Posts Tagged ‘healthy lifestyle goal setting’
How often have you made New Year’s resolutions that you struggle to keep because they were just too much work? I remember making my lists each year of all the things I should change about myself and the things I should start or stop doing. By the end of the first week in January, I was always failing to keep up with my expectations, and by the end of January, I had given up on my resolutions all together. How often have you had the same experience?
I now do resolutions differently. Instead of focusing on what I should do differently, I focus on picking a few things I would like to experience or do more of in the coming year, and I don’t set a specific date for getting started. I set an intention that I would like specific things to happen and then wait to be inspired to take action. For example, I decided five years ago that I wanted to try Pilates. A few months later, I was running errands in town when I ran into my neighbor, Adrienne, who taught Pilates. I didn’t know she was teaching Pilates, and I was excited to find out she was working with clients in their homes and didn’t need equipment to do it. This was perfect, and I was inspired to work with her. I loved it, and I’ve been doing Pilates ever since. It wasn’t a struggle; it wasn’t a chore. It was so easy and effortless to get started and stick with it.
A few years ago, my New Year’s intention was to add kick boxing to my fitness activities, and I wanted a certain type of instructor who could either work with me in my home or who had their own facility. Nearly eight months later I was introduced to Heidi, who was exactly the person I was looking for, and I trained with her for nearly two years. I loved working with her, and again it wasn’t a chore to me. It fit my lifestyle and my personality. It is possible that a whole year could have gone by without meeting her, and if that had happened, I would have re-evaluated if that was still a resolution I wanted that next January.
Very often, just the act of setting resolutions and feeling excited about a new year can be the inspiration you need to make a change in your life. When I started exercising eight years ago, it was the desire to take advantage of New Year’s that inspired me to make January 1st the date I began my commitment to fitness. There is something inspiring about a new school year or the beginning of the calendar year, and if you feel this way, it is the perfect time to take action.
The challenge is often narrowing the list of improvements down to just a couple of things, or just one thing, so you don’t lose your inspiration. A change to your routine or way of thinking isn’t easy to maintain at first, particularly if you’ve decided to make several changes at once. Very often, people who want to get healthy and fit attempt to add exercise and a change to their diet all at once. While some people do fine by combining these changes, many others find making several changes at once too overwhelming and difficult to keep up with. For them, it is better to pick one change at a time and to pick the one they are most inspired to do first. Then as they assimilate that change, they are encouraged by their success and have greater desire to add another change to their lifestyle.
There is nothing wrong with taking small steps and doing them in the order that feels most enticing to you. In fact, you have greater chance of success if you set small resolutions. You can always add to your resolutions at any time during the year. When you resolve to do something for yourself to improve how you feel or how you live, you are the one in control of your expectations. Give yourself permission to set more realistic and enjoyable expectations. A great way to do this is ask yourself on a scale of 0-10, how confident are you that you will achieve the resolution you’ve created. If your confidence is anything less than a 10, reduce the goals to the point you can say you are fully confident at a 10 on the confidence scale.
Resolutions and their start dates don’t have to be carved in stone. They can be fluid and adjustable. They can also be chosen to accommodate what you want to experience so they feel good, instead of being a “should” that is measured against a rigid expectation. This year, set yourself up for success instead of disappointment.
The research is in! According to a new study released from MIND, a UK mental health organization, 90% of women over the age of 30 are uncomfortable exercising outside. The findings suggest that women are too self-conscious and embarrassed about their bodies or their abilities to be seen exercising in public. As a result, many women go to extremes, such as exercising in the dark or skipping doing any activities. The findings make total sense. What doesn’t are the author’s recommendation to find ways to be active outdoors anyway.
Read the rest of this column posted at YourTango.com
Ahhhh another school year. Whether you have kids or not, the change in temperature and shorter days reminds us all that is time to get refocused and back to work – or back to the gym and regular workout routines. But just like kids, you don’t want to go back and you put it off for a day and than one more day. And the next thing you know it is the holidays and you never did start exercising or eating better. And of course you can’t get started once the holidays begin, so you wait until New Years when you feel more uncomfortable, overweight and disappointed in yourself. Is this a familiar story? It doesn’t have to be.
Why not create healthy routines that you look forward to instead of dread. To succeed long term in getting back into shape, maintaining your health and achieving a great feeling in your body means creating a lifestyle that fits your life, not the other way around. Forcing something to work that you really resent or is more than you can really take on isn’t likely to last. The first time your schedule gets disrupted it will be the first thing to go and the last thing to add back in. Think of what usually happens for you and if this is generally true. Do you really want to get back on that treadmill or start that diet? I didn’t think so.
Determine instead what is realistic for you and your body. Start by creating small realistic daily or weekly practices that slowly change your lifestyle so that eating better and regular exercise get easily incorporated in your planning and schedule. It is better to start with just a few changes and a small commitment – maybe exercising a few days a week doing as much time as you can and working up to five days for 30-40 minutes. What is most important is incrementally increasing the days, time and intensity in a way that is best for your fitness level and schedule. This isn’t a race or a comparison game. It is a process of incorporating fitness for a lifetime.
