Put It on the Calendar
When your boss asks you to present at an important meeting or your best friend is having a milestone birthday, you’d better believe that bad boy is going on your calendar. Because you value your friends - and your job. And according to US research, you’re 42 percent more likely to follow through on your to-dos if you’ve written them down. So start pencilling in those sweat sessions! (Stick a magnetic calendar to your fridge to stay accountable)
A tip: Slot them a week at a time, and ideally for a similar time each day. “The less your workout schedule gets moved around, the less moving or skipping it will even feel like an option,” says strength and conditioning specialist Mike Donavanik.
Brag on Facebook
We know, we know, you don’t want to be one of the “look how awesome I am” types on social media, constantly bombarding people with your post-exercise selfies. But indulging in just a few of those #humblebrags could help you stay the course: Regular praise from friends and family, even online, is a key determiner of your ability to stick to your workouts, according to Norcross. “Facebook is huge for keeping me on track with my fitness goals. I post my workouts almost every day,” says Ironman finisher Leslie Cornick, a marine biologist. Looking for something a little more under the radar? Set up a private group on FB, or send your workout Instas to a small roundup of your most supportive pals.
Uncover Your “Why”
“Wanting to look better is not going to get you off the couch and to the gym over the long haul,” says strength and conditioning specialist Holly Perkins. You have to look beyond the mirror and ask yourself what you want - deep down. The answer - whether it’s boosting your self-confidence or being around for your kids - is actually way more motivating, Perkins says. Case in point: One study found that people who signed up for exercise classes because they wanted to feel good were more likely to attend than those who did it mainly to look good. Don’t think you really have a more visceral drive? Say your goal (“I want to drop 5 kilos”), then ask yourself “But why?” Whatever the answer, again ask: “But why?” Repeat five times, and bingo! There’s your unrecognised next-level incentive.
Change the Conversation
In your head, that is. “Being hard on yourself, whether it’s for having given up on your fitness goals in the past or for not performing as well as you’d like in a workout, is counterproductive,” says performance psychology expert Dr Cindra Kamphoff. Women tend to be harshest when judging their own missteps. Yet if your best friend came to you with the same feelings, you’d be all, “You’re way too hard on yourself! Remember that boot camp you kicked butt in last week? I know you can do this.” People with an unwavering workout resolve talk to themselves like that - positive, proud, and encouraging. Try it!
Make It a Game
Competition has a way of lighting fires under our asses, not to mention getting them tight and toned: In one study, runners pushed themselves 4.2 percent harder if they thought they were going head-to-head against someone else. Putting that fighting spirit into practice can be super simple - and not super time-consuming. Take Sarah Niederberger Becker, a commercial banker. Her work schedule is bananas, so to stay motivated, she completes six-week fitness challenges with her family. Everyone ponies up $10 and tracks their daily steps and general activity for points, with the winner taking the pot of cash. It’s smart thinking: A US review found that financial incentives as meagre as $5 per week can increase how much you exercise.
Create a Happy Place
It’s sort of like fitness feng shui: Finding an exercise spot that makes you happy - whether that’s a tiny barre studio, a CrossFit box, or an outdoor running path - can help boost your performance. For Briana Belden, a public-relations rep and mum, it’s a corner of her basement. “I’ve totally made it into my personal yoga sanctuary, complete with candles (like our fave from Glasshouse), diffusing essential oils, the whole deal. I look at the time I spend in my space as my personal time, my time to reconnect with myself and my body,” she says.
Celebrate Small Wins
Most people focus on what they failed to do (didn’t go to the gym, didn’t run five kilometres), which leads to feeling defeated and eventually giving up. Instead, direct your attention to what you did accomplish each day (took the stairs, completed 10 minutes of abs before bed). That way, says teacher Heather Trumbour, “every day feels like a win.”
Fake It Till You Make It
Confidence may be the biggest predictor of exercise success, research shows. “I learned that once I set the goal of completing a triathlon, I needed to believe 100 percent I’d cross the finish line, or it was never going to happen,” says Theresa Roden. “I kept visualising myself finishing until I could see what I was wearing and feel the wind in my face.” The strategy paid off: She’s logged 15-plus triathlons and founded a triathlon training program for at-risk girls.
Keep a Record
Track your workouts and you’ll automatically exercise more, suggests a review of studies from the University of Pittsburgh. When you’re not keeping tabs on the details of your workouts from week to week, there is a tendency to believe you are not making progress. “And that’s not very encouraging,” Perkins says. Plus, if you monitor every workout, you’ll be able to catch hiccups - like missed or half-assed sessions - before they lead to completely thrown-in towels, Norcross says. You can keep a handwritten journal (you can even get one just for tracking your exercise goals), or use an app like MyFitnessPal.
Think in Months
Donavanik doesn’t bother making yearly resolutions. He knows the idea of sticking to a single goal for 365 days straight is pretty impractical. After all, your schedule and fitness level and what you want to achieve are all constantly changing. A better idea? Try creating a series of three month goals instead. Not only is that enough time to train for a half-marathon, be able to rock a half-dozen pullups in a row, or lose 10 percent of your body fat, but, according to Norcross’s research, that’s also how long it takes for exercise to truly become a habit. Plus, it’s not so much time that you can afford to procrastinate, says sports psychologist Dr Barbara Walker. “Hitting your goal should feel challenging but also possible in the time you have,” she says.