It’s the start of a brand new year; many of us have decided to get our bums into shape once and for all. We have our exercise and diet programmes ready, we’ve just bought new running shoes and salad tossers, and we’re raring to go.
Unfortunately, the majority of us will quit a new exercise/diet programme within the first month. There are numerous reasons why we fail to stay on track, but the main reason is motivation, or should I say lack of it.
Motivation comes in many forms:
You have to be motivated to drive to the gym after work instead of driving back to your nice, warm, comfy sofa.
You have to be motivated when your alarm clock is screaming at you to get up for a run at 6.00am and it’s raining outside.
And you definitely have to be motivated when walking past McDonalds!
So it can be said that motivation is the strength of mind to forego short term gratification in exchange for long term rewards, e.g. turning down a delicious Big Mac in order to achieve your long term goal of losing weight. With so many temptations on the path towards our goals, it’s no wonder why so many people fail.
But fear not, below are 5 top tips to help you to stay on track this year.
1. Set goals
A goal is a target that you set for yourself, for example your goal may be to get into shape this year.
Now the key to setting effective goals is to use the SMART principle, which means you goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant & Timed.
So setting a goal to get in shape this year isn’t really any of the above. A better goal to set, for example would be to lose 4 stone in 6 months as you can apply all of the SMART principles to this and you will be much more likely to stick to it.
Make sure your set both long term and short term goals. Losing 4 stone in 6 months will be a long term goal and focusing solely on this may make you lose motivation as it is a long way off and it will be hard to see the progress you are making. But if you have some mini goals, for example, to lose 4lbs in 2 weeks or to go on 3 morning jogs for 20 minutes this week with the dog. You have something else to focus on and work towards, and it will also contribute to your long term goal. (And your dog will love you even more!)
Make sure you write your goals down and look at them on a daily basis.
2. Take a before photo
Take a photo of yourself in something that shows a bit of skin (vest and shorts), you can use this as a starting point. Yes, I know you probably hate your picture being taken, especially when you’re wearing something skimpy, but the more unflattering the better! By having a before photo, you can really see how far you have come, which can really boost your morale on your ‘off days’.
Also, stick your unflattering photo were you will see it every single day e.g. fridge, screen saver etc. Yes you will hate looking at it, but that’s the point, it will give you a burst of motivation every time you see it and it will reinforce your desire to change.
3. Prepare your meals the night before
We all do it, we get home from a long day at work and can’t be bothered to put a healthy meal together, so we order a takeaway or throw a pizza in the oven. Arrange your meals and snacks the night before and you’ll be much less likely to stray to the vending machine on your coffee break. Remember, if you really want to change, exercise is only 30% of the battle, the other 70% is what you eat, if you combine exercise with clean nutritious food you will see some fantastic results.
4. Don’t focus on the scales
Weight loss isn’t a perfect equation; it would be lovely and neat if you lost 3lbs every single week no more, no less. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way, there will be weeks were you lose lots of weight, there will be others were the scales don’t move and sometimes there will be weeks were you might even put a pound or two back on. This is completely normal and it happens for a few reasons:
The body adapts to exercise very quickly, meaning if you do the same exercise routine all the time you become very efficient at it, resulting in less calories burnt. To avoid this, make sure you change your exercise routine regularly and try different things.
If you are eating less food than usual, sometimes your body will panic and think ‘oh no, there’s no food around, I must keep my fat reserves to use as energy in future when things get really dire.’ Make sure you’re eating small amounts regularly and this will help keep your metabolism fired up throughout the day.
You also have to factor in your muscles as well. If you are exercising for fat loss then you should definitely be including some sort of resistance/weight training into your programme. (Yes, even you Ladies!) Resistance training will result in more toned/bigger muscles, which will have an effect on the scales. So you may weigh the same but you have burnt lots of fat off and look more toned.
Instead of focusing too much on the scales you should really go by how you look in the mirror, how you feel and how your clothes fit.
5. Tell the world about your goals
Tell your friends and family, tell Facebook and Twitter, tell colleagues and acquaintances, heck even tell passing strangers in the street! Ok, well maybe not the last one but you get my drift.
A lot of people will keep quiet about their attempts to improve their health. This is usually because they are scared of what other people might think if they fail. You should not think this way; this is betting against yourself and will surely end in failure. You should get into the mind-set of achieving your goals and doing anything it takes to succeed.
Tell everybody about your goals, they will give you support when you need it most and the thought of quitting when so many people are behind you will drive you even further!
So there you have it, 5 top tips you can start using straight away to help you stay on course for a successful 2014. Good luck and I hope you have a great year.