When you join a gym or sign up with a personal trainer, you are already committing to getting more active, increasing your fitness and leading a healthy life style. But how do you keep motivated to exercise regularly and eat healthy meals? How will you maintain the impetus to get down to the gym or out for a run?
It takes two
One of the best ways to stay motivated is to train with a friend or group of friends. If you have arranged to meet your training buddy for a workout, it is far more difficult to let someone else down and, besides, it is far more fun sweating it out with a friend than doing all the hard work alone. If one of you is wavering, the other one can be the motivator.
Involving your friends and family in your goals is also a great motivator. If you are getting support and praise for your efforts – and the changes in your fitness and health is being noticed – your self confidence and self belief will rise, and those goals will not seem so far away.
But, your support network can not always be on hand, so it is important that you have the means to motivate yourself. One of the best ways of doing this is to adapt the SMART principles of motivation to your fitness goals.
Although SMART, which helps set and achieve targets, is mainly used in business settings, its principles can be applied to any area of life and health and fitness is a prime example.
Specific – make your goals specific so you can focus on them. For example, rather than saying ‘I want to be able to increase my upper body strength’, say ‘I want to be able to do 10 wide-arm pull-ups by January,’
Measurable – your goals should be measurable. ‘I will do 45 minutes of cardio, three times a week.’
Attainable – there is no point in setting a goal that is too ambitious as it will leave you feeling disappointed and discouraged. Don’t say, ‘I’ve entered my first ever marathon, I want to run a sub-three hour.’ Instead say, “I have entered my first marathon, I will run the best time I can.”
Realistic – your goals must be realistic. If you have just started swimming, there is nothing to be gained by planning to swim the Channel in six weeks time. If you set unrealistic goals, you will never experience the pleasure of achieving them.
Time specific – set a time limit on achieving your goals. ‘By Christmas I want to be able to run five miles comfortably’. If you don’t set a time limit, your goals lose their focus.
By sticking to these principles when you set your fitness goals, you are far more likely to achieve success, but we know that self-motivation is not always easy. There will be days when you just don’t feel like going for a run, and you slump by the television instead. The key is to not beat yourself up, but just adjust things slightly. If you eat more calories than you planned to, then eat a few less over the next few days to get yourself back on track. If you skipped a bike ride, go for one on your rest day. When it comes to fitness, it is important to realise that the goals and rules are not immovable.