Are you one of the millions who resolved to get fit in 2014? Perhaps you have joined the local gym, enrolled in an exercise class or started walking to work or running up the stairs.
The sad truth is that many of us give up on well-intentioned goals for the year before February even starts. It’s hardly surprising that, just a couple of weeks into the new year, today has been declared Blue Monday, – apparently the most depressing day of the year. But here at Outperform, there’s no time to be depressed, instead we’ve given Monday a new moniker and we’re celebrating what we’re calling Motivational Monday by giving you a few hints and tips to help you stick with your resolutions to stay motivated and fit in 2014.
Motivation is often defined as a desire or willingness to do something but many people find it difficult to stay off the cigarettes, stick to the diet or maintain their fitness routine because they’re not totally clear about what is driving them. Understanding your motivational direction can help. Consider whether or not you are motivated by going towards pleasure or whether you are driven by a fear of failure and moving away from a negative situation. For example if you’ve decided to start running this year, think about what you will be doing once you’ve completed your first 5K run. Will you be sharing the thrill of your achievement by sharing photographs of yourself crossing the finishing line – toward motivational direction? Or will you be reminding yourself of how you looked and felt before you started running – an away from strategy? If you’re a ‘toward’ type of character, then reward yourself with small treats each time you meet one of your training goals; ‘away from’ people are motivated by the negative consequences of failing to meet their goals, so perhaps consider one less glass of wine at the end of the week or foregoing that weekend takeaway. You can apply this way of thinking to other areas of your life and consider whether or not, in the past, you have made decisions based on avoiding pain (away from) or finding pleasure (toward).
Personal trainer and running expert Tara Cuthbert says, ‘Everyone starts the new year full of good intentions but before long the old habits creep back in. What I encourage my clients to do is to set aside a specific time each week – their ‘fit time’ and I encourage them to stick with it no matter what. Obviously there are times when it might very well be impossible to train but by carving out the same time every week and letting your nearest and dearest know that it’s your time, then there’s less chance of making excuses and skipping a session. Commit to a plan and stick to it come what may. Don’t allow yourself to make excuses… remember you get out what you put in! If you signed up for a new gym membership, then try a class you have never done before – start spinning, trying boxing or Pilates. You might even love them!’
But what about those who get fit outdoors, like runners and cyclists? Tara explains, ‘Obviously the weather can be a huge demotivator in the UK and particularly in the grim winter months. The way to maintain your fitness though is to make your training program or goal as achievable as possible. Be realistic about your environment. If you’re training for a marathon, triathlon or a long distance cycle, you will have to train outdoors. Brave the elements and adapt your kit for safety and warmth.
Factor in some strength training if it gets too much. You can do a range of body weight exercises at home focusing on your upper body and core or if you’re a member of your local gym then use some weights to work the main muscle groups. Strength training is proven to be a vital part of training within sport and will improve your personal best and prevent injury. If you’re a gym goer then a spin class or run on a treadmill would be a great alternative.’
Is there anything else? Tara says, ‘I also remind people to embrace the endorphins a good workout brings! A good workout helps more than your body; it helps your mind’.
North London runner Laura Mace was thrilled when she was allocated a slot at this year’s Virgin London Marathon. My her own admission, Laura is by no means a seasoned runner and has previously participated in short fun runs and ‘ nothing too strenuous‘. Getting a place in the ballot changed all that. She says’ It was a great motivator – but I soon realised I had to formulate a plan of action and set myself some goals.’ Laura broke her training up into chunks – that way it didn’t feel too overwhelming. My goal for the next 4-5 weeks is to focus on preparing for the Brighton half marathon and after that I will review my training plan to build up for the big one. ‘ But it’s not all plain sailing. ‘ What I find really helpful is to plot my progress using an app on my phone which shows me how far I have gone and how long it has taken me. Seeing my progress from one run to the next really does spur me on.’ So what tips does Laura have for those who might be feeling a bit wobbly about their own fitness plans? ‘ I would say take one week at a time and set yourself a goal to fulfil during that week – also it isn’t the end of the world if you go slightly off schedule, you can always make up for it the following week.’ ? ‘The main tip is that it is important to set realistic goals – it’s really not motivating if you don’t see any progress plus you run the risk of burning yourself out quickly and the prospect of sustaining an injury.
But what about the time marathon training demands? Laura says, ‘People do ask where I find the time to train. I put this down to being very organized. For example, once a week, I incorporate a 15k run home from work which I log as my 1 long run in my training plan – it adds an extra 40 minutes to my travel time which I know I can improve as my training continues and that is a great motivator for me, moving towards reducing that time. It saves me money and varies my route so I don’t get bored. I also incorporate walking my dog with running – so I’m killing two birds with one stone.’