The same goes for food. When we feel fat, we start a diet. But diets have less than a 4% success rate. Almost no one can keep the weight off a year or more after the diet, but that doesn’t stop us from trying what everyone is doing. This is particularly alluring for us as women. We are compelled to do the next diet. It is far better to select healthy options from among foods you enjoy, and to eat when you get hungry and stop before you get full. You will be more successful long term if you enjoy what you eat, feel free to eat what you love without being deprived or judged, and creating a routine that isn’t driven by the latest diet. This is easier than starting something new every six months.
And know what is right for you. Decide what is realistic and sustainable in your daily life. Everyone’s goals, abilities and schedules are different, so it is best to focus on your situation and not someone else’s. If you push too hard, you can get burned out, frustrated, injured or impatient for results. If you cut too far back on food, you will lose your muscle mass, reduce your metabolism and end up overeating when the diet is done. It is better to start with moderation and healthy choices with enough variety to keep you interested and your body supported, so you have successes and feel motivated to stay on track.
Focus on choosing things you think you will enjoy most of the options you have available to you. Sometimes that means trying new things, such as new foods or new types of activities. You may find that you really like some of them. This is how I came to love Pilates, kick boxing and even P90X. Listen to your body and what feels best to you. You might find that a new way of eating or activity grows on you because of how good it feels to your body.
So now that fall is in the air, what simple steps can you take that are appealing and realistic to boost your aerobic levels, balance your meals and take care of your health, so you can avoid that holiday weight gain?
When people call me, one of the things they say they struggle with the most is staying motivated. They liked how good it felt to eat better, exercise and get enough rest and water, but they couldn’t get themselves to stick with these healthier behaviors. Jennifer was one of them. She couldn’t understand why she would quit her walks and Zumba classes, since she enjoyed them when she went. And she actually liked vegetables and whole foods more than junk food, yet she never stuck with them. It drove her crazy, and she wondered what was wrong with her that she would keep going back to choices that left her feeling lousy.
I asked her what got her to pick up the phone to call me, and she said, “I have just been told I have pre-diabetes, and I have got to change my lifestyle to avoid getting the disease.” She had found her motivation to take action, yet as I explained to her, this motivating catalyst was based on something she didn’t want, and it probably wouldn’t be enough to stick with healthier changes long term. Here’s why.
There are five steps to getting and staying motivated.
1) The Catalyst Motivator It starts with being motivated by what it is you don’t want to have happen, feel ashamed about or don’t like about yourself. These are catalysts that propel you into action, and the most common ones are a diagnosis or clear risk for chronic illness, seeing a photo and realizing how big or out of shape you are, being shamed by what someone has said or what a doctor has written, or not being able to do things anymore. For some people, it takes repeated experiences like this before one specific event becomes the wake up call and catalyst to do something about it. And even then, if you don’t act on it fast enough, you can lose the motivation very easily.
2) The Endurance Motivator Once you are determined to make a change, you need something positive to look forward to and fight for when sticking with your new changes feel like too much effort to bother. Change is not easy, and you need to know why it really matters to you to overcome your inner chatter that tries to derail you.
So why do you really care if you are overweight, can’t do all the things you used to do or are at risk for disease? What is your vision of what your life can be (or can still be) if you have your health and fitness? How do you see yourself at your best, and why is that worth sticking with new changes no matter how hard that will feel? What are you trying to achieve or be physically capable of doing that matters to you? Maybe you want to participate in a fundraiser walkathon or be able to get around when you travel abroad. Once you know this, have ways to remind yourself everyday, and keep your eye on the prize.
3) The Success Motivator Within a few days or weeks of starting your new routine, it becomes harder to reach all the goals you set for yourself or to feel confident you can really succeed at keeping up with your expectations. This is much tougher if you set high expectations, embarked on too many changes at once or picked too extreme a change to sustain each week. As you struggle to stay on track, find yourself not fully following the program or missing a day here or there, it is easy to see yourself as bad, a failure or incapable of success. Any of these thoughts will de-motivate you, and it won’t be long before you give up.
Whereas, if you set very small goals, make only one or a couple of changes at a time, and start off with baby steps, you have a greater chance of success. When you have a success, no matter how small, you become motivated to see how much more you can do. And when you focus on what successes you do have each week, rather than on the failures, you will feel more confident in your ability to succeed and even more motivated to continue.
4) The Accountability Motivator It really helps, particularly in the first six to twelve months of starting to exercise or eat better, to have someone who you are accountable to and who champions you. This could be a buddy who joins you, or a friend who is doing something similar and you acknowledge each other successes and brainstorm what might work better when you were challenged. It could be a class instructor, a lifestyle coach, personal trainer, classmates, team or anyone else who is involved in your new changes.
5) The Day-to-Day Motivators
From day to day, most people have to figure out additional ways to stay motivated, and there are lots of tools or techniques to make this motivating. You may be motivated by reaching certain numbers, and if so, pedometers, accelerometers (calories burned) or distance tracking work really well. You can have daily or weekly goals for this. Tracking calories and your weight on the scale can also work for some people, but for the majority, tracking these kinds of numbers often backfires, and I don’t recommend them. Instead I encourage clients who like numbers to track their hunger levels and how they feel on a scale of 0-10.
