Experts Reveal How to Stay Motivated While Building Healthy Fitness Habits
Now that the weather is warming up and everyone is finally coming out of hibernation, it’s a great time to revamp your fitness routine (or finally adopt one!). Building healthy habits can be tough, though. It can take a minimum of twenty one days to build a habit, and for most people it takes even longer to get something new to stick – you’re rewiring your brain, after all. But how do you stay motivated in the meantime, when these new habits don’t exactly feel natural just yet?
We asked handfuls of fitness experts for their best tips, tricks and hacks for staying motivated while you build up those healthy fitness habits. Whether you’ve tried to build fitness habits in the past, or you just want to add another level to your routine, here are the easiest ways to stay motivated.
Be Realistic About Your Lifestyle
If you have a full time job, a few kids and a house to maintain, finding the time to work out and get healthy is already a challenge to weave into your already overstuffed day. According to Chris Damau, trainer and founder of The Clean 5, “Most popular diets emphasize extremes that will rarely if ever be sustained. Whilst results may come fast, they often disappear just as quickly Long-term results are created by making small adjustments that fit a person's lifestyle.”
He suggests making your diet fit around your lifestyle, and not the other way around. “You should always ask yourself, “Will I be able to do this long-term?” If the answer is no, then you need to find another strategy, as results are always built through consistency,” he says.
Don’t Wait for Motivation to Come to You
James Mc Dowell, personal trainer and strength coach, says that waiting for motivation to come to you is not an effective way of viewing your fitness goals at all. In fact, he thinks it’s a waste of time and an easy excuse to avoid taking action. “One method I find for helping clients stick to their habits is not relying on motivation. Motivation can be fragile. It has a short lifespan. The moment a disrupting event pops up, it can knock our 'drive' and we fall back into old patterns,” he says.
So what should we do as opposed to relying on motivation? “Do SOMETHING!” McDowell urges. “Being motivated doesn’t achieve anything. Taking action creates everything. You can sit from now until kingdom come waiting for motivation, and then it comes. Now, have you achieved your goal? No, because there has been no action.”
He says that simply taking action does not rely on motivation, it simply involves you doing something – anything at all. “Don’t wait to be motivated to go for a walk, just go for one. Don’t wait to be motivated to eat a healthy dinner, just eat one. Negative thoughts will pop into your head begging you not to take action. Tell them to sod off and just go for it! You’re better than those thoughts, you’re the one in control here, not them.”
Remember Your Why – And Visualize It
When you’re lacking motivation to continue building your fitness habits, it’s important to step back and remember why you wanted to prioritize your health in the first place. Those initial thoughts and reasonings that propelled you in the beginning should become your driving force.
“The best way to stay motivated is to visualize your fitness goals every single day. This will remind you why you set out to work out,” says Leon Turetsky, certified personal trainer and professional ballroom dancer. “Just close your eyes and visualize yourself fit, healthy and full of energy.” He also suggests writing down your fitness goals every single day so as to keep them fresh in your mind.
Find Your Tribe
According to Melody L. Schoenfeld, MA, CSCS, one should not overlook the power of an accountability buddy. Study after study has shown the value of a supportive community when you are trying to reach a goal.
“Find a group of like-minded people and hang with them.” Schoenfeld says. “If the people in your circle can't support your goals, you may want to try to create some distance from them, or if that is not possible, concentrate on those who do support you and try not to let the naysayers sway you.”
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Create Unignorable Visual Cues
If you’re the type to brush your goals to the back of your mind when things get busy, it might be worth creating visual cues that will force yourself to be accountable. Amanda Sterczyk, certified personal trainer, and creator of The Move More Institute™, suggests that when you want to change your habits, visual reminders will make you engage in the new behavior – or at least keep it at the top of your mind. This technique is called “nudges,” first popularized by economist Richard Thaler, the Nobel prize winner for economics in 2017.
“If you want to eat healthier, put fresh fruit on the counter and hide the treats. The nudge of seeing healthy food will encourage you to choose it over chips or ice cream,” says Sterczyk. “If you want to exercise in the morning, lay out your workout clothes the night before and put your runners beside the bed to nudge you to get active.” She also suggests using visual cues like sticky notes to keep your small goals in mind.