In the month of January motivation is at an all time high, a short lived surplus desire to “Kick off the new year right” and crush new years resolutions that have been set for many January’s but somewhere along the way they fell through.
Where is the metaphorical fork in the road that splits success from missed opportunities?
I’ve always been someone who struggles with the idea of motivation, however I am a habitual person. There are many things in my life that are what I would consider behaviours that fit my values that I do, day in and day out without thinking about. They are my habits. My rituals if you will.
Each morning, each night I will brush my teeth. Although I don’t want holes in my teeth, I’m not “motivated” to avoid holes- I just brush my teeth twice a day. I shower not out of motivation, it’s just habit. The people I know who achieve amazing results aren’t always the most motivated but they are far from haphazard with scheduling their health activities.
Right, so if motivation is enough to get you stood in front of the door. How does stepping in the door become ritual or habit? This seems to be individual as for some people they set a 5:30 alarm once and wake up at 5:30 every day from there on. Others need to be ushered (see pushed) into new behaviours until they eventually submit and make them a habit of their own.
I remember listening to a talk once at a toastmasters meeting and the speaker said how he consistently set large goals in January and always failed to achieve them. Every. Single. Year. Same story. In 2019 he decided to do things differently he set a goal and then broke it down to the most simple piece at the start and built on it over time.
One of his goals was to run the City2Surf. Rather than diving straight into five runs a week of varying distances and pushing himself from day one. He broke it down to the very, very (borderline ridiculous) simple- run from his front door to the first light post (50m). He did that three times in the first week. Then to the second light post (100m). Week three the fourth and so on. Ever so gradually adding the smallest add on so as to avoid being overwhelmed trying to do it all at once.
How does this look for someone who has either joined the gym already or is looking at joining one now?
Simple- it’s just the same. Let’s run through an example for a hypothetical lady named Sharon.
Rather than signing up to a gym and committing to five sessions a week, overhauling her diet completely, sleeping 8 hours per night, hitting step totals, drinking water and so the list goes on. Let’s keep it simple and to many people this may seem silly but it is a method to slowly introduce something into your lifestyle to eventually become as habitual as showering.
Week one, two and three
Straight out of the gate, motivation is at its highest which is great. Capitalise on that and make a commitment to hit the gym twice, just two times in the first couple weeks and set aside thirty minutes each visit. Maybe you have a class, maybe a PT session, maybe cardio equipment- what you do isn’t as important as just doing it.
As far as your food goes, don’t even worry about taking out the bad stuff. Just add one good thing. Add a cup of vegetables per day.
Third thing set a goal to achieve an average of 3000 steps per day (not as many as it sounds).
Week four, five and six
Look at you go, the gym is going well. Food is starting to improve and you’re getting a few extra steps in.
Now lets up the gym to three times per week with one of these sessions being a weights session. That’s all.
Add one more “good thing” to your food. Maybe it’s a commitment to have breakfast. Maybe it’s another cup of vegetables. This three week period take one bad thing out. Maybe that is the “couldn’t be bothered to cook so order burgers” meal.
Up the steps to an average of 4500 per day.
Week seven, eight, nine, ten
Now add structure. Three gym sessions is totally fine for most people who want to enjoy the health benefits of exercise. We are going to add fifteen minutes so now it is three 45 minute training sessions. Two resistance sessions, one HIIT/mobility session.
Adding a little more of the good, taking away a little more “not good”.
By breaking the finished product down into smaller bite sized chunks allows you to avoid being blinded to the daily tasks required by the large and daunting nature of the “finished product”. It would pay to remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, it takes time. Discipline. Commitment.
Smaller tasks become simpler to log and more simple to build on. Day one is meant to be day one type work. Starting off this new year don’t fall for the motivation trap. Habits and rituals are where it’s at.
Before you know it, the idea of “being healthy” is no longer an object to attain, it is no longer seen as a “diet” or a means of deprivation, rather everything feeds into the next and a lifestyle more permanent is taking shape. You wake up fresher, with more energy you are more likely to want to move- with movement you are burning energy that is much better replaced with good nutritious food, which breeds more energy to get your steps up and it eventually feeds into a great nights sleep.
Once the first hurdle is out of the way, results will trickle in and with each transition the improvements become bigger and the capacity to increase the intensity, duration or frequency of your movement follows by virtue of your success.
At this point in time, many of us are talking about “getting started”, but how many will not only start, but continue, knowing that health doesn’t have a finish line. If done correctly and simply you can be one of the ones that really makes 2020 their year.
As per usual, any further questions- sing out in the comments section and I’ll help you out.
Until next time- happy new year and happy training.