Right, so you’ve made the first step and you joined a gym in 2018 and you’ve said this is the year! The year you finally get fit, lose weight, become happy and basically sort your sh*t out once and for all.
But now it’s February and you realise you actually HATE exercise, vegetables and your starting to convince yourself you were actually pretty happy being lazy.
Whhhyyyy did this happen again!? Last month you were ready to change your life and now, well now you’ve forgotten where that motivation even came from?
And that’s the trick! Motivation for many can be finite and fleeting. Motivation is great for getting you out of bed before work to go for that run, but to do it over and over again, you need something more! You need a habit!
Habit’s form when we regularly stick to a routine and that routine gives us a reward. This reward could be either or both an internal or an external reward. For example, go to the gym twice a week (routine), allow myself a treat on the weekend (external reward). Or go to the gym twice per week (routine), notice how good you feel after training (internal reward). Over time if you can associate a routine with a reward and stick to it, it will ingrain itself into your brain and lifestyle.
Do you brush your teeth in the morning (I hope so!), but do you do it due to a habit or because you really want to brush your teeth? Have you built up a routine from early childhood that is so ingrained in your psyche that you now know no other way?
So, getting back to you and your “new year, new me” gig. Yes, it is possible to change your behaviours (habits) and become a shadow of your former self but you must be realistic. Nothing happens over night and if you rely on the motivation of looking great or losing weight then you might find it’s hard to keep going. Physical changes take a lot of time and work to achieve so if this is your source of motivation and you don’t get there in a few weeks then the motivation may very well fade. But if you focus on creating positive habits and acknowledging the reward that comes from that habit/routine then you are setting yourself up on a path for success!
If your goal is to look & feel better then let’s break that down. What do you need to really do this?
1: Ok you need some regular exercise. Try to attend a new fitness class twice a week and bring a friend. The reward for this routine is you get to hang out with your friend! On the weekend why not go for a morning swim or gym session and afterwards treat yourself to a nice coffee on the way home. Routine = Morning training, Reward = Coffee and chill out. If you could work on these routines for one whole month they will start to become second nature.
Now once you are doing these things without much effort or motivation needed then it’s time to work on something else!
2: You need to look at your diet. Many people will clear out all the cupboards and replace them with all the veg and fruit known to man! Great, good start…but now you gotta cook and eat this new grub every day, not so easy.
Instead don’t change everything. Why not work on a new breakfast for the next 30 days. Find 2/3 new recipes you can easily prep or make to simplify the process. After a month of these new breakfasts you can then move onto trying out some new lunches (again just keep it to 2/3 new types at first). By getting used to just a few new meals over a month you not only get really efficient at making these but you create a manageable routine to stick to! But don’t forget a reward. Eg Cook a new breakfast Monday-Friday, on Saturday/Sunday you treat yourself to a healthy breakfast out with friends.
In conclusion, small repeated steps will make big changes in your life. Doing too much at once will more than likely lead to failure and have you back where you started. Think of health and fitness as a journey, not a destination. By trying to make positive choices more than negative choices you are steering the ship in the right direction. As these positive choices are made again and again then eventually you might find the ship is now on auto pilot and you may not even remember where you set sail from!