By Alex Katz, Fitness and Confidence Coach
This year started off great – you were ready to hit the gym, start that new diet, and become a new you.
But now the year is almost over and life has been turned upside down because of a seemingly endless global pandemic, and you’re probably struggling to find the motivation to work towards those 2020 goals.
The problem with motivation
The issue is that you can’t always rely on motivation to pull you through tough times. Whether because of a pandemic, or normal stressors like a busy work schedule or family obligations, motivation levels can decrease. But that’s when habits save the day.
Thanks to “neural plasticity,” you can train your brain just like a muscle and develop consistent habits to help you reach your goals, even when you lack motivation. Here’s how:
Become aware of your current habits before you take action
Notice how you spend your time, the amount of water, sleep, nutrient dense food and movement in your day, and how stress and boredom impact your habits. Figure out which habits work well for you and how you got them to stick. Remind yourself that you are in control of your habits, not the other way around.
Focus on the PROCESS, not the outcome
We set ourselves up for failure when we measure success solely by the final goal, such as how our clothes fit or the number on the scale.
Fear of not reaching your goal fast enough and craving instant gratification can cause you to self-sabotage a process that works, in exchange for a “quick fix” that lacks lasting results.
Instead, focus on the process of habit and lifestyle changes for better results. This can be as simple as adding more movement and stress-relief into your day. You can measure daily progress by increases in energy levels, cardio, sleep and strength. Remember that not getting the result you want isn’t a reflection of your abilities; it’s a reflection of your process.
Make small, sustainable changes to build a strong foundation
Instead of “go big or go home” thinking, start small and stay consistent. Building sustainable habits works the same way as building a house. A strong foundation is important. The goal may be a three-storey house, but you need a strong foundation before you add floors. If your foundation is weak, the house may crumble.
Rather than eliminating foods, try adding more vegetables to your plate. Instead of going from zero to seven days of working out a week, try starting with one or two, or get creative with different ways to add in movement throughout your day. Set alarms for dance parties or 5-minute movement breaks.
Think about habits like weather and climate
Even places that have a warm and sunny climate need rain sometimes. Just because the weather forecast for today indicates rain, that doesn’t mean the climate has changed. Consistency is key to making habits stick, so be as consistent as possible, but don’t give up just because one or two rainy days made you feel like you fell off track.
Cut the comparison
Do you feel like everyone else is making progress except you? That probably made you wonder what you’re doing wrong and abandon your plan.
Following someone else’s diet and workout plan does NOT mean you will get the same results because there are too many other variables. You may have the same goal, but you are not running the same race and your progress will not look the same.
Focus on small “wins” and allow yourself to get excited by them!
Excitement triggers your brain to release dopamine, which makes you want to do more of whatever caused the excitement. Getting excited over the smallest progress allows your brain to elicit neurological signals that tell you to keep going and stay consistent, which ultimately forms habits that will get you to your goal.
Be intentional with how you measure progress!
How you decide to measure progress will determine how much progress you make. If your goal is to work out 7 days a week and you only did 3, instead of feeling like you failed, remind yourself that working out 3 out of 7 days is still 3 more days of exercise than you did last week. Progress is still progress, so keep going!
You define your wins, and no win is too small. Adding a vegetable to your plate, drinking one more glass of water, or reframing a negative thought are all wins! Remember that you are in control. You got this!
This contribution was created in partnership with FITposium, an annual educational and inspirational seminar focused on success in the fitness modelling and entrepreneurial industry. Held in Arizona in the US, this workshop features a variety of sessions to prepare fitness talents with everything they need to know to enter the market and succeed. For more info about FITposium, visit fitposium.com.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.