I am by no means saying I have reached the fitness goals I have set for myself, but these tips have certainly helped me to stay on track. These tips may not work for everyone, but the most important factor in reaching your fitness goals is understanding your body and your needs. Not every diet and exercise regimen out there will work for everyone, but once you find one that works for you, stick with it! Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way to reaching my goal of living a healthier lifestyle.
- Get to know yourself – New York Times bestselling author, Gretchen Rubin, has done a lot of research and has experimented with the idea of forming healthy habits in order to live a happier life. She acknowledges that there are two types of expectations we experience, outer and inner expectations (expectations others have of us and expectations we have of ourselves). She has created four categories in which she believes people fall into depending on the way they react to expectations (more to come on this subject in a later post). A quick definition of each of the tendencies is below,
- Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations
- Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense
- Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike
- Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves
If you are interested in reading more about Rubin’s studies, you can do so here. Understanding which category you fall in can help you realize how to reach your goals. For example, if you are an upholder, write your goals down somewhere you can see them everyday and hold yourself accountable. If you are a questioner, do some research before you jump into working out and eating healthy and learn about the benefits. If you are a rebel, maybe setting goals isn’t for you. You could start right away and just stick with it. If you are an obliger, make a commitment to a workout buddy to meet for weekly exercise classes and share healthy recipes with one another. You are much less likely to let someone else down before you let yourself down. Knowing how you respond to the goals and expectations you’ve set for yourself can really impact your success. Do some self reflecting before you start your journey!
- Limit unhealthy foods – Another one of Rubin’s claims is that individuals are generally either moderators or abstainers. Moderators often find small indulgences enjoyable and can limit themselves to just enjoying a small portion. They also often feel panic at the thought of never having something again. This can apply to many aspects in our lives, but particularly to unhealthy treats. For example, a moderator may be able to enjoy a small bite of an ice cream sundae and be completely satisfied. They may also feel it strengthens their resolutions. The idea of cutting sweets out of their diet makes them uneasy, so allowing themselves to indulge occasionally will help them stay on track. Abstainers, on the other hand, find it very difficult to stop once they’ve started. If they have a bite of that sundae, they will probably eat the whole thing. However, they find it much easer to simply cut treats out of their diet and stick to it. They aren’t tempted by these indulgences once they are off limits. For awhile, I would allow myself to have one chocolate truffle each night as a reward for eating healthy all day. As an abstainer, this did not work for me. Eating that one truffle would give me the green light to eat other treats as well, which was not my goal. Moderators may have more success with this technique, whereas it is easier for me to say no desserts at all.
- Analyze your schedule and routine – A lot of fitness guides will give you specific directions such as instructing you to workout in the morning or to meal prep on Sundays, etc. But if you set unrealistic goals for yourself when it comes to your schedule, you probably won’t be very successful. If you are a night owl and waking up early is torture, getting up at 5am to workout before work or class is probably unrealistic. The same thing goes for grocery shopping and meal prep. If Sundays are very busy for you, find a day that works better. It is all about customization and finding what works for you. Sit down with your schedule and write in your workouts during times that work best for you.
- Find your atmosphere – Find an exercise you love and stick with it. If you love going to the gym, that’s great, but if you would rather work out at home, that’s great too. Try different classes (kickboxing is my favorite) and try exercising outside. If you don’t like to run, try biking or swimming or kayaking. Anything that gets you out and gets your body working is good for you. Also, don’t be afraid to switch it up. Running on the treadmill every day can get boring for some, so try different ways of getting your cardio workout in – hit the park or grab a friend for a spinning class.
- Write it down – Whether it’s your goals, your exercise routines, or your meal plan, writing things down can really help you stick to your goals. If you have a workout scheduled in your planner for 8am on Monday, you are probably more likely to get out of bed and go instead of just waking up and trying to decide what time of day you will go or if you will go at all. Planning your exercise routine can also be helpful. If you know exactly what you need to do when you get to the gym, you will spend less time trying to think of workout moves, and more time getting it done! I love watching workout videos on Youtube while I’m at the gym. I can just follow along and it feels like I have a trainer right there with me (My favorite are the Tone It Up workouts). The same goes for grocery shopping as well. Plan out your meals ahead of time so you don’t waste time and money in the store on items you don’t need.
- Get into a routine and stick to it – Once you’ve started forming the habit of exercising, it will just be a part of your routine that you don’t even need to think about. The first little while is tough. You will have days where you really don’t feel like working out, but I always remind myself that I’ve never regretted a workout and that if I go I will feel much better.
- Remember why you started – If your goal is to live a healthier and more fit lifestyle, every time you hit a slump and don’t want to workout, remember why you started. Realizing that each workout and each healthy meal is one step closer to your goals should give you a boost of motivation to lace those sneakers up.
- Focus on progress, not pounds – We’ve all heard that muscle weighs more than fat, so if you are working out hard and the scale tells you that you are gaining weight, don’t fret. You are probably gaining muscle to replace the fat. Keep that in mind when stepping on the scale. Instead, look for changes in the way your jeans fit, or the way you feel day to day. Maybe that three mile run is getting easier, that’s progress. Maybe your skin is clearing up from eating healthy and drinking water, that’s progress. Maybe you can see definition in places on your body that you never have had before, that’s progress. Once you start seeing that progress in yourself, you get the motivation to keep working hard.
- Don’t stop – You’re going to have days when you slip up. You’re going to miss workouts and eat unhealthy food, but you have to remind yourself that you aren’t perfect and that you’re trying. If you have a meal that wasn’t so great for you, don’t wait until the following Monday to get back on track – get back on track with your next meal. Every day is a chance to start fresh, but just don’t give up, and be forgiving of yourself.