You made a New Year’s resolution.
You’re probably going to break it. According to statistics, anyway.
Most give up in less than 6 weeks.
These numbers are reflected in gyms across the country, as memberships soar and gym floors become packed with what’s known to personal trainers as “The Resolution Crowd”. Like ghosts, they appear out of nowhere, pale and quiet, aimlessly haunting the treadmills and elliptical trainers, and occasionally throwing up from overexertion.
And by the second week of February, they’re gone. All of them.
So what lack, exactly, is sabotaging the fitness goals of all these people?
In a word, willpower.
Few January fitness-seekers consider the role of willpower as they head to the membership counter, and this is why they fail. Like any muscle, the will must be gradually developed by intentionally enduring the temporary discomfort that comes with change—in this case, the sore and burning muscles that result from an exercise regimen.
This first phase of getting fit creates pain, and pain creates stress—something we all already have far too much of. Many fitness-seekers simply give up when this stress intersects with the slow nature of fitness gains.
There is no instant gratification in fitness.
But, fortunately, the will can be strengthened, and there are steps that anyone can take to ensure their stay at the gym isn’t relegated to one month, and to develop the willpower needed to overcome the difficulty of change.
So before you start training your body, let’s focus on how you can train your brain. Develop your willpower first, and you’ll avoid becoming a statistic.
The biggest mistake New Year’s fitness-seekers make—most fitness seekers, in fact—is taking on a lengthy, complex exercise regimen from the very start.
Don’t do that. Take a breath. Now take three big steps back. Before you ever set foot in the gym, start setting small fitness-related goals.
Consider the lifestyle habits that are holding you back from these goals, and replace those habits with good ones.
Take your diet, for example. Eating out too much? Make a contract with yourself to go shopping and prepare healthy dinners for yourself three times a week. Simple enough, right? Do it.
Try promising yourself that you’ll go for a 15 minute walk once a day. Follow through.
Do these things and succeed, and you’ll start building willpower and self-discipline. Make the challenges progressively bigger and bigger, with rewards that are slower and slower in coming.
Slowly build the muscle that is your mind, and you’ll be unstoppable.
Build Trust in Yourself
Once you’re taking on challenges and successfully completing them, something will begin to happen.
When you make promises to yourself, you’ll begin to believe them. You’ll build an internal culture of trust, wherein if you say you’ll do something, you’ll do it.
Remember—to cultivate this attitude, you have to start small. No hitting the gym with five pages of free weights workouts when you’ve never even used a treadmill.
Keep challenging yourself—don’t stop at the aforementioned healthy dinners and walks. Challenge yourself to accomplish things unrelated to fitness. Cut down on those television and internet hours. Read 30 minutes a day. Keep flexing that willpower muscle.
Once you’ve made a habit of doing what you say you will, that habit will stick. It will override even the laziest disposition, and you’ll suddenly find yourself not only a better fitness-seeker, but more effective in all areas of life.
Train your brain. You say it, you do it. No exceptions.
Pessimism is another killer of workouts. Once the pain sets in, it’s easy to tell yourself that you’re too busy to continue, that you’re too stressed, or that you’re too tired. You may even begin to question the point of it all.
But you’re not going to give in to negativity. You’re going to scream something about Sparta and kick it into a well.
Negativity is such a part of our lives that we don’t realize just how negative we are—particularly when it comes to our time. “I don’t have time,” is the single biggest reason why people fail to stay fit.