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Making Healthy Habits Stick

Apr 15, 2024

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

This tried-and-true saying applies to so much in life, including the process of creating healthy habits. It can feel discouraging when you don’t see an immediate change in your health or how you feel when you start the process of habit change, and sticking with it is key to seeing results. The Personal Trainers at Fitness Together® studios know that...consistency is key, and lasting change begins with creating habits that can stand the test of time.

If you struggle to keep your motivation high after the initial excitement of a goal fades, you’re not alone. Willpower eventually runs out, leaving you to fall back on your habits to keep you moving forward. Here, you’ll explore how you can create habits that stick, even after the excitement of beginning to work towards a goal begins to fade.

1. Imagine your ideal self.

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” Aristotle

This may sound a little woo-woo, but stick with it! Take a moment to imagine your ideal self (close your eyes if it helps). What does their daily schedule look like? How do they spend their free time? How do they work to take care of themselves?

When you imagine your ideal self and the habits they’ll complete as a normal part of their daily routine, it can become easier to act in accordance with your goals. Even if you’re just getting started with your health and fitness journey, imagining where you’d like to end up can help you adopt the habits you’ll need to get where you want to go.

It’s important to note that this practice can change over time. Setting aside a few minutes each week to visualize your ideal self can help you gain insight into habits you haven’t thought of before, or traits you didn’t realize were a part of your goal.

Once you have a good idea of how your ideal self would act and how they would prioritize their day, write down a list of habits. These can be super-simple (like my ideal self drinks a glass of water first thing in the morning) to more challenging (my ideal self wakes up every morning smiling with confidence, knowing she’s completed her first 10k).

2. Break it down.

“Small habits can make a meaningful difference by providing evidence of a new identity. And if a change is meaningful, it is actually big. That's the paradox of making small improvements.”
James Clear

Big, scary goals can be exciting and motivating, but it can be tough to figure out what daily actions you’ll need to take to get there. Breaking down your goals into small, actionable chunks can be a helpful way to figure out what daily actions will help you make progress.

While the process of finding the daily habits that are right for you will depend on where you’re starting, your goal, your current lifestyle, and more, there are some simple steps that are helpful for most people when working to break a big goal into small habits, including:

  • Get specific. In order to understand the steps you’ll need to take in order to reach your goal, you’ll need to know where you’re headed. Creating measurable goals can be helpful here. For example, “I want to be able to enjoy a hike this summer with my kids,” is a more measurable goal than, “I want to have more energy.”
  • Set timetables. Choosing a realistic deadline for your goal can be motivating, and can help you determine what habits you’ll need to take to begin the process of making your way there. There’s no reason to feel pressure around your timetable – it can always change if necessary. In sticking with the example above, someone who wants to be able to enjoy a hike three months from now with their kids may first set a goal of walking a mile without stopping by the end of the month.
  • Reevaluate regularly. There’s some guesswork that comes with creating habits that lead to big goals, and it’s important to reevaluate from time to time to make sure you’re still heading in the right direction. Take note of your progress, see if you’re still on track to meet your goal within the timetable you’ve set, and make adjustments where necessary.

Breaking down big goals into habits can be tricky, and many find it helpful to work with a pro in order to get it right. Experienced personal trainers at Fitness Together studios are here to help you understand exactly what it will take to help you meet your goals, and to work with you to develop a plan to get you there.

3. Focus on consistency, not perfection.

“Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.”Dwayne Johnson

You set a goal to wake up and exercise every morning before work, and you do a great job… for the first two weeks. On the morning of day 15, you wake up exhausted, wondering if you might be coming down with a cold. You decide to skip your workout in favor of an extra hour of sleep. You decide that you’ll start again the following week, but when that day comes, you decide you’ll start again the following month? Sound familiar? No judgment – everyone has been there too.

Perfection is rare, nearly impossible, and doesn’t allow room for life to get in the way. When you’re working to create new habits, it’s smart to work toward consistency rather than perfection. When you create a goal that focuses on consistency rather than perfection, you aren’t setting yourself up for failure – you’re doing quite the opposite. Knowing that there will be hiccups in your plan, factors out of your control, and days when you’re sick or overwhelmed can help you choose habits that you know will be sustainable over time, no matter what life throws your way.

Consider these swaps:

  • Instead of saying: I work out immediately after work, every day; try: I enjoy meaningful movement for at least 30 minutes four or more days each week.
  • Instead of saying: I stick to my nutrition plan no matter what, even if that means going to bed hungry; try: I work every day to choose the healthy foods that fuel my body, and if I make a mistake, I simply try again tomorrow.
  • Instead of saying: I’m going to stick to an at-home weight lifting program every day, no matter how tough it gets; try: I’m going to set up some sessions with a personal trainer to learn what strength training goals are right for me.

Can you feel the difference between the all-or-nothing statements and the statements that leave some wiggle room? There’s no need to slam yourself with stress and pressure in order to form new habits. When you focus on consistent positive growth, you’ll reap the rewards of forming a healthy habit, without experiencing the stress that can come with the expectation of perfection.

4. Make appointments with yourself.

"Love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious. You get to choose how you use it. You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won't accept." Anna Taylor

When you’re someone who cares about others, prioritizes your career, and believes in the value of service in your community, it can be easy to find that your self-care has fallen to the back burner. You likely know the old adage of putting your oxygen mask on first – you can’t help others if you don’t help yourself.

When it comes to self-care, taking the time to support your health and well-being means that you can make better use out of the other hours in your day. Self-care isn’t selfish, rather, it keeps you functioning as a healthy human.

Using a calendar (digital or pen-and-paper) can be a helpful way to map out your week and figure out when you’ll be able to fit in self-care.

Some appointments that you’ll want to note on your calendar include:

  • Workouts
  • Grocery shopping
  • Meal planning and prep
  • Mental well-being (therapy, meditation, yoga, journaling, etc.)
  • Time with family and friends

Just like an appointment with your doctor or dentist, it’s important that you don’t cancel your appointments with yourself unless an emergency arises (and no, your boss asking you to stay late doesn’t have to register as an emergency). You can only live your most fulfilled life when you’re feeling your best, and taking the time to take care of yourself is key.

5. Celebrate small wins.

“Small wins are exactly what they sound like, and are part of how keystone habits create widespread changes.” Charles Duhigg

There’s no need to throw a party every time you stick to your habits for a month (unless that’s your thing – and if it is, we’ll be waiting for an invitation), but celebrating your small wins can help you stay on track and recognize the fact that your efforts are paying off.

Sometimes, simply looking back at your calendar and seeing all the days that you stuck to your plan can be enough to give you a push to keep moving forward. Other types of progress, like strength gains in the gym, can show you that every tough rep has moved you closer to your goals. Taking note of the difference in how you feel (for example, if you’re sleeping better, have more energy, or have noticed a boost in confidence) can also motivate you to keep moving forward.

The Fitness Together Brand Has Got Your Back. Let’s Make New Habits Together.

Experienced Personal Trainers at Fitness Together studios know what it takes to form habits that stick, and they'll be with you every step of the way as you work toward your goals. Whether you’re feeling pumped with motivation or you’re feeling frustrated and stuck, they've got you. Reach out to your local Fitness Together studio today to schedule a consultation with an experienced Personal Trainer who can help set you on the path to success, one session at a time.


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