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Setting Habits: The Key To Sticking It Out

Oct 6, 2023

It’s January 1st. You wake up, put on your workout clothes (that you perfectly laid out the night before), give your movement your all, down the meticulously planned breakfast you prepped in the fridge, and you swear–this time, things will be different.

Then, a few weeks later, things begin to change. The clothes are in the wash, so you figure you’ll just grab them out of the dryer in the morning. It’s too much trouble to get up early on the weekend, so you figure you’ll just get an extra tough workout in the following week. You don’t get a chance to meal prep, so you decide that you’re just going to pick something up on the way home from work.

We’ve all been there.

If you’ve been able to hold onto that January motivation long-term, that’s fantastic (really). If your motivation has waned and you’ve found it tough to stick to those ideals that seemed so simple in the beginning of the year, you’re not alone–and we’ve got the tips you need to set habits that stick long-term (even as your motivation fades).

Why Doesn’t Motivation Last?

There are many reasons why people tend to lose motivation over time. Many people respond well to instant gratification, and with many things in life–including fitness–it takes time to see results. If you don’t have your mind set on a clear reason behind your work, or you aren’t sure about whether you have a solid process to get you where you want to go, it’s likely that your motivation will fade quickly. Even if you’re dedicated to your goal and have a fantastic plan, you’re still at risk for stress, burnout, and boredom.

Very few people stay motivated toward their goals, no matter how determined they may be at the start of their process. If you lose motivation over time, it doesn't mean that there’s anything wrong with you–it simply means that you’re human.

People who have lung cancer still struggle to quit smoking. People who are habitually late still struggle to show up on time, even after their friends or family express a desire for them to change. People who have unhealthy eating habits often continue those habits despite diagnoses of potentially-fatal health conditions. It’s clear: even with motivating factors that should be foolproof, it’s hard to stick to a plan long-term.

Thankfully, motivation isn’t all that you have to rely on when it comes to getting healthy and fit. Next, we’ll take a look at how relying on habits–instead of relying on motivation–can help you keep moving forward toward your goals even when your motivation inevitably fades.

Why Habits Stand the Test of Time

Take a moment and think through your morning routine. You don’t think about whether you’re going to shower before work–you just do it. You don’t have to wonder whether you should skip brushing your teeth, and you likely don’t think twice about whether today will be the day that you don’t wear shoes.

Habits are no-brainers–that’s why they work.

That being said, some habits are tougher to stick to than others. Habits that offer immediate rewards (like the minty freshness that comes after brushing your teeth in the morning) are easier to stick to than those that take time to pay off (like spending a little time each night studying for a big test).

According to experts at The Learning Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “Generally, habits have immediate or latent rewards. Habits with immediate rewards are easier to pick up and condition, whereas those with delayed rewards are more difficult to commit to and maintain. Think about how easy it is to check your iPhone compared to exercising more.”

When you’re working to set habits that have a non-instant payoff, it’s important to find ways to keep your eye on the prize. Visualization can work wonders–imagining what you’ll feel like when you achieve your goals, as well as imagining the action that it will take to get there–-can help you stay the course. Making a habit out of visualization first thing in the morning can set off a chain reaction of habits that lead you to moving toward your goals.

Replacing Negative Habits with Positive Behaviors

When developing habits that keep you moving toward your health and fitness goals, it’s key to figure out where you’re starting–and where you want to go. If there are habits you currently practice that need to change, identifying the actions that don’t move you closer to your goals can help you set forth a new plan that keeps you moving forward.

Take some time to think about the first habit you’d like to change. Consider when it started, and what needs it fills. It’s important to give yourself some grace here–the more honest you can be with yourself, the better. When you know what your habit does for you, you can work to develop a new one that fills your needs.

Once you know what needs your habits are currently meeting–such as stress relief, interrupting boredom, or easing anxiety–it’s time to look for new habits to meet those needs. It’s smart to take these changes one at a time, as overhauling your entire life can result in overwhelm. Talking with your trainer, therapist, or even a trusted friend or family member about the habit you’re trying to implement can help you stay accountable.

Once you have a habit in mind, starting small can help. If you’re working to start exercising regularly, starting with a personal training session once or twice a week can feel far more doable than committing to running for an hour a day, every day. While big goals can sound great when you’re motivated, it can be tough to stick to them once the initial energy that comes with a goal begins to fade.

Boosting Your Health Long-Term: Fitness Together is Here to Help!

At Fitness Together, our certified trainers know what it takes to help our clients form habits that stand the test of time. No matter where you’re at with your fitness level, we’re here to help you feel healthy, strong, and achieve your goals, one session at a time.

We know that it can be hard to stick to your habits, and we’ll keep you on track. It’s important to us to get to know you so that we can develop the systems that make sense for keeping you accountable. Whether you respond best to tough love, gentle encouragement, or a combination of the two, we’ll create a simple to follow solution that will keep you moving forward. Reach out today to schedule your first session at FT!


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