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4 Ways To Keep At It After January (When Motivation Wanes)

It’s that time of the year again--January has come and gone, and so has our steely resolve for a healthier, fitter body. This unfortunate annual cycle is something all fitness professionals witness, and pityingly shake their heads at. Every year, these big box gyms are just itching for the resolutioners who will come in, pay a YEAR’S WORTH of membership fees, and then stop showing up six weeks later. Can we break this vicious cycle already?

1) Slow and Steady Wins the Race

You know how the tortoise won the race? He walked at his own pace. I’ll put it this way: can you maintain a sprint and never stop for rest? Health goals are really just lifestyle changes formed into digestible chunks for our brains. If we’re really going to change our bodies, we can’t possibly go hard at the start of a new year and not expect to emotionally and physically burn out. Instead, we have to begin by realizing our limitations and setting our goals accordingly. If we’re jumping from the couch to the treadmill/weight room/spin class/etc, we need to make sure we still give ourselves enough couch time to recuperate. On another note, I really dislike couches for our bodies… But I digress.

2) Be Kind

I think most of us can stand to be a little kinder and more forgiving toward ourselves. Changing our lifestyle for health reasons really is about changing the mental framework first. If we don’t hit the gym on the day we wanted to, or get that run in that we had been planning on, what’s the big deal? There’s no need to try to “hit it” harder the next time, and certainly no need to think negatively about having missed a day. I used to push myself on days when I really didn’t feel 100%, or when I just didn’t have enough time, and you know what happened? A whole lotta fail. I’d either have a really terrible workout, complete with embarrassingly loud clanks from weights hitting the floor because I couldn’t hold them up anymore, or be running late for things because I thought I could somehow squeeze in a workout at a hummingbird’s speed. Rather than tear ourselves down, how about we instead, build ourselves up?

3) Put On the Blinders

My grandmother was probably the hardest working person I’d ever known. So long as she was physically able to get out of bed, not rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor CANCER, could stop her from going to work or finishing an errand. Growing up, I often wondered how a person could maintain such a machine-like ability to keep on chugging, but I now realize that it’s because she created what I would call “mental blinders”. She was always singularly focused on a goal, (making money, getting her green card, telling me to get off AOL and go to bed…), that she essentially had zero distractions. She never forgot what her desired end state was, and that was why she was able to spring up each morning. I have found this kind of self-imposed tunnel vision to be extremely rare in the culture in which I’ve grown up, and I think my grandmother probably developed it as a result of having survived China’s Great Famine and Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. Now, I’m not saying we should all go through famines and political turmoil to develop discipline. I’m just saying: don’t lose sight of your goals. Your health is important and if you’re not going to care for it, who else will? The onus is on YOU to keep yourself going, so don’t let yourself down.

4) Take Some Pride

Be proud of your decision to commit to a healthier you. Find delight in small triumphs at the gym. Know that you are just that much cooler now for having taken the bold initiative to change. If you can’t be happy with what you have accomplished thus far, then you can’t give yourself the positive reinforcement that will fuel the courage to keep pushing forward. Protein is to muscles as positivity is to mental health; so smile, pat yourself on the back, and prep yourself for the marathon we call a “healthy lifestyle” ahead.


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