New Year’s resolutions are easy to make, but can be hard to sustain. Here’s how to stay motivated throughout the year and beyond. Words Tayana Leonov.
For many, a new year is a time to make resolutions. Fitness goals are set and healthy eating plans are implemented... but how many of us are still sticking with it when January ends and work is back in full swing? Research by The University of Sydney reveals that 88 per cent of goals set are not followed through. If 2015 is your year to be part of the other 12 per cent, read on.
Setting up the mind
Everyone knows the multitude of benefits exercise has on the body, but the majority of people still find it difficult to stick to a regular regime. Wellness coach Emily Holmes at conscious-foodie.com says it’s often a matter of self- love. “We must want to move our bodies because we love ourselves enough to do so,” she explains.
“Fitness isn’t punishment, it’s a blessing. Once we shift our attitude and move our bodies because it makes us feel good, rather than moving our bodies because we want to punish ourselves to look a certain way, the struggle disappears and motivation is abundant.”
Fernwood Angel Susan Santoro also emphasises the mental health benefits of exercise: “Exercise gets our blood and lymph moving and helps set off our feel-good endorphins,” she explains. “And when it comes to mindset there is nothing more effective than getting out of a bad mood by exercising and changing your state of mind.”
New member Maigi Hussar joined Fernwood Tuggeranong to work on both her physical and mental health. “To motivate myself I think of the awesome feeling of achievement after the workout session, and the energy it will give me,” she says, citing changing up classes as something she does often. Although this may sound simple, it’s one of the key factors to maintaining motivation.
Exercise scientists at the University of Florida found that individuals who modified their workout every two weeks over an eight-week period enjoyed their workout more and were more inclined to stick with it when compared to those who performed the same exercise program week in, week out.
By adding an element of variety to your fitness regime, you maintain a level of excitement. It doesn’t have to be a huge change – if you attend group classes you might change to one or two sessions a week with a personal trainer, or if you usually work out at night you might throw in some morning sessions.
Santoro explains that any type of movement – even if it’s occasional – is still better for you than no exercise. “Fitting
in a short class at lunch, or catching up with a friend and going for a walk is still going to improve your mental state, self-esteem and your energy. It’s amazing how every little bit adds up: taking the stairs, walking to the train station or doing something active with the kids always counts,” she says.
Riding the waves
Motivation waves are natural and occur for a variety of reasons. If you know and understand this – and start the new year with realistic expectations – you’re more likely to stick with activities and routines that will help you achieve your goals. “Overcoming motivational waves is about understanding them, accepting them and working through them when they arise,” Santoro says.
Motivational waves can occur when your immune system is down, or if you’re feeling fatigued or sore. “Phases of lost motivation
are probably inevitable,” explains Mandy Schippers, behavioural scientist and founder of strategicdieting.com. “Persisting through
the waves without dealing with the underlying cause is just postponing the inevitable jump off the band wagon. Dealing with the causes of lost motivation will get you back on track. This is what distinguishes long-term success stories from short-lived ones.”
Santoro describes working with her clients and helping them reconnect to their own truth and the real reasons behind what they want – for their lives, their health and their bodies. “Often when you can help a client uncover their beliefs and any internal sabotages, we can overcome the dip with awareness and insight,” she says.
Strategies for success
Awareness and insight are key factors in developing a success strategy, and when setting goals it’s important to understand why you are setting them and develop a plan that will see you reach your expectations. Goals provide a road map to your fitness vision and it’s imperative that you set the right goals so you don’t get lost along the way.
Instead of setting an unrealistic goal (for example, losing a large amount of weight in a short period of time, or never eating dessert again), create a plan that’s realistic and enjoyable.
“Start with small goals to get you moving, rather than committing to a whole new training and food plan and have an all-or-nothing attitude,” Santoro recommends. “Perhaps make contact with a personal trainer for extra help, or set a time to go for a walk with a friend (and actually go for the walk!), or have a side salad with some protein instead of the fried chips.”
From there you might aim for bigger goals, and it helps if your resolutions are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-specific). This will allow you to monitor your weaknesses and strengths and work out where you might be lacking in motivation, which in turn will give you the ability to turn that around or seek professional advice.
Maintaining a regular fitness schedule isn’t always easy, so it’s helpful to look at ways that will help you stick to your goals. This might include working out with a friend (many studies demonstrate that you’re less likely to skip a workout if you’re meeting someone), keeping a training log, consulting a personal trainer or mixing up your class routines. “I really enjoy Body Attack and Body Pump, but to mix it up I try to balance cardio and resistance workouts, and every now and then I do yoga, Body Balance, CXWORX and others,” explains Hussar. “I find this helps keep things interesting.”
Remember: success is not about the goals you set, but achieving a healthy lifestyle. When her clients are feeling unmotivated or lack the incentive to even come up with goals, Santoro simply asks them how they want to feel on a day-to-day basis and what they actually want. “This usually helps my clients identify what type of lifestyle they want,” she says. “And by committing to the feeling that the goal will give you and the lifestyle that comes with it... that’s often more inspiring than achieving the ‘thing’ itself.”