Other types of motivators are having a weekly fitness log where you record what you did, or having a calendar where you check off your goals. These work great for list people. Some people like to put gold stars on their calendars when they completed their goals. Others like to reward themselves with small celebratory non-food gifts periodically, such as a massage, special bath, manicure, inexpensive accessory or something else meaningful. And many people find all they need is a fixed-date goal when they need to be physically fit and healthy enough to participate in an event.
The key to motivation is to find ways to celebrate your successes, build your confidence, focus on what you want to be able to do, and how good you feel. You may find that your day-to-day and accountability motivators work for only so long, and that you need a new type of motivator. If that happens, consider it an opportunity to experiment with different types of motivators.
You CAN stay motivated. By addressing all five types of motivators as specific steps, you have much greater success of sticking with your new healthier behaviors and loving how you feel.
Every year just after Christmas and before New Years I would make my list of all the things I was going to improve on or do once January started. I still have some of those crazy lists, and few of the things on them ever got done. It wasn’t for lack of putting in the effort those first few weeks, but the list was too big, the expectations too unrealistic, and the reality of real life too demanding to ever succeed.
I could have been like most people and totally given up on the idea, but I didn’t. What about you? Have you given up on resolutions? Or do you still hold out hope you can make some changes this year?
Thankfully I discovered there are two ways New Year’s “resolutions” can work to inspire you and help you take action, so you can become more of the person you want to be.
- The first takes advantage of your frustration and desire to fix something in your life, and that angst fuels your resolve (as in resolution) to make a change and takes advantage of a new year, with its clean slate, to get you into action. But the action is open-ended. You don’t have to reach a specific goal. You simply need to get started by taking the first small step and then learn what feels best and is inspiring to you to keep the action going. No long lists, just one step in the right direction.
- The second way focuses on what you intend (as in intention) to have more of in your life or what you want to experience in the new year, but it doesn’t have to happen immediately and it doesn’t come loaded down with fixed goals. With an intention, there is no burning drive or catalyst to take action on January 1st, instead there is a strong desire to experience it at some point during the year in whatever way that happens.
Resolutions and intentions are important distinctions, and they give you flexibility and openness about how you will achieve positive changes in your life. Most importantly, they need to be driven by inspiration, moderation and what truly feels good to you, or you won’t stick with them.
Here’s how these two approaches have worked for me. Ten years ago when I was 43 and struggling with my health and my weight, I had a wake up call. I knew if I didn’t make some changes and start taking care of myself, I was going to have even more health problems and might not be able to lose the weight. I was resolved to start using my unused Stairmaster down in my basement beginning on January 1st 2001. I didn’t set a weight loss goal. I didn’t set any specific goals, such as how long I had to use the Stairmaster each day or each week. I just resolved to get on it and not stop until I got back into my wardrobe of size 6 clothes, however long that took.
At the time I was a size 16 and extremely out of shape, with cellulite down to my knees. It took me nearly two years. Because my only objective was to get on the stairs, I allowed myself to start where I was (at a few minutes) and to gradually increase my time, my frequency and then my intensity. I then started to set weekly goals, and if I came close I celebrated. If I missed a day, I moved on and didn’t let that bother me. I discovered that by giving myself permission to simply do what I could and to stretch myself a bit each week or so, that I had continual success and felt inspired to do more and more and more.
That one New Year’s resolution was all about taking my first step on the Stairmaster, and now 10 years later I am celebrating what that one step has done for my life. Had I resolved to use that equipment 4 days a week for 30 minutes right up front, or set a goal of losing 30 pounds by June, I would have seen myself as a failure and given up. But I only had one goal – get started and don’t stop. It worked.
Then on subsequent New Year’s, I would pick one new fitness activity that I would like to pursue at some point during the year. It didn’t have to be on January 1st, it was simply an intention. One year my New Year’s intention was to add in Pilates. In April I ran into a neighbor who was studying for her Pilate’s exam, and soon afterwards she started coming to my house to instruct me in Pilates. She instructed me for nearly four years. Another year I set an intention to learn kickboxing. I wanted to have the right type of trainer for this, and it wasn’t until the following fall that I met the perfect gal to teach me how to kick box. I worked with her for nearly a year, and I still do kickboxing. In both cases, my intentions were realized, but they wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t consciously set the intention and keep my eye out for ways to fulfill it.
This past year I intended to shake up my routine to get my body out of its metabolic plateau, and in August I had coffee with a girlfriend who was doing P90X. I hadn’t seriously considered doing such an extreme program. But with her reassurance I could do it, I began the 13 week program on my 53rd birthday and just this week completed it. I would never have guessed last January that my idea of shaking up my routine would have included P90X, but I did know I was looking for something new and demanding. I got it.
For the upcoming year, I want to do something more fun. I want to dance. I keep avoiding dance options because of my two left feet and tight hips, but I fully intend for the perfect dancing program to show up in my life and to keep working on ways to open up my hips. And next year at this time, I expect to be delighted and surprised by how much fun I’m having on the dance floor.
What about you? Is this the year for one simple resolution or an intention that fulfills one of your desires?
How many times have you given up on your diet or fitness routine because you weren’t good enough, didn’t do it all right or couldn’t exactly follow or complete what you had to do? My guess is more than once. The average person has given up close to a dozen times on their eating and exercise goals, and those experiences affect their self-confidence and an ability to succeed in the future.
