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7 Simple steps to make those well-intentioned resolutions stick well into the spring, and beyond…

 

7 steps to make the most of your new-year exercise motivation. Photo Lina Markkanen www.linamarkkanen.com
7 steps to make the most of your new-year exercise motivation (photo: Lina Markkanen Photography – www.linamarkkanen.com)

We are all motivated and enthusiastic for some healthy lifestyle changes after the Christmas and New Year celebrations have been and gone. And the start of a new calendar often inspires us to “get fit”, “lose weight”, “be healthier”, “do some exercise” etc. This is all well and good, but, from experience I know only too well that this motivation and drive to improve ourselves is unfortunately often short-lived, or not even translated into action at all.

In this blog I want to quickly introduce and highlight some key personal, social and environmental influences which you can consider when planning to start exercise, and or when you want to re-start, change, adapt or adopt some new training and activities.

So, here are my simple tips to make the most of this New Year enthusiasm for health and fitness, and ensure that your healthy new lifestyle lasts beyond January, and hopefully becomes the norm for the long term.

 

  1. Be realistic and honest with yourself!!!

Don’t be stupid or unrealistic about your lifestyle’s capacity to accommodate new activities and priorities, and be realistic about your capabilities. The main thing is that you actually start some new health and fitness stuff, and that you actually do it!

If you are trying something for the first time, exercise for example, start simple, and then build up from there; it only takes a couple of weeks to form some good habits – going to the gym at set times, taking part in a fitness class, going for walks or runs etc. – and then, once you’ve set those habits into your lifestyle, you can begin to change and adapt the actual activity you do.

START SIMPLE THEN PROGRESS: Don’t blindly jump straight into the deep end and risk drowning… walk steadily from the shallow-end and enjoy the experience, remember, you’re in this for the long-run J

  1. Do what you enjoy doing!

When it comes to physical activity, exercise and training, seriously think about what you would want to do… what do you enjoy? The options for healthy physical activity are endless; doing “exercise” doesn’t just mean joining a gym and pounding the treadmill. Think about your own personality and what floats your boat…

  • Do you procrastinate? If so minimize the possible barriers and therefore excuses.
  • Do you like to do stuff indoors or outdoors?
  • Are you a morning or evening person?
  • Do you thrive in a competitive environment?
  • Do you like to play individual or team sports?
  • Are you artistic – do you like to dance?
  • Do you want to combine your activity with relaxation or stimulation?
  • Are you a solitary soul, or a social animal???

Which brings me on to the next point…

 

  1. Do it together…

Everything is more enjoyable when you experience it with someone else. Also, when you do stuff with a partner or group, you can keep each other motivated and encourage each other when one of you is beginning to lose the enthusiasm.

Doing stuff with other people – or social support – acts in two key ways; 1. You get social facilitation when you are actually doing stuff, that means you are encouraged and motivated to do the best you can by the group or partner. 2. You get social reinforcement in the longer term, which means you are encouraged to continue and adhere to your new activities, and you are also enthused to progress and maintain healthy habits by receiving and giving mutual support and encouragement.

 

  1. Aim for a goal… actually, aim for several goals: short, medium and long term…

Doing anything in life is much easier and rewarding if you can focus on a goal to achieve. This is even truer when you consider health, fitness and physical performance.

Follow the SMART principles for setting yourself some goals:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time constrained

There are loads of things to say about goal setting, but here are my key pieces of advice for you:

  • Always have the ultimate long-term goal in the back of your mind, this helps give everything perspective, and meaning.
  • Aim for ACTION goals, rather than OUTCOME goals… This means you strive to perform (lift a certain weight, run a certain distance etc.), rather than strive to become something (lose weight).
  • The longer term the goal, the more specific: This means that goals need to flexible in the short term to maintain motivation, but more specific and concrete in the long term to provide a definite target to aim for.
  • Your goals need to be REALISTIC, ACHIEVABLE, yet CHALLENGING!
  • The goal should MEAN SOMETHING! In relation to your ultimate health and fitness desires.
  • Have a clear and defined time-frame – a programme (in one month’s time I will…, by this time next year I will be able to…)
  • Goals and aims should be OBJECTIVE and not abstract (I will stop…, I will start. NOT, I will be healthier, I will lose weight)
  1. Don’t let yourself forget the why, how and when…

Quite simply, keep reminding yourself of your goals, your intentions, your desire to change, how you’re going to achieve it, and when. You can do this by simply utilising the environment around you. For example, leave notes and reminders and some motivational words in prominent places you visit each day, such as the fridge door, your desk, or your computer screen. If you have an aesthetic goal or an inspirational fitness role model, get some pictures up in places you will see them when your enthusiasm may be waning, and, if you do join a gym or a club try and join one which is convenient, and if possible one which you pass on your daily commute.

  1. Be prepared to fail on the way to succeeding

Your journey on the way to your long term goal will consist of good days and bad days, you will progress and you will regress. The key is that the general trend is progression. Don’t let one bad day, one bout of illness, one missed training session de-motivate you. Even the best athletes in the world have bad days, lazy days and illness. Again, I repeat, you’re in this for the long run!

  1. Don’t be afraid to… ask for help…

There are many experienced amateurs and professionals out there who would be more than willing and able to answer any questions you have, and help you make the most of your energy and time. Don’t feel alone in your quest for health and fitness, just ask for help. And, like I said above in point 2, if you feel alone…join a group, especially if you know you are a social animal and you enjoy some interaction and being in a group situation.

 

And finally…

DO NOT “GO ON A DIET”!!!!

Just eat healthily, eat fresh, keep active, and live sensibly, now and for life.

All the best for 2015! :)

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