Remember when you started a new job and you put on your best boss-woman outfit, got to the office extra early, and when the day flew by you were eager to return tomorrow?
Everything was so new and exciting! The best part, you were constantly learning; new procedures, new company culture, and new skills!
Fast forward 1, 2 or maybe even 6 months later and a typical day at work is just that, typical, the ‘Christmas-morning’ type of excitement has faded. You’ve summited that steep, exciting learning curve and have either hit that plateau or the slow gradual incline up the next learning curve.
It’s now going to take more work and time to feel that ‘rush’ of learning and gaining new skills; you’re really going to work that butt inching up that slow, steady incline!
This is 100% normal and expected. With any new job, project, or workout routine(!) comes that first rush of excitement of learning something new and seeing huge progress in yourself. But the excitement fades as progress slows, its inevitable.
Jobs and workout routines are similar in a lot of ways yet the big difference arises once that initial excitement wears off. For your job you still show up every day and get your work done. But for that fancy new workout routine….it fell to the wayside.
Far to the wayside.
Why is it so hard to keep ‘showing up’ to workout?!
(I feel you girl!)
I know a few things about you:
So let’s talk about that today!
Get comfy, grab a coffee and throw on those slippers and let’s dive into:
The 3 guaranteed strategies to stay motivated even if progress is slow (it’s how I’ve stayed motivated for 10+ years!)
With any new job, project, or workout routine(!) comes that first rush of excitement of learning something new and seeing huge progress in yourself. But the excitement fades as progress slows, its inevitable.
Before we dive into the 3 strategies that will keep you motivated, let’s talk about how you can ensure to never stall out on your fitness progress!
Just like your job, if you consistently show up each day to do your work, you’ll receive your pay-cheque. If you just stop showing up to work, I bet that pay-cheque will stop as well. Just like exercise, once you stop ‘showing up’ to workout, your progress is going to stop and probably regress.
So the first key point is consistency. This is what will keep the momentum of your fitness journey moving forward and not stalling out.
But we need a second part to this, and that is ‘challenging’. If you push yourself a little bit more each time, you will continue to progress in your fitness journey. Even if the progress is so small it seems to have stalled, it is there, and it is happening.
Just like at your job, when you continue to learn new skills and take on challenging projects to grow your career, you get promoted; you progress. So use that exact same strategy with your fitness, consistency challenge yourself and progress will never stop.
Now onto the 3 strategies that will keep you motivated when progress slows!
What if you set a sales goal at work; a number to achieve in 6 months time but you don’t bother checking your sales numbers today nor any day during those 6 months. Two months in and you feel like you’ve made no progress, your motivation tanks. And that 6-month goal feels like a far off, elusive dream. If only you had checked-in with your progress every now and then… *sigh*
Tracking your progress, no matter how small is vital in keeping you in check with your progress and motivated.
But I bet you knew that.
The real secret lies on actually seeing progress with those check-ins!
Read on, lady!
I’d say that the most popular way to track ‘health’ progress is by your weight, but it doesn’t mean it’s the smartest way. If your goal is to lose weight, a healthy and sustainable rate may be 0.5-1.5lbs per week which is 0.07-0.2lb per day.
Unless you have a scientifically-accurate scale and you live in a vacuum where no other variables affect you (i.e. hormones!), then go ahead, weight yourself each day! But even then weight loss isn’t linear.
Not to mention, regular exercise and healthy eating doesn’t always guarantee weight loss. Does that mean your health and fitness isn’t improving? Absolutely not! I guarantee that you are improving both of those metrics; and weight really is just a number.
Over the long-term, the weight scale can definitely be a useful tool but more often than not it’s a de-motivator rather than a motivator.
So user beware.
Now that we’ve beat the weigh-scale topic to death, what tracking metrics should you use?
As you work towards your fitness goal, the results aren’t kept in a vacuum. Meaning if your goal is to run a 5k, you’ll definitely see progress in your running but you’ll also see progress in other areas of your life; reduced stress, better stamina for other activities, improved core strength and stability, stronger legs and calves, better hip mobility, increased confidence.
So why not track all of that!
Taking a holistic approach to tracking will guarantee that you will notice progress in some area, which is pretty darn exciting.
I split this holistic tracking into 2 categories:
1. Quantitative (Objective)
Quantitative are the numbers! Weight lifted, number of reps and sets, body measurements, bodyfat percentage, and yes, the number on the scale. All the objective things.
Just because the number on the scale isn’t a good metric, it doesn’t mean there aren’t other numbers we can use!
Speaking specifically of a strength-training workout, adding more weight to your exercises, doing an extra rep or set, or even spending more time in an exercise (moving slower through the motion) are numbers that can show progress. (Trust me, just 1 additional rep in an exercise is huge progress!)
We want to track these numbers, so make note by keeping a workout log or journal where you can record these numbers.