The Truth about Perfection
Few people can perfectly follow a diet or a fitness program for weeks on end, unless they are professionalathletes or those who have the rare ability to be extremely self-disciplined. That leaves nearly everyone else who is trying to fit healthier habits into their busy and often unpredictable lifestyles.
What the contestants have been learning is that the goal isn’t to reach perfection or to be good; it is to gradually make healthier choices that leave them feeling good and setting their own new and realistic goals they honestly think they can reach each week. There is no diet or fitness agenda they must follow. Instead, they are learning to incorporate more and more healthier foods and activities into their day-to-day life as each week goes by. And despite all they are doing well, sometimes they overeat, choose unhealthy foods, over drink or can’t meet the fitness goal they had for themselves. Yet even when that happens, they can still say they had successes during the week. In fact, I make it a point to have them share their successes each week, and they all have them regardless of whether they fully met their goals or not.
Focus on What Went Well and Learn from the Challenges
When you acknowledge what went well, you get to see that the journey to a fit, healthy and great body is not about what you didn’t do well. Yet that is what most people focus on, which leads to feeling like a failure and feeling it is impossible to succeed. Instead, the journey is about celebrating all the little successes along the way as well as getting to see what didn’t go so well – and looking at those things without any judgment. Judgment is the quickest way to kill your motivation.
When things don’t go so well, that gives you an opportunity to look at the obstacles, challenges and inner issues with curiosity. There are always good reasons (vs bad reasons) for not following through or quite doing as you hoped. Looking at this way, you can see that in each case you can learn something and create a strategy or change in mindset to address it.
In the past couple of weeks, what didn’t go so well for a number of the group members were: limited exercising because of the heat and humidity, eating less well at summer parties, doing a bit more drinking, losing focus because of family distractions, and either being derailed by an injury or an illness.
Creating a Change in Mindset
To address these challenges, we talked about strategies and changes in mindset.
- For heat and humidity, the opportunity is to figure out ways to be active indoors, in the water or at cooler times of the day. You don’t have to use the heat and humidity as an excuse.
- For summer parties, bring healthy foods like a salad or vegetable side dish so you know you will have healthier foods to choose from. You don’t have to overeat because others are. You can throw out food if it isn’t that healthy and will be a temptation for days afterwards.
- For drinking, consider ways to drink less alcohol and still enjoy yourself. Maybe have seltzer water or make spritzers. You don’t have to get drunk to have fun or drink because others want you to.
- For an injury, consider getting physical therapy if it isn’t healing quickly or is an older injury. Most of the contestants have been seeing Bryan Labell PT & Associates in Rowley to address or prevent an injury. I will be writing more about PT in a future post. You may also be able to do activities that don’t impact the injured area, or you may just need a few days to recover from an overuse injury. You rarely have to stop being completely active when you get hurt for weeks at a time.
- For an illness, focus on getting well and being gentle with yourself. If you feel you can do light activity that is great, but the main thing to focus on is taking care of yourself and giving yourself time to recover. You are not guilty for giving yourself a break or resting when that is best for your body.
It is so easy to beat yourself up when things get in the way of keeping you from doing as you planned, but real life ebbs and flows and throws you curve balls. Things always get in the way or interfere with our best laid plans. Get over the judgment and look at what you can learn from the situation so the next time you have a game plan that makes it easier to adjust, accept or address the situation.
For more information about the contest, visit www.aHealthyLifestyleWorks.com/contest.
Have a fit and healthy week,
It can be so easy to get into a routine where you start to eat a bit better and get in some aerobic activity, but that is as far as it goes. You are doing enough to get a bit healthier, but not enough to really change your body or your attitude. And while a small change for the better is a success; it will likely lead to disappointment. When that happens, it won’t be long before you go back to old unhealthy habits.
To help the group participants avoid settling into a lifestyle that is less than what they had hoped for, I asked them to consider what it is they want to improve and how they want to stretch themselves further. Because they set their own goals and I don’t force them to do any particular activity, what they decide to do is up to them.
This contest and program was set up deliberately to emulate what it is like to create and maintain a healthy lifestyle. In real life, there is no one to tell you what you should do or force you to stick with it. The drive to do more has to come from within, and what I have learned – and now they are learning – is the more you do, the more you can do and the more you want to do. Those who are doing the most activity are the ones pushing themselves and trying new things. And they are the ones who are the most enthused and seeing huge changes in their attitude and bodies. They are almost giddy with how great they feel and how much fun they are having being more active.
I remember having a similar experience during the two years I went from sedentary to fit, and I found myself wanting to do strengthening exercises, try Pilates, go to new classes and check out new types of equipment. I amazed myself by what I was discovering I could do and my new interests. At the end of two years I was even more shocked to realize I had a passion for fitness. Yet I am not alone. Read almost any fitness or weight loss success story, and you will see that this happens to most people who are active long enough that they want to do more and more and more. It is the reason for the record number of older adults now doing races and triathlons. They love how great it feels. But it takes doing enough fitness activities and then sticking with them long enough to get that great feeling.
For some people, even some in the groups, there can appear to be limitations in what they can do to be active. These can come from a physical ailment, a preference for doing certain types of activities, only wanting to be outdoors or indoors, a tight schedule, having kids at home, having a poor body image, or any number of things. Yet very often this is a perceived limitation and not an actual one.
