Now is the time of year when most people start slipping with their fitness goals. While there's no 'magic pill' to staying motivated, here are 8 specific changes you can make, to keep you on track.
When we start slipping with our fitness goals, we inadvertently look for new ways to maintain motivation.
To keep you on track, fitness expert Cato Rutherford of Lift Performance Centre, shares with us 8 ways of maintaining our fitness motivation.
1. Live vicariously through the success of others
There’s a reason the fitness industry love showcasing before-and-after photos; these transformation stories enable people to visualise their own progress through the success of others. “Find a transformation story that resonates with you and explore how they achieved their success,” Cato explains. “By visualising and associating yourself with that person’s successful journey, you will be able to better visualise your own clear path to success.”
2. The path of least resistance
Willpower is an expensive resource that will only get you so far, it depletes rapidly when combined with the many other stressors of the modern lifestyle. For this reason, it’s important to counter a lack of willpower by putting things on the path of least resistance.
“Simple adjustments like sleeping in your exercise gear with your sneakers next to your bed makes it easier to do the right thing when you wake up,” says Cato. “It’s then harder for you to wake up, get changed out of your exercise gear, have a shower and then get changed for work than it is to simply go to the gym.”
In relation to your diet, removing temptation is another tried and true method of making your health-kick easier to stick to. “If your house is full of treats like ice cream, chocolate and alcohol, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to stay on track with a healthy nutrition plan,” Cato explains. “Apply the path of least resistance rule by simply removing all these temptations and start ticking off your goals.”
3. Don’t go it alone
Too many people choose to go it alone and give up because of lack of progress. Receiving the right guidance can keep you on track by setting and making you accountable for your goals. The key is to find what works for you, whether that means hiring a regular personal trainer, using a coach to check in on you once a month or simply going to a gym with members of a similar mindset.
“Think of your body as a car and assess how much time and effort would go into fixing it up yourself as opposed to hiring a mechanic,” Cato says. “A fitness coach works in the same way as a mechanic does for your car. You’ll progress and achieve your goals much quicker than if you went it alone.”
4. What is measured, is managed
Instead of jumping on the scales and measuring how much you weigh, try regularly measuring your body fat. This is a very important way to quantify your progress and keep motivation levels sky high. “It is also much more specific than measuring your weight on the scale, as the scales don’t tell the whole story,” says Cato. “Your body fat may have dropped, but on the scales your weight has gone up due to muscle increase.”
5. Earn your carbs
Studies have proven the benefits of creating a neurological habit loop by rewarding yourself after exercise. And while it’s always best to reward yourself with something healthy, Cato reveals there’s room for those guilty pleasures. “There is a small window after training where the body becomes insulin sensitive,” he says. “This is the perfect time to have a carb-heavy treat, because the body will use it to refuel the muscle cell preferentially over storing it in the fat cell. This is referred to as nutrient timing, and can be a great way to have your cake and eat it too. Sure you can have a treat, but you have to train first.”
6. Goals and Results
While you are working hard to transform your physique, it’s very important to define the difference between goals and results. “Results are what come from sticking to your goals, like fat loss for instance is a result,” explains Cato. “Your goals are something you can directly control and an example would be to go to the gym four times this week, or follow your eating plan for a full week.”
With this in mind, we can use our goal setting as a road map to success, and simply monitor the results as data. The fat loss journey is never linear; therefore it is much more important to focus on what we can control – our goals.
Accountability is a big motivating factor and is why many people choose a workout buddy to train with. Cato suggests taking things a little further if you really struggle with regular exercise. “Book yourself in for a sports photo shoot, set the date three months away and tell the world about it. The thought of going in front of the lens may be just what you need to kick start your program and keep it firing for the remainder of the year.”
You can also help the less fortunate with your fitness goals and use them for more motivation. “Set up an ‘everyday hero account’ to contribute to your favourite charity and ask your friends and family to contribute,” continues Cato. “Post transformation photos on your social media page or, if you prefer, set up a private page and invite your friends and family to follow your success that way. Their positive comments and presence on your fitness journey may be just the motivation you need to keep going.”
8. “Surround the dragon”
This is a Chinese philosophy often used in acupuncture. Put simply, if you have to kill a dragon, you attack it from every angle, with everything you have got, as Cato explains:
“I see so many unsuccessful attempts at fat loss, and it is often because the person only half commits to what they are trying to achieve. The person still wants to drink alcohol, eat out, sleep in and think that by just training they will eventually reach their goals. They never do. So my attitude is “surround the dragon!” Hit it with everything you have got, from every angle and you have a much higher chance of success.”
Cato Rutherford is a fitness and exercise physiology expert with over 6 years industry experience. He is the founder of Lift Performance Centre – a state of the art training facility in Sydney that focuses on an holistic approach to health and fitness.