Motivation is fleeting - don't rely on it for change. If you do, you won't last.
Prepare ahead of time for inevitable obstacles - talk to your family and have a plan!
Commit to doing, not to trying. Commitment doesn't mean "until you don't feel like it anymore".
Now more than ever, it is a time for re-evaluating health, fitness, and for getting back into shape. No matter what your hot take on COVID-19 is, it has highlighted one thing for sure - being out of shape and unhealthy puts you in harm's way. It doesn't matter if it's being high-risk for COVID, a heart attack, or any number of common ailments or diseases. If you are overweight and unhealthy, you are knowingly stacking the deck against yourself. It's no surprise then that this year like all others will see a large number of New Year's Resolutioners at the gym or working out at home.
I see it year after year - a batch of new faces at the local gyms all eager and motivated to change. They are all so SURE that this time they are motivated enough to make it stick. For the most part, they are dead wrong. By mid-February the gyms will again return to equilibrium, largely with the same faces that were there last year save a few new ones who made it work. So what happens in such a short time that causes such a large group of people - who were so excited, so motivated, so eager to change - to fail so quickly in their mission?
The easy (and incorrect) answer is lack of motivation. People get too excited too quickly, bite off more than they can chew, and fizzle out almost immediately. While these things are true, this isn't the reason people fail. The problem has never been motivation. In fact, motivation alone is a pretty terrible thing to rely on to get things done. Think about it - if you needed to be motivated to do every task on your to-do list, NOTHING would get done. You'd barely go to work, your room would be a mess, the kitchen sink filled with dishes. You don't do these things because you want to or are motivated to do them. They are a necessity. You must do these things to live your best life.
Everybody loses motivation to exercise. Everybody. Some of the most consistent and successful clients I have ever worked with do not love working out, nor do they feel deep motivation to exercise. It is a part of their well-being and something that must be done to live their ideal life. This leads to the real reason people fail in their resolutions...
Lack of Preparation and Lack of Commitment to Action
You don't need motivation to be prepared. You don't need motivation to be committed. In order to fully understand what I mean by this, let's turn to psychology. The steps above represent the trans-theoretical model of behavior change - a widely accepted psychological model for developing new habits. Essentially, the process of change starts when we don't even know there is an issue or don't recognize that a particular issue is a problem. Slowly we become aware of the problem and start thinking about whether or not we want to change. Then we prepare to take action, take action, and maintain that action.
Sounds simple, right? Absolutely, but simple doesn't mean easy. In general, the steps people get stuck on are 'preparation' and 'action'. It's easy to think about changing. It's much harder to actually change and take the necessary steps toward doing so.
Being 'motivated' gets most people to the door of the gym, but what they haven't considered ahead of time is how they are going to respond when obstacles (which are inevitable) present themselves. You are too tired before work, too tired after work, had a rough day, you're stressed out, in a fight with your spouse, kids are driving you crazy, sudden schedule changes, etc. It is not a matter of if, it's a matter of when these things will happen because they WILL happen. Your motivation cannot get you through it. You must be prepared ahead of time for how you will handle these obstacles when they arise.
Preparing for fitness does not simply mean signing up for the gym, coming up with a routine, and setting some alarms. It means discussing with your family how important this time is for you, communicating with your partner about what you expect from them in terms of support, asking people around you to help make fitness a part of your life permanently, creating new schedules to ensure time to workout, and mostly creating a new mindset that this is going to be a change forever**.
**PRO-TIP: if you are only getting into fitness exclusively to look a certain way, you will likely fail. Looking better is a fun result, but if it is the ONLY thing getting you to the gym then sooner or later you will fizzle out. Do it to feel good and be better in life, and the aesthetics will come with it.
What if you have actually prepared well for the journey ahead? Then you can comfortably move into the 'action' stage of behavior change. Here the actual actions are intuitive: go to the gym, lift weights, exercise, eat better, etc. The problem here is the commitment to action. You need to let go of the idea that you should only work out when you feel like doing so. In other words, if you are relying on feeling motivated to exercise then the chances are you won't last too long with your resolution.
Commit to a healthier lifestyle the way that you commit to going to work or the way you commit to your kids. Consider it non-optional, non-negotiable, and irreversible. Anything less than this attitude will lead to major problems down the line. Of course, this doesn't mean that you are never going to skip out on a workout or have a hiatus from the gym at some point in your life. It just means that you are committing to always getting back on the ball and getting back to the gym. If you can promise yourself that, then you have nothing but good things coming for you!
One Last Thing...
Sometimes a quote just summarizes things perfectly. In this case, being the nerdy science and fitness guy I am, I will leave you a very famous Star Wars quote
In the words of Jedi Master Yoda.... "Do or do not. There is no try."
Best of luck in 2021!
Owner, Head Coach
Anderson Sport & Fitness