- Ways to address an ailment with physical therapy, a visit to your doctor or seeing another type of healing practitioner.
- Finding new groups or programs you weren’t aware of, such as outdoor MeetUp groups at www.meetup.com.
- Easy-to-follow and fun DVD or OnDemand fitness programs.
- Local specialized classes and programs listed through Adult Education or the Chamber of Commerce.
- Who can watch your kids or which local fitness facilities have a good place for kids, like the YWCA.
- Any judgment about how you look or how capable you are trying a new activity is your own self-judgment and a perception of what others think. If you refuse to be judged, no one can judge you.
- How you can stretch yourself and try something totally new, like rock climbing at MetroRock.
In our group discussion, these were the things we talked about, and a number of people got ideas about what they could do to increase their level of activity, and they left feeling excited by the new prospects.
Read What the Participants Have to Say
Find out what else the group participants have to say about stretching themselves to feel even better, when they add their comments to this blog. And please share your own insights about what works for you. It may be just the spark that helps another person reading this blog.
For more information about the contest and contestants, visit www.aHealthyLifestyleWorks.com/contest.
Have a fit and healthy week,
There are many different ways to keep yourself motivated to make healthier choices and stick with exercise intentions. To find out what is working for those in the New You Groups, I asked them to share what was keeping them motivated each week. We heard lots of different answers, and that was my point. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another, and what seems to work for you can stop working after a while. Then you have to find something else that works. The good news is there are lots of things you can try and many ways to stay motivated.
Motivated by How Good It Feels
A common motivator that a number of people shared was how good they felt from being active and eating healthier foods, which inspired them to do more of it. Whether it was feeling good from having an accomplishment or feeling good physically, this further motivated their desire to eat well and exercise. Those who are starting to see a big difference in how their bodies feel are getting really excited about the possibility of doing things they haven’t been able to do for a long time, like skiing, playing tennis, hiking or doing a round of golf.
Motivated to Reach an Accomplishment
Another motivator some folks mentioned was the desire to accomplish a particular goal, like walking a 5k in an hour (specifically the Coastal Rail Trail 5k this coming Sunday), running 5 miles by the fall, doing a 10k walk in July, participating in a bike-a-thon next September or going skiing next winter. This provides a vision of an achievable goal and the incentive to do a certain amount each week in order to reach that physical challenge.
Having a longer term physical goal can be extremely motivating, yet not everyone is inspired by that. A couple of weeks ago I had encouraged everyone to consider making a 3- or 6-month fitness goal, and many weren’t ready to do that or didn’t feel any interest in it. I totally understand, because I am not motivated that way. I’m more like one of the gals in the contest group who is motivated by checking off and tracking her day-to-day and weekly fitness goals.
Motivated by a Daily or Weekly Goal
Some in the groups are motivated by having a daily or weekly goal to get in a certain number of minutes or steps, like 8,000 steps using a pedometer or at least 30 minutes walking or biking. By looking back and seeing how much they’ve done, they then find they want to push themselves a bit more with a slightly higher goal. One of the contest winners has done this with great success. She started off walking for just a few minutes six days a week and each week she’s added a minute. Now she has just passed the 30 minute mark and doing more than she thought was possible. She’s even adding in some hills and increasing her exertion levels, and that is exciting for her.
Motivated by Just Doing It
Sometimes you just don’t feel motivated by any of the things I’ve mentioned, and then you have to Just Do It. We all have those times when we just don’t want to get up and exercise or make a healthy meal. We may be feeling ambivalent, tired or super busy. Yet, these are the times when very often you will feel so much better if you overcome the mental excuses and just go do it anyway. That worked for one person in the group, who had been derailed by plantar fasciitis. She got out on a friend’s bike instead of letting her foot be an excuse, and she felt so much better afterwards.
Motivated to Get Better
One fellow in the contest group was in a serious auto accident about a month ago, and he has been told walking will make all the difference in how well his body will heal. The more he can do now, the better chance he has of staying healthy and being able to have an active life long-term. That is pretty motivating. Others have seen their blood pressure, stamina and energy improve, and that inspires them to keep doing even more.
Motivated from Realistic Successes
A couple of the guys in the groups shared what they’ve learned is de-motivating, and that is having a goal that doesn’t seem achievable or failing to succeed right off the bat. At that point, their feeling was why bother doing it at all if you can’t succeed, and then wanting to give up entirely.
For one of the guys, the excitement in having a realistic way to get from the couch to a 5k and actually run again for the first time in years was lost by seeing someone else run it at a speed he knew he couldn’t attain. It completing deflated his motivation. Yet when he could see that he didn’t have to run that fast and didn’t have to compare himself to others, that he regained his motivation to running a 5k at whatever pace he could. Another one of the guys pointed out that if you set the goal very low and have a success, you want to see how much more you can do. So instead of pushing yourself to do too much and feeling like a failure, you can start off slow and become motivated by what you can do.
Explore What Motivates You
As you’ve just read, everyone is motivated differently and can be motivated by a number of different things. What matters is recognizing what does and doesn’t work for you, and then being open to trying something new when you find yourself losing interest.
