With so much going on in the world we can lose sight of something very important... Our own health. These past few months have been overwhelming for everyone. During times like these it can be hard to have the same motivation to workout and eat healthy as we did before. In fact, some might start emotional eating as a result of too much stress or even boredom from not being able to go outside as much as we used to.
Here's something important you should know: Motivation is not something that sticks with you 24/7, so you shouldn't rely on only that to accomplish your goals. Sometimes we get tired or we're too stressed or overwhelmed to be motivated, and that's okay. It happens to all of us! Just don't let a few slip ups discourage you from continuing your regular workout routine and healthy diet. Pick yourself up and try to push through it - It may seem impossible, but it's not. There are four strategies you can implement to help you stay on track with your fitness goals, here they are...
Keep it simple
Your daily routine (on a good day) probably consists of a tough workout, healthy foods and home-cooked meals. Unfortunately some days are going to be perfect, and some are not, but if you want to make sure you stay on track with your routine on those imperfect days then lower the bar and keep things simple.
Sometimes feeling tired and unmotivated is our body's way of telling us to slow down. So try to keep things simple on the days, or weeks, when your motivation is at its lowest. Instead of doing your usual strength training or cardio workout, try something different and less strenuous like stretching, yoga, pilates, bodyweight exercises, or just go for a walk outside. It's not your usual fitness routine, but at least you'll still be physically active. If you're not up for cooking your usual meals try something that doesn't require a lot of work like eating yogurt and fruit, avocado toast, or even order a healthy meal from one of your favorite food spots.
By doing this you're not completely giving up on your health. You might not be sticking to your usual plan, but at least you're trying instead of giving up. Plus, a few days of not giving it 100% is not going to ruin your progress. If anything, you'll be feeling refreshed and motivated after a few days of giving your body and mind a break!
Reflect on your goals and progress
A fitness journey is long, and usually the path isn't linear. There are a lot of bumps you'll face on the way, and those bumps can distract you from your goals. So when you're feeling low, revisit the goals you first set when starting your fitness journey. Chances are you've already accomplished some of those goals, and if you don't remember them because you didn't write them down then reflect on your progress and celebrate every little win you've accomplished. Like losing five pounds, beating your mile time, being able to lift heavier than before, moving up from dumbbells to barbells... Whatever progress or improvements you've made, acknowledge them, and pat yourself on the back!
Doing this will help you see how far you've come, and maybe even boost your ego a bit giving you a little bit more confidence to keep pushing through! For those who have never written down their goals or tracked their progress, then it's time to start doing it! That way when you've hit that slump again you can look back at everything you've accomplished.
Focus on building good habits
Motivation and willpower come and go. So you shouldn't focus on relying solely on those things during your fitness journey. Instead try to focus on creating good, healthy habits that support your goals.
When starting a fitness journey you most likely did your research and know how to get in shape. You set your plan, you know what workouts to do and what to eat. But then after a few weeks that motivation you had in the beginning slowly starts draining. It happens, but that's why you should start focusing on habits and less on motivation. Building habits is not easy though, so start small.
Here are four ways to start creating better habits for a sustainable healthy lifestyle:
1. Know why you want to start building certain habits. For example, if you want to start eating more whole foods and less processed foods, ask yourself why? Is it for weight loss for a special event? Does it have to do with a health condition? Whatever it is, know it and write it down. This will help show you that the habit you want to build is part of a bigger cause that's worth the struggle.
2. Identify your bad habits and replace them with something healthier. Most of us already have bad habits instilled in us, but luckily they can be reversed and replaced with better habits. You can do this by recognizing what cues or triggers your bad habits. For example, after work you're tired so your normal routine/reaction is to sit on the couch to watch TV because it helps you forget about work. The cue is that you're tired, so your usual routine is to watch TV to destress which you think is a positive result of your actions. You can replace your usual routine with a better one. So following that example, if you're tired after work, instead of watching TV as a way to destress, schedule a workout so you can go straight to the gym after work. Make it fun and schedule a group fitness class. This will help get your mind off of work and benefit your health (the reward)! So reflect and think of what bad habits you may have and slowly replace them with better ones.
3. Make your new healthy routine easier. You can do this by removing steps needed to complete it. For example, if one of the new habits you want to create is working out early in the morning then have everything planned and ready the day before. Have your workout clothes and shoes right next to your bed, already have a workout planned, and place your alarm far away from your bed so you're forced to get up. Another example, if you prefer to workout in the evening after work then pack your gym bag the day before and take it with you to work. That way you head to the gym right after work instead of going home to change.
4. Start scheduling your habits to program them. The final step to creating your new healthy habits, is to schedule them. Set aside 30 minutes of your day once a week to plan your workouts and schedule them on days and times that work best for you. If you want to eat healthier, plan your meals and write down your grocery list so you don't get distracted by unhealthy stuff at the store!
Doing these four things will help you start building better habits, that way whenever you have no willpower or motivation, you'll already have good habits that will help you stay focused and on track.
Reach out to your workout buddies
Having friends who workout is great! You can reach out to them for advice, organize to meet at the gym, share healthy recipes, etc. So if you already have workout buddies, reach out to them and be honest with them about your struggles. They will most likely give you some good advice, hype you up, and support you. If you don't feel comfortable with telling them about your struggle then just reach out to try a new workout together or cook a healthy meal together. That way it feels more of a social outing than a healthy one.
Unfortunately not everyone has friends who are also their gym buddy. But that's okay, your friends can still support you! Reach out to your best friends, tell them about your goals, and ask them if they'd be willing to keep you accountable by checking in on you from time-to-time. Give them updates on your training and nutrition. If you live at home, ask your family members for support! You can ask to refrain from buying certain foods, or ask them to hide any foods that trigger unhealthy habits, and ask if they're willing to eat similar foods as you. Usually it’s much easier to stick to healthy eating when the people around you are doing the same.
At the end of the day, our emotions can get the best of us, they can appear at any time and rob us of our motivation and willpower. That's why we shouldn't just rely on those two things throughout our journey. Focus on creating better habits, track your progress and write down your goals to look back at, reach out for support, and keep things simple for those days that you just don't feel like getting out of bed! These strategies will help you to stay on track even when you don't feel like it, just remember, doing something is better than nothing.