It’s easy to lose momentum working out and maintaining a regular fitness regimen. We often here it takes 21-days to build a habit, but it can take as little as one day to break it!
Here are some things I do to help stay the course and maintain my workout momentum on a regular basis.
1. Travel with a gym bag prepared and ready to go. This gives me the flexibility of accepting an invite or opportunity to workout. It also allows me to make an impromptu stop at the gym or outdoor area to get a good workout into my day. I often find it hard to go home and then leave my house again to go to the gym. At the most minimal level, I always have a pair of sneakers and socks in my car.
2. Always have healthy snacks on hand. Eating healthy eventually becomes a lifestyle. It’s easier to maintain healthy eating habits when I proactively take control of what and when foods go into my body. Carrying healthy snacks increases the likelihood of working out because I’m providing my body with good fuel. The last thing I want to do is work out after eating a heavy meal, but I could definitely see myself working out within a couple of hours after eating a delicious sushi roll! So, the moral of the story is eat well, live well, and exercise well.
3. I am the company I keep. This is a hard one to swallow. (pun intended) If I spend a lot of time with people who do not eat a healthy diet and do not regularly work out, I tend to acquire some of their behaviors. Likewise, if I spend a lot of time with people who do eat a well-balanced diet and who are physically active, I acquire some of their behaviors. Of course the converse of each example is true. As an active person who eats a fairly healthy diet, I could hang with folks who eat a less healthy diet and who are less physically active. These folks could acquire some of my habits because they want to make a lifestyle change and they see positive benefits of hanging with someone like me. Similarly, I enjoy being with people who are invested in being their best selves. In summary, be aware of who you spend the most time with. Ask yourself, do my relationships reflect the person I am or want to be?
4. There is power in numbers. It seems like 5K’s, 10K’s, half and full marathons have become more and more popular and accessible to the masses. If you can afford or have someone sponsor the registration fee, DO IT. It’s so much “easier” to run a long distance race with a group of people rather than by myself. Yes, it still requires training, endurance, and a certain level of fitness, but it really does feel easier. And depending where you are within a clump of people running, it may actually be easier (i.e., less wind resistance).
This concept also applies to every day physical activities. They key is to work out with people who are focused and share a similar agenda. Some people like the social aspect of working out with others and literally want to talk the whole time. That’s fine if that’s what you want during your workout. Others (like myself) want to get a good workout in and chat afterwards as we stretch or over a post-workout protein shake. This brings me back to Tip #4, you are the company you keep. Choose wisely.
Working out with one or more people also adds an additional layer of accountability to your personal fitness goals. By definition, accountability is “an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions,” (Merriam-Webster Online, 2013). Whether it’s one or more people, I am more likely to show up and do it if I know someone else expects it.
If you’re new to an area, search online for local fitness groups you can join. A few I have found helpful are http://www.meetup.com, http://www.facebook.com, http://www.active.com, http://www.blackgirlsRUN.com, local recreation centers, local gyms, and newspapers. When in doubt, talk to people and ask questions about any fitness groups you can join in the local area.
5. Immerse yourself into the literature. Anything from watching scary (and real) documentaries that tell us what’s really in our food to reading health and fitness magazines are good ways to keep us immersed in a healthy lifestyle and maintain our fitness momentum. I read at least one article about health, wellness, or fitness each day. This keeps my mind proactively immersed in my personal fitness goals and in turn, aligns my body with my mind.
6. Vision board. Envisioning and truly seeing the person you strive to be is critical along any life journey. Quite a few pictures and words on my vision board incorporate elements of fitness and wellness. For example, I have a muscular, lean physique of an athlete as a source of daily inspiration. The key to having a vision board is putting it in a location you see every day. Looking at every day provides me positive and inspiring self-affirmations.
7. Being human and making mistakes. So what if I ate all of that ice cream on my birthday! So what if I didn’t make it to the gym today. So what if I got caught up in a moment with friends and ate a delicious, fattening piece of (insert favorite fattening food here). I’ve learned few things. First, you only live once and enjoy life. Eat your favorite dishes and enjoy them! Listen to your body and honor what it is telling you. Second, moderation and self-forgiveness are key. I don’t eat ice cream and other deliciously fattening treats every day. And I know how eating ice cream yesterday wasn’t the downfall of my entire diet and fitness goals. Today is always a new day.
8. Active recovery and off days. Low-intensity is better than no-intensity. The research has shown active recovery, or low-intensity, workouts after a high-intensity, hard workout is good for reducing the levels of lactic acid in your muscles. Lactic acid builds up in our muscles as we (over)work our muscles. Remember, off days are purposefully planned days into your overall workout regimen. Rest is important!
If you decide to incorporate “off” days into your week and do no pre-planned physical activity, don’t feel bad about it when you’re doing it. Bask in your off day. Enjoy it. If you feel the urge to do something, do an active recovery exercise to hold you over until your next workout.
Keep up the great work, maintain momentum, and stay the course!