Read What the Participants Have to Say
Find out what else the participants have learned about what does and doesn’t motivate them, when they add their comments to this blog. And please share your own insights about what works for you. It may be just the spark that helps another person reading this blog.
Have a fit and healthy week,
It seems like common sense to set goals for your weekly fitness intentions, so you can schedule your time accordingly, and have a way to be accountable and stay motivated. And for the vast majority (and about 98% of my clients), this is what works best to get started exercising and stay on track week after week. But it doesn’t work for everyone, and for those people where it doesn’t they need to experiment with what does work to retain their commitment and continue to make progress.
The main reasons goals don’t work for these people has more to do with their subconscious rebellion of rigid rules (or paperwork), past experiences where they failed to meet goals, a fear of imperfection, or a need to have greater freedom to do what feels best. It may also be something else. It isn’t often obvious what the issue is and there may be more than one reason, yet it is worth trying to figure out what is driving the resistance to goals, since it is likely also affecting the ability to successfully stick with a fitness routine.
For example, if the issue is a fear of imperfection, which is virtually impossible to attain, than anything can and will derail the pursuit of regular exercise and activity. This becomes an opportunity to change the belief that perfection is required and instead create a new belief that good is good enough. When you’ve got a history of past failures, remember that the past is not a reflection of the future. In these cases, setting very small and highly achievable goals can be helpful to break that belief and create a history of successes. Those dealing with rebellion of rules need a way to have greater freedom to define their own success, supported by a sense of structure, such as having a way to see or report on what they did without being required to decide what that is ahead of time.
Here’s a way to succeed when goals get in the way:
1) Decide you will do some type of aerobic activity in the upcoming week and consider what that
might be and when you might do it, so you can picture it and see yourself succeeding.
2) Plan on telling someone at the end of the week about what it is you accomplished, so you have
3) Be active without overdoing it, and do something you find enjoyable.
4) Notice how it felt physically to be active. Did the exercise, no matter how little it was, leave you
5) Notice how it feels emotionally to share your success. Did sharing your success feel good?
6) Notice if you also want to track what you did on a calendar or in a journal, so you can see your
accomplishment. One of my clients likes to use stars to see her successes.
7) Now ask yourself if you are motivated to be active in the upcoming week without setting goals.
If so, see if you don’t want to do a bit (up to 5-10%) more since it felt so good last week.
8) Continue each week setting loose goals until you get to the point you find you want to set more
specific goals or you are finding you are easily exercising more and more regularly without them.
If you either aren’t motivated to be active each week or are not successful in past weeks in doing as you hoped, than this approach without goals probably doesn’t work for you. At this point, it is worth going back to setting goals and seeing what type of reaction you are having either to the goal process or the exercising so you can address what is driving that response.
There is no rule that you have to set goals or that the goals you set have to always be the same or increase each week. There are times when decreasing them because of a change in circumstances is appropriate. What is more important is finding a structure that motivates you to be and stay active week-to-week and month-to-month, so you can achieve consistent exercise in your life and push yourself to increase your fitness levels and feel your very best.
This week, our sessions started a bit differently. I asked everyone to share what it was that allowed them to succeed at reaching all or part of their fitness goals. As it turned out, all but those who had illnesses or other situations outside of their control, met their goals and most exceeded them. They have been doing this for several weeks now, and I wanted to hear what was enabling them to stay on track and be successful.
Three Powerful Ways to Continually Reach Fitness Goals
The most obvious reason mentioned is accountability, which is why having a group, coach or other support structure makes all the difference when you are making lifestyle behavior changes. It is very hard to do this on your own, both when you get started and as the going gets tough to maintain the changes as a way of life. This is another reason I made this such a long program. It takes time to get new lifestyle changes integrated so they are a natural part of you and it no longer takes energy to stick with the new mindset and behaviors.
The second reason many gave for their success was the freedom to feel okay about making small changes they could achieve and then feeling motivated by that success to do a little bit more. In all the groups, most of them had exceeded their goals and felt really good that. They were excited by how good they were feeling from moving more, and quite a few are already seeing improvements in stamina, strength and energy. They were also jazzed by the ability to choose activities they found most enjoyable, such as walking outside instead of getting on indoor equipment, using the Wii Fit, or dancing with their kids instead of “exercise”. Any movement that gets your heart rate up into the fat burning zone and is sustained for a period of time counts as aerobic exercise, even if it is housework, yard work, washing the dog, shoveling, dancing around the house or playing in the snow. When you get rid of the rigid definition of exercise, you discover a whole world of aerobic options.
A third reason I heard was the versatility and flexibility they had to change their mind and pick other fitness activities during the week that better fit their mood, situations or schedules. They aren’t being forced to comply to specific fitness regimens, and they have the freedom to do what feels and works best to reach their goals. They also aren’t being encouraged to do too much or risk overdoing it, and many of them appreciate that. It is very easy to do too much and feel too stiff or sore to get back into a routine, which is often what derails people for days, which turn into weeks (or even months and years) as they feel overwhelmed by the prospect of starting over again. It doesn’t have to be that overwhelming, nor is it necessary to overdo it. It is best to make goals that are within your ability and totally realistic, and then to increase those goals week-to-week by no more than 5-10%. You can even decrease the goals if you know that is all your schedule will allow, as some people did for the vacation holiday. This assures you are always setting goals with a high level of confidence you can achieve them.
