By this time of year, many people start to slack on the healthy lifestyle changes they swore to on Jan. 1. Why do people who start out with such good intentions quit so early in the game? Maintaining a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be thrown out the window due to the amount of effort it demands — turns out there are some easy ways to keep yourself on track.
It may seem cliché, but it’s imperative that you set a clear goal from the get-go. Use the acronym SMART — specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely — to help you define your goal. Do you want to lose 10 pounds? Lower your blood pressure? Beat your best friend in a 5K race? Define what you want to get out of your exercise routine, whether that’s losing weight or simply feeling healthy. Without a goal, it’s easy to veer from your plan.
What are you going to do to achieve your goal? If you want to lose weight, try to keep a food and fitness journal to plan your meals and workouts ahead of time and to keep track of your progress as you go. If you’re training for an event like a 5K, set a daily or weekly schedule to work up to the final goal. Whether you go week by week or day by day, you can always look back at your game plan to keep your healthy lifestyle on track. A game plan will ensure you know exactly what you need to do to achieve your goal.
Find a way to motivate yourself to achieve the small milestones. Remember, you don’t win a Super Bowl in the first game of the season. You’ll have to get a first down, score a touchdown and win each game to get there. Looking at feedback along your journey helps create a sense of progress and achievement along the way. Running a full 5K may seem a long way off when you start out, but if you can look back week by week and see your mileage improve, you’ll start to see how your hard work is paying off. There are many apps and wearable fitness devices that can help track your progress, so you can look back each week and see how far you’ve come. For some people, even something as small as using a checklist provides some extra motivation as it gives the sense of being closer to the ultimate goal.
Using game mechanics in a “non-game” — that is, an exercise environment — will motivate you to get things done and engage you in the process. When the payoff seems far away, gamification will motivate you to continue working toward your end goal. Fitness trackers like MYZONE, a heart rate monitor that rewards you with points for exercising, are a great resource for gamification. For those who don’t want to use a fitness tracker, there are other ways to gamify your workout. For example, posting your accomplishments on your wall at home and checking off everything you have achieved will let you know when it’s time to reward yourself for all your hard work. You can also try challenging a friend or family member to complete a certain number of workouts a month or run a certain number of miles per week. If one person doesn’t meet the goal, they owe the other person something — maybe cooking your favorite meal or doing your least favorite household chore.
Celebrating shouldn’t happen just for the big accomplishments. Honoring the small wins is a big motivator that will make you feel like you’re progressing toward your larger goals. Reaching milestones, like exercising three times in a week, or hitting the gym two weeks in row, merits a celebration. Choose something that will be truly rewarding for you, whether it’s allowing yourself a cheat meal when you’re out to dinner with a friend, or spending one of your exercise days at the beach. As you progress, you’ll notice you look forward to earning your rewards as you work toward your next milestone.
Recognition is a powerful motivator. When you accomplish something you’re excited about, don’t be afraid to share it with your friends, your family and your co-workers. Posting your accomplishments on social media allows your friends and family to hold you accountable for continuing on your healthy lifestyle journey and also lets the people in your life celebrate with you when you reach your milestones. If you’re not ready to post on your social media pages, do it the old-fashioned way and post on the wall at work or even just in your kitchen at home.
Regardless of your healthy living plan, these six tips will ensure that you stay motivated to keep up your new lifestyle.