A new year, a new chance to start on a clean slate, am I right? Well technically, you can actually start on any day you wish to, but there’s just something refreshing about the new year that makes it seem like opportunities are endless. So regardless of whether you just want to do some damage control after your Christmas binging, or whether you have more long-term fitness goals, this list will give you some tips to make that journey a less draining one!
1. Ease Into Things
I’m sure this tip has been talked about many times, but it still has to be emphasized, as it is essential in ensuring the long-term attainment of your goals. Quickly diving into unsustainable fitness or eating habits, makes keeping up with them really difficult, and can often lead you to burn out, just as quickly as you started. As with all things, the first step is always mental – lay out your goals, and make sure that you are aware of the changes that need to be made in order for you to reach those goals. This will then ease you into your new regime, as you begin with an approach that helps you plan for things, rather than one that requires you to constantly struggle to keep up with yourself.
2. Break It Up
This tip is the natural progression from the previous one, as it builds on the concept of having clear goals. Goals like “shed 10kg by March” may seem feasible, but it is not a clear goal. Always break down your goals into smaller steps that will guide you in answering the question of “how?”. So set short term targets that will help you achieve those bigger goals, doing so will help focus your attention on those immediately doable smaller steps, and not make you feel overwhelmed by all the changes you need to make at once. Penning down your weekly targets in your journal is always a good idea, as this will lay out a clear path for you to follow, and help you stay on top of things.
3. Focus On One Thing
As with any type of change you make in life, willpower is indispensable, especially in the early stages. And unfortunately, willpower is not infinite. Instead, a finite pool of willpower is tapped into by many different daily activities, and will get depleted eventually. So whatever your main resolution is, be it fitness or otherwise, make sure that not too many other goals are competing for your willpower, as this may result in you eventually not being having enough willpower to enable you to feasibly accomplish any of your goals.
4. Give Your Willpower a Fighting Chance
At the end of the day, exercising your willpower is a form of mental activity, and any mental activity requires resources, i.e. glucose. To even give your willpower a chance to be effective, your brain needs its nutrients and energy. So while diets or other radical ideas may seem to be the most efficient way to get things done, know that for long-term goals to be reached, your brain has to have a consistent supply of resources for you to resist temptations, or to get off the couch and into the gym. A more plant-based, and less-processed diet, makes energy more readily available to the brain, enabling it to function optimally.
5. Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Whatever you do, don’t put yourself in the way of temptation! It’s already hard enough to stay disciplined without all these distractions, so adding these triggers into the equation will make achieving your goals significantly more difficult. Don’t go to the supermarket when you’re hungry, because when you pass by aisles upon aisles of snacks and sweet drinks, your desire for instant gratification will kick in, and make you go on a rampage that you will only regret the next day. Remember what we said about having enough mental resources? Well, if you go food shopping when you’re really hungry, making rational decisions becomes that much harder as your brain is not operating at its best, allowing for reflexive decisions to take over.
4. Know and Expect Your Triggers
Bad habits are hard to change as they often become so ingrained in your routine that they become second nature. Setting the wheel in the opposite direction can then be extremely difficult when you’re surrounded by triggers that bring up thoughts of the “rewards” you get from engaging in your bad habits. However, coming across these triggers is inevitable, no matter how much you try. So instead of trying to avoid them like the plague, train yourself to expect them, and then arm yourself with the necessary defense tactics. Research has shown that telling yourself “not now, but later” is extremely helpful in curbing those cravings, as your reliance on instant gratification is decreased.
5. Allow Concessions
After all this talk about willpower, it still has to be stressed that you are allowed some concessions sometimes. Denying yourself for very long will most probably lead you to have huge relapses, so treat yourself once in a while so you get the satisfaction you need (and also don’t go crazy). Besides that, treat your setbacks with compassion, and don’t beat yourself up for missing that one workout, or indulging a little too much. Focusing on the negative makes you feel bad about yourself, and may result in you engaging in those activities even more, as a consolation. So when you come across a little roadblock, make sure that you learn something from the experience, and get back into the grind.
6. Have a Fallback
Always expect the unexpected, and that goes for your fitness goals as well. Some roadblocks are unavoidable, and they may occur with more frequency than you think. So by anticipating these roadblocks, you will be able to prep for them in advance, and have a fallback plan. If you aim to eat at home more often, maybe prep your meals the weekend before, such that the actual cooking is quick and fuss-free. This ensures that a particularly late day at work does not result in you turning to unhealthy fast food, as a convenient and easy way out.
7. Reward Yourself
Rewarding yourself is similar to giving yourself concessions, but this is carried out in a more deliberate manner. Giving yourself a small treat, such as a relaxing soak in the bath for a good day at the gym allows you to form a connection between the positive reward with the unpleasant activity. This link will then reduce the dread you have every morning as you anticipate the workout to come, and make it easier for you to get out of bed and slip into your running shoes.
8. Change Up Your Routine
Instead of forcing yourself to run mile after mile, maybe try out different types of workouts that you may find more enjoyable, we have a list of alternate gyms in Singapore for you to try out here. And if you enjoy it, working out no longer becomes a chore, but something you may actually look forward to. Also, don’t force yourself into a monotonous diet, and change up your food options; eating clean can be yummy too!
So here are 8 tips to make sure you make those fitness resolutions stick, do you have any other tricks? If you do, then please leave them in the comments box below! All the best, ladies!
Chen Wei is an undergrad majoring in Psychology. She's currently spending a year in New York City, where she's interning at a startup. When she's not at work, you can find her practising yoga, or exploring the Big Apple with her camera in hand.