As we continue to ‘stay home’ during Covid 19 a number of my clients have raised concerns about their fitness journey. Maybe you were in a great place already with your fitness and are worried about maintaining it, or maybe you realised you want to start creating a new routine. Either way the following tips will keep you on track;
Understand your Why
The first step is to understand your why. Dig deep on your motivation to work out. As I see my clients dig deep it can be fascinating to see the deeper why come to the surface. Recently, a client told me she wanted to start exercising as she wanted to lose weight. As we towed and freed on it, the ‘why’ that emerged was not what she expected;
Me; Why is that important to you?
Client; I want to be fitter
Me: Why is that important to you?
Client; My children are getting older and more active and I want to be able to keep up.
Me; Why is that important to you?
Client; When I was growing up my parents couldn’t keep up with us. I don’t want that for my children.
Ah, as we kept digging the true underlying reason came to the surface. So, if you are struggling to get into the habit of exercising each day and you dig deep to find your true why, that is going to have much more power and success, than I want to lose weight.
Set goals using the Goldilocks Principle
No, you don’t have to have porridge for breakfast…it’s a little deeper than that.
This is psychological term, the Goldilock effect or principle, which refers to an infant’s preference for things that are neither too simple nor too complex….remember, not too hot, not too cold, just right. The same applies to our minds. You want to set goals that are challenging but not unattainable. You want a stretch goal but not to set yourself up for failure. Research shows that we perform at our best when challenged, within reason.
P.S. No ‘ I should’ goals. Own it, I am….I will….All goals set should be your own!
Staggered Goal Milestones
If your goal is going to take some time to complete it is key to set staggered milestones. This will help you stay the course along the way. If you are hoping to run a 10k and are new to running this could take up to three months to achieve. What milestones could you set along the way? Week 1 your goal could be ‘I will get outside and run three times’ with a walk / run approach. Week 2 your goal ‘ I will run 1k without stopping’ and then continue with your walk / run approach. Week 6 could be ‘I will run a 5k without stopping’.
If you start with a goal of running 10k, with no milestones, it can be easy to feel like your goal is unattainable. These staggered milestones will help you stay on track to reach your longer term goals.
Now that you have set the goal, and understand your why you need to stop planning and start doing. This means you schedule the habits which need to take place to achieve your goals. If you want to run 10k in 12 weeks you need to be running 3 times a week (follow a good plan if you are new to running) or if you want to set a personal best on a deadlift you need to be lifting a number of times a week, with progress strength gains.
Make sure the implementation is sustainable. There is no point in saying you are going to get up an hour earlier each day to workout if you are already getting limited sleep. Would it be more realistic to plan a run at your lunch time? If you’re a night owl maybe your workout is later in the day. You will find through trial and error that habits that are most ecological for your lifestyle.
Reframe the situation…and change the language
How we interpret a situation is largely down to how they’re framed; in other words, the context. Changing the language you use to describe a situation can have a powerful effect on our interpretation of an event.
How many of us have used the phrase ‘I have to work out’? What happens when you change this phrase to I get to work out? If you have ever been injured before think back to the feeling of not being able to work out, and how much you wanted to.
Imagine jumping out of bed tomorrow excited about doing your morning exercise. You have the power to make this a reality with the way you talk to yourself and the words you use. As you go to sleep try visualising the great night sleep you are going to have, the energy and enthusiasm you will have in the morning, and how you will feel during and after your workout.
When we complete tasks that are challenging for us the sense of achievement and accomplishment builds momentum to take on more challenges.
It will take some self awareness to identify when you are using these phrases but a little attention and small changes will bring great benefits.
As Charles Darwin says “it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”
For those with a regular workout routine one the biggest challenges is not being able to do your previous work outs. If you are used to lifting weights in the gym, it is probably closed. Or you are used to long bike rides but are restricted to your 5k exercise limit (at least in Ireland).
This is where being adaptable is key. You might not be able to do your exact workout but it doesn’t mean that you cannot work out. So many trainers and gyms are offering excellent online sessions, or maybe its an opportunity to try something new!
Create an environment that sets you up for success…reduce friction
Given our current situation there are so many reasons or excuses we use to justify not working out today. It’s your responsibility to create an environment that sets you up for success and reduces the friction.
If like me you hate the cold in the morning you can plan to put the heat on before you have to get out of bed, and leave your clothes on the radiator so as they are nice and warm. While this won’t change the temperature outside it will help me jump out of bed and get ready. Now what’s the likelihood that I won’t go on the run now that I am up and dressed?
What friction can you reduce to make it more likely you will work out?
Hold yourself accountable…..
Nobody knows better than you what actions help you best manage your physical and mental health. Whether this is meditation, journalling, making social connects, exercise, or adding an extra hours sleep. We all know that we often make choices that are not in our best interest. We know going for a walk in nature will be beneficial, but we remain on the couch scrolling social media or watching Netflix. We’re all guilty of this on occasion.
Those things will be there when you get back from your walk. Now is the time to hold yourself accountable for taking the actions you know will be helpful. If you are struggling to do this find an accountability buddy. Share daily actions you are committed to making with a friend and check in with each other to stay on track.
Ask for help
Celebrate every success along the way
You don’t need to wait to achieve the big goal before you celebrate. As discussed in the setting staggered goal milestones, each and every one should be celebrated.
One of the keys to building consistent habits is tracking. The practise of monitoring the small things you do every single day helps you progress towards your goals. We often underestimate the power of small changes / new habits over the course of a year. Remember, habits are so important because they are ultimately responsible for any change we make in our lives.
Personally, I have used the way of life app for years to track the habits I want to maintain and the new ones I want to implement.