So, you’ve decided to take the first steps to living a healthier lifestyle, huh?
You bought the new sneakers, the cute new workout outfits and a matching water bottle.
You even went to spin class two weeks in a row and threw away all those half-eaten bags of Cheetos in the cabinet.
Unfortunately, the hard part is just beginning.
If it were easy to stay motivated to stick to fitness and dietary goals, then we would all be walking around looking like Dwayne Johnson and Julianne Hough.
More often than not, people will start a fitness plan and stop due to boredom, lack of results or unhappiness.
Everything from starting a workout routine, eating well and finding time for relaxing requires habit formation in our daily lives.
It takes discipline and hard work to develop and maintain new behaviors.
And though it’s obvious that they will lead to success, why are they hard to adopt?
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU Adapt a NEW Behavior
When trying to cultivate a new habit, psychology tells us that we go through a series of “stages.”
Similar to the famous Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change(1), Tom Bartow, a highly sought-after business coach and elite trainer, developed a model of what he believes habit formation looks like.
Phase 1: The Honeymoon
This is the beginning step of “oh, this will be a breeze!”
You know, when you make sure your ponytail looks just right before marching through the gym door ready to kill leg day.
Typically, this phase occurs after something inspirational.
For example, you watched a motivating documentary about the benefits of clean eating.
And next thing you know you find yourself walking through the local farmer’s market with a basket full of arugula.
Regrettably, this phase doesn’t last forever.
Phase 2: The Fight Thru
As reality begins to set in and the excitement starts to fade, people may start to find that choosing kale over cookies becomes more and more difficult.
Bartow believes that the trick to moving into the third phase is to win 2 – 3 “fight-thrus”, and he suggests the following techniques:
Recognize: Acknowledge that you’re going through a difficult time, don’t try and push it off.
Say to yourself, “This is going to be a challenge, but I just need to win this, and it will get easier.”
Ask 2 Questions: “How will I feel if I do this?” and “How will I feel if I don’t do this?” It’s okay to bring emotion into it!
Allowing yourself to feel proud of winning the fight-thru and feeling disappointed if you lose, will help you the next time you’re in a situation.
However, remember if you do lose, don’t beat yourself up.
Instead, pick yourself up and get back on track.
Life Projection: Think about where you want to be in 5 – 10 years and imagine how it will be if you do not start making changes.
Be honest with yourself and use it as your inspiration.
Phase 3: Second Nature
This phase means an individual has “gotten into the groove.”
The habit change requires little effort and is simply a part of your everyday life. There are three common interruptions that will send an individual to return to Phase 2.
The Discouragement Monster: “I’m not seeing results. This isn’t even working!”
Probably one of the most common damaging feelings for anyone who is working towards a fitness goal.
Don’t let negative thoughts take over! Remember this is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s going to take hard work and dedication, but you CAN do it.
Disruptions: Life can get busy. Changes to everyday patterns such as vacations or illness can cause someone to veer off track. Remember to plan ahead and keep your eye on the goal!
Seduction of Success: An individual may begin to focus on positive results and fall into the “I’m the special one.
I have finally figured out how to have great results with not so great process” mindset.
This can lead to the assumption that bad practices can still yield results.
THE 8 WAYS YOU CAN STAY SUPER MOTIVATED
There are plenty of ways to ensure that you reach and REMAIN in phase 3 of your desired behavior change.
The most important thing to do is stay inspired, driven and excited.
1. Find a Fitness Buddy
By adding a social element to your routine, it makes it a lot more fun and it holds you accountable!
You’re less likely to skip the gym if you have someone waiting for you.
You can also have “meal prep parties” where you can prep some meals for the week together – makes a daunting task a lot more enjoyable.
2. Set Goals
By setting manageable goals, it will make the process more rewarding.
Maybe your long-term goal is to run a marathon or lose 45 pounds, but those won’t be goals you can accomplish overnight.
Instead, set smaller goals with clear milestones.
3. Reward Yourself
Once a week, allow yourself a cheat meal. By letting yourself indulge on occasion, you can use this as your motivation for the rest of the week.
4. Get the Jams Ready to Go
Science shows that music is a great motivator, especially when it comes to staying active.
Create a playlist with your favorite songs and harness the power of music during your next workout session.
5. Surround Yourself with Positivity & Encouragement
Follow fitness blogs and accounts to see what others are up to!
The point is not to compare yourself to everyone else but instead, to get inspired by others who are on a similar journey.
6. Keep Track of Yourself
Grab a journal at the dollar store and start writing down the story of your journey.
You can use this for a number of purposes.
Maybe you have part of your journal be a food log where you can track your nutritional goals.
Part of it could be a motivational area where you can write down inspirational quotes or mantras to refer to on days you are feeling down.
Or use it to keep track of your weight and lifting goals to see how much progress you’ve made.
7. Schedule Your Time
Schedule a regular workout time.
Whether that be before the sun comes up or once the crickets are chirping, having a set time carved out of your schedule to dedicate to physical activity will help you stick to it!
Same goes for meals. Plan for once or twice a week where you can set aside to do some food shopping and meal preparation.
8. Have Fun
This is the most important motivator. If you love what you’re doing, you will want to do it every day.
If sports are your thing, join a local volleyball league or indoor soccer team.
If hand-eye coordination isn’t your forte, check out your local athletic facility for gym membership options or group classes.
Fitness doesn’t have to be boring, enjoy it! 🙂