2. Qualitatitive (Subjective)
This is my favourite type of tracking because it’s where you can see progress almost daily and see some really cool trends over time. (And if you’re like me, it allows you to geek out on all things physiology :P)
Let’s break it down with an example:
The first year I started to prep for a fitness competition I saw huge changes in both my strength and how my body looked, I was adding 5lbs to the barbell every week!
But as you know, progress started to slow. Only 2.5lbs were added to the barbell, and some weeks no weight at all! My weight change was also slow, only 0.5lb every second week (very hard to visually see).
Well that sucks.
So I started taking note of more than just the numbers. I began to notice things like feeling new muscles being used in exercises, improved posture, feeling stronger, and even feeling more confident in and out of the gym. This! Was what got me really excited to show up to the gym each day.
Qualitative is all about what you’re noticing in yourself; it’s all about the ‘feels’!
For example, you get through your regular workout and literally nothing has changed. The numbers on the barbell and the number of reps is the exact same as last week, but you had the best sleep in years last night and you walked into the gym with a ton of energy and a great mood. Oh, and doing the bi-annual bed mattress flip last night just felt easy.
That’s huge progress!
Super cool, right?
By checking-in with ourselves; body and mind, we can see other forms of (real) progress even when the numbers don’t show it. By tracking this overtime you can start to see cool trends, especially with sleep, energy, and stress levels.
An easy way to track the qualitatives is to make a few quick notes on your workout log alongside the quantitative notes. Keeping a separate journal with these types of notes is also useful; jotting things down either in the morning or at night before bed keeps it simple.
Don’t have time to create a workout log? Then snag this template you can print or use electronically to track your progress (no email required).
Now that we’re tracking our wicked progress what do we do with this information? This is where the real motivation is going to come from, by celebrating our ‘small wins’!
Okay, that may sound a bit too upbeat, so let’s go back to my example where my own progress started to slow.
As I began to notice the qualitative changes such as new muscles being used in exercises, feeling stronger and more confident in and out of the gym, I could have told myself, “Meh, that means nothing if I can’t lift more weight!”
But instead I celebrated these small achievements.
“Wow, lifting that 45lb weight plate onto the bar actually feels easy now. That regular bed mattress flip; no problem! And hey, I’m standing up taller these days, woop woop!”
Ever finish a work project that’s, ‘no big deal’ for you but a bunch of co-workers congratulate you on a job well done? You’re thinking to yourself, “Oh that’s no big deal, it was just a small project.” But I bet after a few ‘congratulations’ you’re feeling proud and motivated to take on another project, right?
Why not congratulate yourself on those seemingly small achievements you’ve been tracking? Draw a little happy face on your workout log, write yourself a congratulatory note, go buy the fancier coffee today, however you want to pat yourself on the back and celebrate your progress.
By checking-in with ourselves; body and mind, we can see other forms of (real) progress even when the numbers don’t show it.
But Karen, I seriously can’t see and celebrate this progress every single day!
I hear ya, you can’t go buy fancy coffee every day (ha!) So when a celebration just doesn’t seem in order I want you to think of 1 thing you are grateful for in your health and fitness journey instead.
Here are a few of mine:
-Being able to challenge my body physically every single day
-Being able to find stillness in my mind as I move my body
-Having a way to expend energy and relieve stress
-Having a place to look like I just rolled out of bed and that’s cool (legit)
Progress is there, and once you notice it and take pride in it, it will keep you motivated for more than just 30 days.
You probably noticed that the first 2 points were all about developing the internal motivation to stick with exercise even as progress slows. (Go you!)
But sometimes we all need a bit of external motivation to keep us going. (Who doesn’t like receiving a ‘gold star’ for your efforts every now and then?)
I bet when you’ve began a new workout routine or diet, friends and family are constantly commenting and motivating on your great progress.
“Wow Karen, you look great, keep it up!”
But as the visual progress slows and is tougher to see, your crew no longer hands out those reassuring compliments. It’s not that they don’t care but rather the progress is harder to see. And if they’re not on the same fitness journey as you they may not understand the excitement of doing 1 extra rep in the gym or being able to flip that bed mattress with ease now… *Sigh*
So where can you find that external motivation (and receive gold stars for your efforts)? By finding a community where others are on a similar fitness journey as you!
Whether this is a local gym, an online community, or a running club; finding others who are after similar fitness goals will understand and celebrate that 1 extra rep with you and understand just, ‘feeling stronger’.
Plus they’ll also listen to your complaints, struggles, and be that sounding-board when you’re second-guessing your own progress and journey.
A journey is always easier with a support team!
Yep, progress will slow but hey, that’s 100% normal (I’d be more worried if it didn’t slow…) And unlike those other women out there, you are now armed with the 3 guaranteed strategies to notice and stay motivated by slow progress!
No longer will you be like those other women, who fall off the exercise bandwagon after the 30-day mark. Nope, you’re now someone who is motivated to stick with your fitness journey for the long-term. (I think you’ll be making those 30-day bandwagon-women jealous)