It’s January! You’re pumped up to hit the gym, fit into your skinny jeans and lose that arm flab. You’re going to workout 5 times a week and eat clean. YES!
So you get a gym membership and buy all new workout gear. You are ready! You walk into the gym decked out in your new wardrobe. It is packed with people eager to transform. There are so many machines and so many weights. It’s overwhelming.
Will you get on the elliptical first? Or lift some dumbbells? You pick one and head over. After all, you’re here and ready to do this, you tell yourself. You workout for almost an hour and then have a salad. It’s not so bad!
So you do it again the next day. And maybe the next day. Before the week is over, you are sore, cranky and you haven’t even lost a pound. WHAT’S THE USE? So you give up.
WHY DO WE DO THIS?
Why do we try to completely transform our life in one week and think it will last?
Could you move to a new place, unpack and be in a regular routine in one week? NO! You’re sleep deprived. You don’t know where the grocery store is. And your cable is still not set up. It takes time to transition.
Fitness is no different. If you have never been to a gym, why does it seem logical to start going FIVE TIMES A WEEK?
We have all been here. We want this big change and we trick ourselves into thinking we have to do it all or nothing. That’s the only way it will work.
The honest truth is that it won’t work… at least not for long.
What if you took baby steps? What if you started with a small change that could fit into your lifestyle instead of shocking your body before you ever had a chance to commit?
4 years ago, I had never stepped foot in a gym and was the queen of take-out diet dining. I transformed into a regular exerciser and lost 40% of my body fat and dropped from a size 10 to a size 2.
How? Did I do it overnight? Did I wake up one morning and say I’m going to eat a strict diet, go to the gym every day, and never drink wine again? NO WAY! I’m getting nauseous just reading that sentence! If I tried all these at once, I would have thrown my hands up in failure after 1 week.
Instead, I followed a 7-step system to make my transition sustainable. I made it easy. To lay it out there, I took baby steps. And they have stuck with me for years.
These are the 7 steps I used to make fitness a part of my daily life. Because come on, you don’t want to fail at yet another attempt to fulfill that New Year’s resolution.
7 Easy Steps to Make Fitness a Habit:
1. You have to WANT to make a change. You already have this covered. You’re reading this because you WANT to be in better shape… so much so that it’s on the top of your list for goals of this year. Congratulations! Move on to Step 2.
2. Motivation is a necessary first step but it will only take you so far … after that you need a system in place. If you’re a novice to exercise, it’s almost inevitable that you will lose motivation in a few weeks. You need something that will keep you going even after the novelty has worn off. Make a commitment and invest in yourself. Join a class, get a trainer, find a workout buddy or meet a friend regularly for a walk.
When I first started, I bought 3 months of twice a week personal training sessions. This was a big investment, and because of it, I never missed a session.
3. Pick an exercise that interests you. This is imperative for success. If you hate running, DO NOT get on the treadmill. If dancing turns you off, DO NOT join a Zumba class. And if you know you’re not flexible, DO NOT start with yoga. If you walk into your first session dreading it, you are setting yourself up for failure. GET EXCITED! This mental shift will get you one step closer to success.
4. Small changes result in BIG results. This is not a crash diet. Don’t let it overtake your life. Set realistic goals that can fit into your schedule. You’re not trying to run a marathon by February.
People scared me initially, telling me I would only see changes if I went to the gym five times a week. I could hardly fathom going ONCE, but I made it a ritual and went twice a week for 8 months. I lost 9 pounds and 2 dress sizes. Surprisingly, the bigger win was discovering that going to the gym became a routine and I’ve been going ever since.
5. Schedule workouts like a meeting — they are non-negotiable. Think of your workout as an appointment. Put it in your calendar. Otherwise it is easy to (insert ANY activity other than working out). If someone asks to meet up with you at that time, TELL THEM YOU HAVE AN APPOINTMENT. They will work around your schedule. If you say you’re going to the gym, they will convince you to go later.
I booked training sessions that were mandatory, otherwise I would forfeit my money. This made me go, even when I really wanted to sleep in. Today, my weekly schedule has my 1-hour workouts blocked out. If I don’t do this, it’s easy to not commit.
6. Accountability is essential. Whether it’s a friend, spouse or trainer — pick someone you can trust to check in with you regularly and push you to hit your goals. It’s harder to give up when someone else is watching you.
7. Know your WHY. Why are you trying to make this change? If you don’t have a solid reason or a driving force, it is so easy for others to squash your motivation.
I am a physician with a happy marriage and three healthy children. Should I want more? I do! I want to have energy to outrun my kids. I want to be an example to my patients by taking control of my health. And I want to do pull-ups.
Change is not supposed to be effortless. But it shouldn’t be a struggle. With this 7-step system, you can turn an unreachable dream into reality. And you can push yourself to new limits.
Originally published at medium.com