want to live in a world without nachos — this little saying helps us choose a healthier option for a snack or meal because we know we’ll feel better. When you eat healthier, you feel healthier.
Give yourself a chance and stay positive.
You may be familiar with the 21-day rule, which is that it takes a minimum of 21 days to form a new habit, but it turns out it could take a bit longer. A 2014 study published by the European Journal of Social Psychology examined the habits of 96 people over a 12-week period. Results show it can take about two months before a new behavior becomes automatic. What this means is that you have to be patient and forgiving. If you do go to the gym, remember why you’re there: for you, your health and your well-being. Don’t compare yourself to anyone. Everyone has to start somewhere.
Remember, you are going to have days where you just don’t want to do anything. You are going to have setbacks. If you miss out one day, make sure you get back into it the next. Above all, stay positive! Don’t get discouraged because you can’t do it all, all the time, all at once. Life happens. Be flexible and be proud you are doing something to improve your health!