Creating a Way to Track Fitness Goals
What is helping them set fitness goals is the use of a fitness journal, which they began using a week ago. This gives them a place to set goals each day for up to two different aerobic activities and some stretching. And it gives them a way to track what they accomplished and how they feel. The journal can be found on the contest website at www.aHealthyLifestyleWorks.com/contest . Many people are finding this journal very helpful, and others are interested in creating their own variation of it, and I don’t have a problem with that. I told them, what is more important is they have a journal that works best for them as a part of supporting their healthy and fit lifestyle; not what is best for me or to be in compliance with my rules. Not only that, as they begin to add in strengthening exercises they will need a way to track that – either as a part of this journal or on another form.
Finding a Willingness Rather Than Willpower
As each person checked in and shared what worked for them, I could hear a genuine interest, motivation and willingness to be active this past week. They weren’t relying on willpower as much as they were on the desire and choice to do what would leave them feeling better physically and about themselves. They aren’t fighting the process but finding themselves willing participants to be active. If you have to rely on willpower, you will lose the energy it takes to keep it up. Whereas, if you focus on the desire to feel good, you will increase your willingness and self-motivation to stay active. It is more than a change in mindset; it becomes an internal driver of self-care.
Read What the Participants Have to Say about Reaching Their Goals
I can only summarize what the participants are experiencing in this blog post, so read the comments to find out what they each experienced for themselves this week.
To do this for yourself, either on your own or in a group, check out the contest website for details, tools and instructions to join them on the contest website.
Have a healthy and active week,
Putting the Emphasis on What Went Well
Our sessions started with a weekly check-in with everyone, in which they shared a fitness and food success. Some people wanted to also talk about ways they weren’t so good or didn’t do so well, but I asked them to only share what went well and any positive insights they got. The reason for focusing just on what went well is to avoid putting the focus on self-criticism or not being good or perfect enough, which most people do to the exclusion of seeing what they did in fact accomplish. You can feel like a failure and want to give up, when in fact you had a really good week full of positive changes and successes. This was eye-opening for several people who couldn’t see their successes at first and then realized they had been far more successful than they had given themselves credit.
Naturally Making Healthier Food Choices
As we did our check-in, again and again the group members shared how great they felt about achieving their fitness goals and making changes in their eating behaviors. They were having successes and ah-ha observations about food that was helping them make positive changes in their approach to food. A big change was the drop in overeating. If overeating happened, it occurred only a few times during the entire week, which was a big shift. They were also beginning to make healthy food choices and smaller portion sizes that were more satisfying than what they’d been doing in the past, and finding they were enjoying their food more. What they loved is they were doing this without feeling forced or because they should, but instead as a natural extension of their awareness of hunger and fullness levels – called Intuitive Eating.
The real test was Super Bowl Sunday, and nearly everyone avoided overeating or being totally out of control that day for the first time ever. Some of them deliberately portioned out smaller amounts, others made healthier versions of their party foods, many simply stopped as they began to feel full, and a few discovered they didn’t really want any of the food after all.
Getting Motivated by How Good It Feels to Move
They were also getting excited about how much better they were feeling from being more active and discovering how to pick activities that were most enjoyable. A number of people got outside and walked, which they really enjoyed, rather than get on their indoor exercise equipment. Some parked much further way from their destinations and got in more walking and felt more energized. Several others got a Wii Fit this past week and loved it so much they overdid it. A number of people pushed themselves to do more than they had set as a goal, and several of them felt really sore as a result. Getting sore isn’t a bad thing, but it can be a warning sign that you are doing too much too soon. I’ve learned over the years in my practice, that doing too much can lead to overuse injuries, joint pain, lower immune systems that show up as repeated colds, or a feeling of frustration and giving up. There is time to build up to doing more and giving the body a chance to acclimate to the changes. The best way to progress is by incrementally adding no more than 5-10% more time (or intensity) each week and checking in to see if you (and your body) are ready to progress.
Setting Realistic Fitness Goals
The last thing we discussed was setting fitness goals for the upcoming week, and this week they got a fitness journal to track their goals and what they actually accomplished. You can get a copy of this from the contest website.
Read the rest of this post for tips to setting realistic goals.
Hear what the participants have to say about their individual experiences this past week by reading their comments to this post.
Have a healthy and active week,
Contestants and Groups Selected
This week, four groups began the two-year journey together that will change their lifestyles. I received nearly 100 applications for participation in the contest, and of those I narrowed the applicants down to 40 and then talked with each of them at length last week. Each of them was ready, motivated and committed to making healthy lifestyle changes to reclaim their health, fitness and wellbeing. They all recognized that rapid weight loss and dieting was no longer the answer, and they wanted to finally take good care of themselves.
Read more to learn who became contestants.
In our first sessions together, the group participants talked about what led them to apply for a spot in the contest. They shared the struggles they’ve had to exercise regularly, make healthy food choices and make themselves more of a priority. These struggles and the associated frustration, disappointment and pain they created are what motivated them to finally take action. Being inspired to change because of what is no longer tolerable, from a wake-up call or an opportunity to be in a life-changing contest, is often the motivating catalyst that puts people into action, yet that motivator has a short fuse and can disappear as quickly as it appears. The catalyst can get you to make a change, but it won’t keep you motivated to stick with that change or to make long-term changes. For that you need to create long-term motivators based on what it is you will be able to do, feel or experience as a result of the healthy lifestyle changes. These positive outcomes are what keep you motivated to stay on track.
