The hardest part of any fitness plan isn’t the lifting and the diets.
The hardest part is staying consistent. Actually following through with your plan until the end.
We all start out with high hopes. We go grocery shopping to prep, we get out our favorite fitness outfits, maybe even splurge on new shoes…. but two weeks in we’re stuck.
This is where the excitement falls off, the pounds aren’t falling off as fast as they were, you’re sore often, and you’d rather go back to your old habits.
This is when you need to call in the reinforcements.
This process will help you analyze what you’re doing and get extra help where you need it.
Do you even like it?
I have always been a strong believer in doing workouts that bring people joy. I love lifting weights. It’s where I excel, it makes my body feel good, and it’s something I can stick with.
If I had to run, however, I would quit all the time. Running doesn’t bring me any joy and I would avoid it at all costs.
Look at your current plan. Is there something about it that you hate doing? Something that you find boring? Something that you dread doing? Then simply stop doing it.
Now, this doesn’t mean you get to just stop working out. For everything you take off, you have to find a replacement. If you don’t run, then do you like hiking? Or swimming?
What is your end goal?
Just working out for the sake of working out is not something most people can do. Yes, once you’ve gotten in the habit, it’s so much easier to keep it going, but building the habit requires more than that to keep you going.
You need to spend the time to find your greater WHY.
I’m not saying you need to find your life’s purpose (although it’s never a bad idea to spend time reflecting on that), but you need to find a reason to stay active.
Maybe you have an upcoming vacation that requires you to be active.
Maybe you’re trying to get off some medication.
Maybe you have an age milestone coming up.
There are a lot of reasons, but just going to the gym to “feel good” is rarely a good enough reason for most people. I trained a lot of people when I worked at a gym, and although it sounds nice to have that as a reason, it’s rarely enough.
Going to the gym and your diet is no easy feat. You need a stronger purpose to pull you through those hard times when you want to throw in the towel.
Put a carrot at the end of the stick
The problem most people fall into is that they reward themselves before they finish a program. They buy new shoes, new workout gear, a fancy watch that calculates their calories.
Instead, you need to start putting these things after you finish.
Humans are simple creatures. We love rewards after hard work.
If your boss is going to give you a raise after a project, you’ll work hard on that project. If he gives it to you beforehand, you’re not going to work as hard on the project as you would if you got it at the end.
This is why trophies are given at the end of games. You need to prove yourself first, then get your reward.
Pick something you want really bad (whether it’s fitness related or not). Make that your reward by following through with your current goals.
If you don’t hit your goals, you don’t get the prize, it’s that simple.
I have found through the years that combining a deeper why with a fun gift is a great combination to keep people focused, motivated, and excited to workout. With some of my clients, if they were low on motivation or feeling extra tired one day, I’d make them visualize the thing they wanted. What it would be like to own it, use it, look at it. Really picture it.
It sounds materialistic, yes, but sometimes, when motivation is low, it’s hard to feel connected to that deeper “why”. Visualizing yourself playing a video game you want is much easier for our brains to imagine than something like climbing a mountain when you’re still 100 lbs. overweight.
Fighting the external forces
This part is hard to write, but it needs to be addressed.
Sometimes the hardest part of sticking with a fitness routine is the forces around you pushing you to quit.
Sometimes this looks like an unsupportive friend, family member, partner, spouse, co-workers, or someone else you’re close to.
And frankly? I don’t have any answers for this. All I can do is share my experience.
In my early 20’s, when I first fell in love with the gym during college, I used to work out at midnight. I’d go to 24-Hour Fitness, lift for an hour, and then soak in the hot tub/sauna for about 30 minutes. That means I’d be done and sleeping by about 2:30 am. My mother hated this. It’s not even like I kept coming home at that time and would wake her up (a valid reason to be annoyed), she just thought it was unhealthy.
She’d repeatedly tell me for months about how bad it was to work out at night. It took years and research for her to finally stop bringing it up.
The only thing I could do was power through and keep going. I had a gym buddy at the time who was always waiting for me, which was a huge reason I was able to make it. I had someone to be accountable to.
This is me extending my sympathy to people who have someone like a spouse who doesn’t support their new healthy lifestyle.
Just keep in mind, that a lot of these fears stem from the fact that they’re worried you’re going to get more attractive and leave them or find someone else.
If you’ve been in one habit or routine for years, switching it up out of nowhere is making them nervous.
I do have one huge tip though: NEVER TELL YOUR PARTNER THEY SHOULD JOIN YOU.
Nothing sets off arguments like a spouse telling the other one they could lose some weight or that they “should” go to the gym. DO NOT BE THIS DUMB.
If they want to join on their own, great! But never ever suggest it. Instead, encourage them to start putting time into a hobby they want to do and commit to helping them make time for it.
Track your progress in multiple ways
Just tracking your progress by the number on the scale is a horrible way to get a bigger picture.
There are a million reasons that your body could have a different scale number than what you think it should.
Instead, keep track in a variety of ways. Maybe you get a calendar and put a big X through the days you drink enough water or stretch. That way you create a nice long chain throughout the month you don’t want to break.
Take pictures of your body. Pictures are SO helpful. Even if the scale doesn’t seem to be moving, you can visually see how your body is changing.
Measure parts of your body. This way you know what’s growing and what’s shrinking. Even if you can’t see the gains, measurements don’t lie. For me, it helps a lot to see that I’m gaining size on my little chicken legs, and that’s something the scale can’t tell me.
Try all these things before you throw in the towel on your new fitness plan. Never forget that the mental strength is the most important strength of all.
What helps YOU stay on track? I’d love to know in the comments!