Trying to reach a fitness goal is difficult, and when we hit a plateau, we often look at tweaking the complicated stuff first. While there isn’t a ‘trick’ or a pill that’s going to speed up your progress, there are basic tweaks you can make to your routine that will greatly affect your chances of success. Sometimes it’s the most basic elements, like staying mentally motivated, maintaining a steady pace, being prepared, and enjoying yourself, that will keep you advancing toward your target, whatever it may be. Here are seven simple ways to help you continue making progress on your quest for better health.
1. Pace yourself
Once you’ve decided on your fitness goal, you might plan 6-7 days a week of cardio, classes, lifting weights at the gym, going all in all at once. That’s a great goal to work towards, but abruptly forcing yourself into a routine that’s difficult to maintain will come with a tough adjustment period and make it harder to stick to your commitment. If you don’t give yourself the proper downtime and recovery, you’re also at higher risk for injury and exhaustion, both of which will restrict your physical abilities until you’re recovered.
Start with just a few days a week and begin incorporating more days as the weeks pass. It will be less of a shock to your body and to your schedule. In the end, you might be the one dedicating six days a week and 3 hours a day to your fitness, but there’s no need to rush it – you’ll get there when you’re ready.
2. Pick a gym that’s on your way
If you’re just now getting a membership at a gym, or are able to switch your current location, find one that’s between work and home, on your way to your kid’s school, or near another location you frequent daily. Find something that’s in your way so it’s staring you in the face when you try to make excuses to yourself for skipping out on your fitness.
And while we’re on the topic of gyms, try to stay away from focusing on spending the least amount possible. Think about an item you’ve invested in, perhaps an expensive purse, or a nice piece of jewelry. You treat that item differently than other less expensive ones, understandably, because it’s worth more to you. You keep it in a dust bag, or in a secret place, and you would be upset, distraught even, if it were lost or ruined. But losing the faux leather purse or costume jewelry found in the same drawers wouldn’t really bother you.
If you spend a negligible amount on your gym membership, then the days you don’t ‘take advantage’ of it (the days you skip) won’t seem like a big deal to you, whereas an investment in your gym (personal trainer, nicer gym) will make those skipped days feel like a blow, not only to your program, but to your wallet.
3. Plan your meals
‘Meal prep’ isn’t just for bodybuilders. Everyone can benefit from planning out the meals they’re going to eat throughout the week and preparing them all at once. It will keep you on track when you’re hungry and tempted by junk, and you’ll also save time and money when compared to eating out. Pinterest is a great resource for finding healthy meal recipes that can be cooked all at once and split up for every day of the week.
If meal prep feels too intimidating, or you simply don’t have the time, a healthy meal delivery service that suits your nutrition needs is no longer just for the rich and famous, nor does it have to taste like cardboard. Do your research and find one locally that will deliver you a variety of flavorful meals a few times a week. Frozen meals just won’t taste as good and if you get sick of them, it may derail your healthy eating plans, so Yelp ‘meal delivery’ in your area and find something fresh.
4. Think outside the treadmill
With so many different ways to get into better shape, there’s no reason to force yourself to do something day in and day out that isn’t any fun. If you like music and dancing, check out fitness dance classes. If you’re looking for a little more zen in your workout, swimming or yoga, while low impact, are excellent forms of exercise. If you want to prove to yourself that you’re a badass (we already know you are), sign up for a mud run with a friend and train for it like it’s your job.
You might think most of the people you see in amazing shape hit the weights every morning at 5:30 am with a cardio session a few hours later (and some of them probably do), but that doesn’t mean you have to follow their routine to get into the best shape of your life. Your fitness and your body is yours – no one else’s – and how you get it where you want it to be is entirely up to you. Anything that gets you consistently moving your body and makes you feel accomplished and happy will help you reach your physical goals.
5. Track your progress
Whether it’s keeping a journal, taking progress photos, or maintaining a log from a FitBit, keeping note of how you are achieving small milestones is key to making it to the end result. Finding motivation daily is necessary to stay interested and focused on your path and when you don’t have something concrete to look at or reference, it’s hard to stay motivated on your own.
On days when it feels like you aren’t making any progress, say, you strayed far from your nutrition plan over the weekend or a cold kept you off your feet for a few days, you’re inevitably going to feel down on yourself. Being able to look back to each small moment of success in your journey will remind you that there are always ups and downs and that each time you’ve fallen, you’ve gotten back up.
6. Find a workout buddy
Find someone who enjoys the same workouts you do, maybe a friend or even someone new you meet at the gym, who might be following a similar workout regimen. Set a meet up time or try brand new classes or activities together and help each other reach your goals. It’s a lot more fun, provides another way to be accountable to your commitment, and you’ll expand your social circle at the same time.
7. Get comfortable being uncomfortable
You’ve heard it before: if you want something you’ve never had you’ll have to do something you’ve never done. That means that along this journey, you’re going to do things and feel things, emotionally and physically, that exhaust, pain, and frustrate you. There are going to be days that you tell yourself the reason you’re uncomfortable and frustrated is that you’re not cut out for this, but that’s just another excuse to quit, i.e. stay exactly where you are, which is where you don’t want to be. If it were, you wouldn’t have set these goals in the first place. So whenever that sneaky little voice comes into your head, remind yourself that you’re uncomfortable because you’re changing, and that means you’re making progress.
It isn’t easy to stay dedicated to fitness and nutrition goals at first, but keeping a few simple things in mind can help you create a plan that’s easy to incorporate into your lifestyle and help you remain on course. And if you happen to stray, don’t fret; the ability to pick up where you left off or even start over when necessary is just as important as hard work and commitment and will make you appreciate your journey even more once it’s complete.