I’ve asked the contestants to comment on their experience each week on a local community blog and the group participants to comment on this blog. In that way, you will get a birds-eye view of what they are discovering for themselves, which will help you in following the contest and participating on your own. You are also free to comment on your own experience.
Have a healthy and active week,
If you are like most people, regular exercise and healthy eating is more of a chore than a welcome part of your day. It feels like work, and most likely you find reasons not to follow through on your intention to exercise or prepare a healthy meal, or you find yourself doing yo-yo dieting or yo-yo exercising.
Instead of becoming frustrated, feeling guilty or giving up on fitness when you fail to stay on track, you can change your mindset about what it really takes to have a healthy lifestyle. You can break the rules without any guilt and create a better way to get and stay healthy and fit that keeps you motivated. With a change in perspective, you’ll develop a positive attitude and discover it is actually quite easy to make healthier choices and stick with your fitness routines. Here’s how to do that.
3 steps to Change Your Mindset
Become conscious when you make choices that don’t honor your body or yourself. For example, be aware when you overeat or eat food that doesn’t feel good to you physically. Notice when you choose not to exercise or exercise to the point of overdoing it. A great way to get started with this is to observe for one week all the times you start to feel full. This is eye-opening for most people.
When you do this, do not judge yourself, just notice with interest that it is happening and become curious about why that might be. If you judge yourself, you will see things as good or bad, all or nothing, black or white, and you won’t be able to see what is really driving your behavior.
Consider what is driving your choices and what you can learn from them. Assume you have a good reason worth understanding. Then you can be open to what the issue is, what good reason you have for doing what you did, and what strategies you can put into place that will help you reach your goals.
Most of the time, we sabotage our good intentions because we think we have limited or very rigidly defined options. This comes from dieting and fitness programs that specify what is and is not allowed and expect full compliance. Few people can do these well or stick with them, and the good news is there are many ways to get fit and healthy that are more realistic and enjoyable.
If you find you didn’t go to the gym, take a moment to consider why that is. Perhaps you don’t like going to the gym. If so, what else would you enjoy that gets your heart rate up and moving? What sounds like fun, would be motivating to be a part of, or you’ve done in the past and enjoyed? Perhaps you weren’t prepared to go to your class. What would help you be more prepared? Maybe you need a partner. How can you find one?
If you overate, why might that be? Maybe you didn’t get enough to eat earlier and you were so ravenous that you overate. If that happens frequently, how can you get a snack between meals or eat enough during the day. Perhaps you felt out of control because it was a food you think you shouldn’t have, creating a feeling of deprivation. If so, allow yourself to have that food in moderation, so it doesn’t have power over you. Maybe you kept eating, hoping to be satisfied or feel better, only to feel worse. In that case, find a way to eat what you enjoy in a healthier way so you are satisfied. You will eat much less naturally.
Choose foods or fitness activities that feel good to you physically. And start off easy so you can have success from week to week. If you set a goal you know you can reach because it is realistic, and then you reach it, you will be encouraged and self-motivated to do even more. One small step leads to more steps, and you won’t be fighting it but pushing yourself because it will feel so good. The goal isn’t perfection; it is to increase how good you feel physically and about yourself.
For healthy eating: Find ways to eat what you enjoy in a healthier way, and do this in stages. You don’t have to change everything in a day. You can start with breakfast or start with dinner, and begin using healthier ingredients when preparing foods you already enjoy. For example, make pizza with whole grain crust, low sodium tomato sauce, lower-saturated fat cheese, turkey sausage, and more vegetables. Choose healthier things that make the pizza taste yummy to you.
For regular exercise: Choose activities that get you active and be open to all the possible ways you can do that, from dancing to power yoga, Wii Sport to tennis, or kick boxing to aqua aerobics. There is so much to choose from when you open your mind to more than what you find in a gym.
When you change your mindset from Being Good and trying to measure up to doing what Feels Good to you and your body, you can finally succeed at having a fit and healthy lifestyle you can live with on your own terms. And you’ll be amazed to discover you will naturally choose healthier options because they feel better, and you’ll become motivated to do more than you ever thought possible when you set yourself up for success week to week.
If you create a rule that narrows your chance for success, you are setting yourself up to fail. And that isn’t necessary. Instead you can be more open and set yourself up to easily succeed. Any time that you can make for being active, whether it is 10 minutes throughout the day, longer periods a few times a week or just in the evenings is just fine.
Up until recently I used to always make time in the morning for my fitness activities, but lately it just isn’t happening and I’ve had to adjust to fitting it into my evenings. The toughest part about that is making sure I don’t let other plans get in the way. Last night I was in my basement at 9:30, where I am lucky to have a mini gym set up, and doing a functional training routine. That isn’t ideal, but I knew I’d feel worse if I didn’t do it. My body gets antsy when I go without some type of exercise, so late as it was I was glad to be there.
What do you do when you find yourself having to exercise at night? Skip it or find a way to make it work?