I often have personal training clients tell me that they just haven’t been able to build healthy habits, especially when it comes to sticking with an exercise program.
However, I often find these same folks only gave their new health and fitness goals a week or two before giving up.
Yet, researchers tell us it takes at least twenty-one days, or approximately three weeks, for any activity, let alone a challenging one, to become a habit.
It is important to highlight these researchers weren’t saying any random twenty-one days will help make changes permanent, but the actual consistently performed twenty-one days, and preferably in a row.
As a matter of fact, in my last twenty-five-plus years as an athlete and coach, I have been injured from time to time, requiring me to take some rest and recovery.
As the years keep adding up and I grow older, priorities have changed to involve more time with family, different coaching commitments, and burnout with hard and focused training in general.
Even as a dedicated fitness coach, there are just times when I have stopped practicing what I preach and as a result, lost fitness.
I share that background and experience to highlight that even with decent genetics, a bunch of strength, conditioning, and nutrition knowledge, and many athletic training years under my belt when I do get refocused, begin another training routine, and prioritize my nutrition again, the adjustment is always challenging.
There is no doubt that it is tough to get mentally inspired. It is also without question, a physical challenge to feel the weakness from strength training neglect, and to work through the start-up soreness.
Fortunately, since I’ve experienced the above scenario several times, I have the advantage of knowing that if I stick with my routine for a few weeks, the daily exercise and clean eating gets easier and easier and more like something I want to do, instead of something I’m forcing myself to do.
And while I still have to work my tail off, train smart, eat clean and attempt to stay balanced, to see any progress, the longer I keep plugging away, the more it feels like exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.
Getting Serious About Your Commitment and Fitness Goals
So my first piece of advice is to be serious enough about your commitment and fitness goals, that you also take into account and give yourself the time needed to be successful.
Of course, it is usually easier said than done when it comes to health and wellness. Committing to exercise more and eat healthier can be a lonely road when surrounded by folks who aren’t on the same path as you.
To combat these challenges found in starting a new training and nutrition routine, I’d like to offer a few more pieces of advice.
No matter what activity or pursuit, there are very few people who have set a goal in this life and successfully reached it without some kind of assistance or support from other people along the way.
One of the best options to improve your chances for fitness success is to find a training partner. Someone to help hold you accountable with your exercise and diet and can commit to the same kinds of healthy changes you want to make.
Another resource you might consider for their knowledge and accountability is a wellness coach or personal trainer. A highly qualified fitness coach can help you overcome many of the obstacles encountered when starting a new fitness program, including offering you experienced planning and instruction to keep you safe and set you on a course for success.
If individual coaching sounds intimidating, another highly recommended option is to join a fitness class like https://transformingstrength.com/small-group-fitness-classes/.
Small group fitness classes offer you the opportunity to work with a professional coach, but also the bonus of accountability, motivation, and fun of training with other people who have health goals just like you.
If you are unable to find a partner, hire a trainer, or join a class, I would encourage you to put together the best plan you can, in writing. It’s going to take some time and research, but beginning the process of getting fit with your eyes wide open will help prevent major roadblocks from popping up in your first few weeks.
Combating Lack of Direction and Boredom
Year after year, folks who have quit an exercise program shortly after starting to give the same top two reasons: lack of direction and boredom.
For the beginning exerciser and gym veteran alike, a couple of the biggest challenges lie in either deciding what to do for the workout or changing up the old routine.
We have all heard stories of a few people who reached their weight loss goals by doing the same thing over and over (running). However, while consistency is an important piece of the fitness puzzle, most people fail to meet their goals for the lack of a plan that involves consistent change.
Whether we are talking about the athlete trying to gain strength and mass or the average person trying to get to their ideal weight range, workout variety is a key ingredient in reaching the goal. Bodies are forced to work differently, adapt to grow stronger and leaner.
In working with thousands of clients over the past twenty-five years, I have never had a client do the same workout twice. We constantly change and adapt. Following this change guideline helps my clients to eliminate the plateau effect and continue to progress in their fitness level. My clients stay more motivated by variety, and constantly add new exercise tools to their toolbox of workouts.
The best thing about jumping on the change bandwagon is the freedom you have to vary your workout based on how you feel or scheduling changes. In addition, variety allows you to search out new ways to shift your routine. There are thousands of exercises that can be combined in creative ways to spark your motivation and maximize exercise effectiveness.
The healthiest individuals from a social and psychological viewpoint are those who are most well-rounded. Their lives are balanced. Thus, it makes sense that exercise should be balanced too. Placing too much emphasis on one area of fitness can leave you lacking in other areas, whether it be flexibility, strength, cardio, or endurance.
So, mix it up. Talk to fit people at the gym, scour the internet, or talk to the local fitness professionals. A few minutes spent adding variety to your workouts will be a valuable companion on your quest for the body you want.
Building Healthy Habits via Goal Setting
The last piece of advice I’d like to touch on since it will be the first step you should take in your quest to build healthy habits is goal setting.
Initially, start slowly with small realistic goals that you can reach in a short period. It is important to have larger, long-term goals as part of your development plan, but these should not be the emphasis during your initial three-week habit-forming period.
It can also help to have a reward system for achieving your goals. A brief warning as to rewards: if your goal is weight loss, try to avoid a food reward. Instead, choose something unrelated to your struggle. For instance, “If I make it to the gym five days this week, I’m going to get a massage.”
In addition, I encourage you to post your goals everywhere. It is much harder to give in to the temptation of laziness or hunger when your goals are looking back at you.
If you’ve made up your mind to build some healthy fitness and nutrition habits, create a clear path to achieve them by setting realistic and measurable goals, finding an accountability partner, seeking expert advice, and making a solid plan. You can get to where you want to be by utilizing all the tools available to you.