As we approach the intersection of “out with the old and in with the new,” thoughts turn to resolutions. Resolutions can point you in a new direction and give you a renewed sense of purpose, but if they are not well thought out, they might instead be torturous and defeating. An estimated 80 percent of people abandon their New Year’s resolutions by February, due in large part to inconsistency.
Consistency is one of the hardest elements to master when trying to change or create a habit, especially as it relates to fitness: When goals are too ambitious or too vague, you quickly lose momentum. Here are six ways to duke it out with your former self, retrain your brain and build a lasting habit of consistency.
1. Size Matters.
Setting a large goal is great, but the best way to reach that goal is by formulating several smaller goals that give you little wins along the way. For example, losing 10 pounds in a month — large goal — versus vowing to stretch for five minutes after each workout — small goal. Ten pounds is not an awful lot of weight to lose, but to achieve it within the time frame you’ve given yourself, you’ll have to change so many aspects of your life all at once — training, nutrition, accountability — it might be overwhelming. So yes, give yourself a lofty goal, but take baby steps to get there.
2. Cue Your Day.
According to a study published in Health Psychology, the most consistent exercisers were those who were triggered by a specific cue, such as hearing a morning alarm and then getting up automatically and going to the gym. Using a cue eliminates any deliberation or decision-making, and if you repeat it enough times, the behavior becomes automatic. Other cues to consider: scheduling to meet a friend for an exercise class or setting an alarm on your smartwatch or phone to remind you to get moving during the day.
3. Accept Imperfection.
We are human and mistakes will happen. If you can’t get to the gym because work ran late or you noshed two doughnuts in the break room, then find a way to exercise at home for 30 minutes after work or have a healthy dinner later — and give yourself credit for that. Rise above that feeling of defeat and remember your purpose, and you’ll be more likely to get back on track the next day.
4. Trust the Process.
We as a society tend to lean toward behaviors that reward us instantly, but you have to be patient. It took you years to become de-conditioned or to gain 25 pounds, and you won’t bounce back immediately. It will happen for you — maybe not tomorrow, but it will happen if you are consistent.
5. Make it Fun.
Research published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine found that exercise that was enjoyable made people come back more often to exercise than activities that were considered a drag. Everyone is different and will be inspired by different types of movement, so try everything and don’t settle until you find something you love.
6. Feel the Feels — and Remember Them.
Exercise is associated with positive physical and mental feelings, and even a few days of skipped activity can interfere with motivation and stress levels. Remember those feel-good sensations and sense of accomplishment on days when you’re not motivated to exercise — then just do it. As soon as you get moving, you’ll feel better and will most likely continue.