Healthy Living YMCA Health and Fitness

How to stay faithful to fitness for life

With a big fitness goal on the horizon, it’s easy to stay on track. The hard part usually comes after you’ve tackled that goal; it can start to feel like you’ve got nothing to work toward, which can have a big (negative) impact on your motivation.

In addition to setting another health goal and starting a new journey toward accomplishing it, try one (or all!) of these strategies to keep your motivation up and your healthy lifestyle in check:

1. Cue yourself

Research shows that the people who stay committed to their workouts long-term are typically spurred into action by a cue. For example, they might exercise first thing in the morning, so the sound of their alarm makes them immediately and automatically start packing up their gym bag. You can train yourself to be this kind of automatic exerciser by associating a sound, thought, or action with your workout. Pick something you do a few times every week — laundry, taking out the trash, emptying the dishwasher — and make a conscious effort to hit the gym right after. Do this enough times, and your brain and body will know when it’s time for a workout, rather than thinking it’s okay to run through a list of excuses for why you should skip it.

2. Volunteer

Watching others flourish under your guidance and support is one of the best motivators out there. Because we’re a charity, the Y relies on the dedicated and heartfelt help of thousands of volunteers to keep our programs running. Depending on your interests, you can help teach kids to swim, play sports with teenagers, or even instruct your favourite group fitness class! Volunteering will help you feel good about yourself and the healthy lifestyle you’ve committed to living, and that new level of confidence will bubble over into your independent workouts.

3. Treat yourself

Tackling a big goal often gives people a sense of elation and self-satisfaction, but you can also give yourself more tangible incentives to work out. If you’ve been eyeing a fancy pair of trainers or a Fitbit for a while, buy them as a gift to yourself — but only after you hit the 5,000 (or however many) steps a day you set out to accomplish. Treating yourself with workout gear of any kind not only serves as a reward for whatever goal you’ve just achieved; it also gives you an incentive to hit the gym ASAP, so you can try it out and show it off.

4. Change things up

Being healthy doesn’t mean you have to be a gym rat. In fact, you’re more likely to exercise regularly if you do a variety of activities throughout the week. Maybe you like a mix of swimming, cycling, and weight training, or perhaps jogging, basketball, and a dance class is a better fit. Explore your options and find several different things you genuinely enjoy, then pick and choose what you feel like doing on your designated workout days. Having choices ensures you never feel bored or forced to work out, and it also guarantees that you’re always able to fit in some kind of physical activity no matter the time or the weather.

5. Get a trainer

One-on-one attention from a fitness expert will not only help you perfect your form so you can see maximum results from your existing exercises; it also provides you with a workout regime tailored to your unique body, exercise style, and mentality. Even just one or two sessions with a personal trainer can yield a workout routine you can’t get enough of, and will keep you excited about hitting the gym for months. If you find a great fit and stick with a trainer for a while, you’ll have your own cheerleader keeping you motivated and on track, pushing you to reach for goals you otherwise might not have even considered setting.

Your body is hardwired with a “use it or lose it” mentality: if you give up your fitness routine after tackling your very first goal, you’ll lose at least some of the progress you worked so hard to achieve. But if you find ways to make a lifelong commitment to fitness sound fun and exciting — rather than daunting and overwhelming — you’re infinitely more likely to live a healthy lifestyle and reap its benefits.