Whether you’re trying to lose weight, get stronger, or simply feel better, a good fitness routine is key. But sticking to one can be a challenge. How many times have you committed to a program, full of great intentions, only to find yourself drifting back into your old habits? Fortunately, there are some easy-to-implement methods for keeping yourself on track toward your health and fitness goals.
Clear Your Head
The first step toward achieving your goals is to fine-tune your mindset. It’s not enough to simply want something; you have to focus your mental energies on success. Some people mistakenly believe that this type of mental toughness can only be achieved by people with natural discipline and willpower. Luckily, you can train yourself to be mentally strong by practicing some key behaviors daily. Consistency is the key; mental toughness is an attribute you need to develop, not demand.
Write It Down
Another effective tool for achieving your health and fitness goals is to put them in writing. Set SMART goals for yourself; in other words, name specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound targets for yourself. Often used in business, this type of goal is equally helpful in achieving personal success. For example, instead of saying, “I want to start running,” you might define your goal as, “Within six months, I will be able to run a 5K.” Write it down, and include the milestones you’ll need to meet on the road to achieving your goal.
Phone a Friend
To keep yourself accountable for the goals you set, recruit an ally. Tell this person what you’re aiming for and why it’s important to you. When you’re feeling unmotivated, give them a call and ask them to remind you why you started down this path. Check-in with your accountability partner regularly and be honest about your progress. Let them be a cheerleader for all your achievements and an encouraging coach when you fall short. If the person you share your home with can work toward similar health goals, all the better, as it will improve the chances of success for both of you.
Make It Fun
Getting fit and healthy shouldn’t feel like punishment. Find activities and foods that you actually enjoy, not ones that seem like they should be good for you. If you hate kale, don’t force yourself to eat it just because everyone says you should. Find an alternative like spinach or collard greens, let go of the guilt, and enjoy. The same goes for exercise. If you despise the treadmill, step off it and into something more enjoyable like dancing or cycling.
Along the same lines, be gentle on yourself when you fall short. Don’t buy into the distortion of “all-or-nothing” thinking. If you miss a workout or eat an extra cookie or twelve, it doesn’t mean all is lost. Acknowledge what happened, take responsibility for it, and make a plan for getting back on track.
Keep a Log
One of the best motivators for achieving your health goals is tracking your progress over time. While you may feel overwhelmed by your big goal, recording the daily steps you take offers reassurance that you can achieve it. Whether you’re working toward losing weight, getting stronger, or lowering your cholesterol, develop a system for recording each incremental change along the way. You can simply jot notes on a paper calendar or download one of the many fitness tracking apps. No matter what method you choose, the key is to consistently record the data. On days when you’re feeling frustrated, you can look back over your log and congratulate yourself on how far you’ve come. On any given day you might have fallen short, but persistent effort over time will pay off with an obvious arc toward improvement.
Taking responsibility for your own physical fitness is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. Set goals that are right for you, hold yourself accountable for achieving them, and celebrate each small victory along the way to success.
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Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.