“A new year, a new you.” That can mean different things to different people. Very often, though, it means setting fitness goals and achieving them. But how do you stay focused on the “new you” when the year itself isn’t quite so new anymore? Keep reading for some workout motivation tips to keep you going with your exercise program.
The Importance Of Goal Setting
When you look at the fitness goals you’ve set, really ask yourself: are they specific? Or are they just vague notions? The less concrete your fitness goals are, the harder it gets to hold onto them as time passes. Specific but challenging exercise goals are often easier to stick to.1
Visualize what you hope to achieve, and make it specific. Do you want to get stronger? Tell yourself exactly how much weight you want to be able to lift. Want to improve cardiovascular health? Give yourself a manageable goal, like shaving a couple of seconds off of your fastest mile.
Your goals should be challenging — but not impossible. It’s important to make sure your goals are as manageable as they are specific, especially if you’re just starting a new routine. One way to potentially do this is to develop SMART goals.
SMART goals are:
“Weight loss” isn’t a specific, measurable objective, but losing 15 pounds is. But if you choose too short a span of time in which to achieve it, it won’t necessarily be attainable. And if you go too hard, too soon, you may put yourself at risk for injury.3
Keeping It Positive: Goal Setting And Self-Efficacy
It’s important for you to believe that you can attain your fitness goals. It may sound simplistic to say that “attitude is everything,” but attitude is a crucial factor in exercise motivation.4
Self-efficacy refers to how much you believe you are capable of taking the steps necessary to achieve your goals. The greater your sense of self-efficacy, the more you time you may devote to your fitness goals. Self-efficacy is also likely to increase the effort you put into achieving them.5
Self-efficacy doesn’t just happen, though. For some people, it can take a bit of work. One way to increase your sense of self-efficacy may be positive self-talk. Studies have shown that positive, motivational self-talk may help improve both your outlook and your performance — and the better your performance, the stronger your self-belief will become.6,7,8
Once you’ve set a long-term fitness goal for yourself, like putting on muscle or losing weight, it could take months to get there. And that’s okay. Try setting short-term checkpoints along the road to your fitness goals.
You can use the SMART approach to define both long-term and short-term goals. Setting short-term, achievable checkpoints may help you more easily keep track of your progress. It may also help you reevaluate your progress, so that you can make modifications to your exercise routine as you go.9
When you set SMART goals, you’ll be creating a roadmap to achieving them. And that roadmap may increase your own sense of self-efficacy — which might help motivate you to exercise even more.10
Find Activities You Enjoy
Goal setting is a big thing, but it’s not the only thing. Fitness goals are extrinsic motivators. Extrinsic motivation is when you engage in a behavior because of the external rewards it may provide: for example, better cardiovascular health or improved self-image.11
But extrinsic motivation may only go so far. Extrinsic motivators may be great at helping you to adopt a new exercise routine. In the longer term, though, intrinsic motivators may be more important for consistency.12
Intrinsic motivation simply means doing something because the doing itself is rewarding.13 When you really enjoy what you’re doing — and not just doing it for an extrinsic motivator — you may be more likely to stay motivated in your workout routine.14
Hold Yourself Accountable
Extrinsic motivators can still be very useful, even when you’re well into a long-term routine. Sometimes, just knowing someone else is depending on you is enough to keep you going.
There are going to be days when you just don’t feel like going to the gym. (It happens to even the most dedicated athletes.) On those days, knowing that someone else is counting on you may help keep you motivated.
At least one study has shown that finding a workout buddy may increase self-efficacy when it comes to your fitness goals.15 And working with a personal trainer may help you stick with your fitness routine longer.16 It may even inspire you to work harder to achieve your goals.17
Make It Easy (So You Won’t Take It Easy)
Sometimes, life has a way of making things harder, especially when they’re things you’re doing for yourself. It’s easy to get so caught up in other responsibilities that you miss that window of time you set aside for exercise.
Maybe you prefer a morning workout. Maybe you like to go after work. Either way, try packing your gym bag the night before. Getting the next day’s gym clothes ready before bed may create a positive behavioral cue to inspire you to exercise and make it a habit.18
And those clothes you pack should be something you feel good wearing. Quality workout gear may help motivate you to get to the gym. And performance-based gym clothes may even help you push yourself harder when you get there.19
Find What Works For You
Even if you already consider yourself physically fit, setting new goals means engaging in new behaviors. Heart rate training is very different from strength training. And both men and women’s health needs will change with age.20
That change can take work, but you can accomplish it. Even if you hit some bumps along the way, having a specific exercise plan might help you to stay motivated.
Of course, check with your doctor before starting a new fitness regimen. But once you know where you want to go, set specific goals, both short-term and long-term. With the right combination of motivating factors, you’ll be well on your way to reaching them.
Finding A Workout Program For Former Athletes To Get And Stay In Shape
Tips And Tricks To Stick With Your New Year Fitness Goals This Year
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