Motivation is one of the most over-valued words I know of. The truth is that nobody is motivated all the time – not even the most successful people. One important characteristic of most successful people (in fitness or otherwise) is they have developed habits that form the foundation of their success.
Habits are not inherently good or bad, they just are. We have all heard of the term “bad habit,” and I am sure we can all think of good / healthy habits too. As we approach the new year many people to have internal dialogue about getting into shape, and maybe even setting goals for the new year. If you are doing that, I want to share one of the most important keys to success:
You will not be motivated all year. In fact, you will not even be motivated all of January. You absolutely cannot rely on motivation alone to help you achieve your goals. Instead, the key is that you need to develop HABITS that support your goal.
One way to think about a habit is that it is something you do regardless of if you are feeling motivated or not. One example I use quite a bit is brushing your teeth. Let’s be honest – most people are not “motivated” to brush their teeth very often. Unless I physically feel something stuck in my teeth, I am rarely “motivated” to brush or floss. That said, I know that dental hygiene is important, so, like most people, I developed a habit of brushing my teeth 2x daily. I do it when I’m energetic, I do it when I’m tired, I do it when it is sunny out, I do it when it is dark and rainy, I do it when I have free time, I do it when I am busy, and so on. Basically, I don’t let anything get in the way of making sure I brush and floss.
If you have athletic and/or fitness goals then you need to form HABITS to support your goals, just like how your habit of brushing and flossing supports your dental health. I know it might be a unique perspective, and possibly even sound a little scary, but I truly believe that if you’ve done it for brushing your teeth then you can do it for fitness too.
To me, a distinction of a habit is that it does not take a back-seat to other things that come up. I mention this because I hear all too often “I’m too busy to go to the gym right now.” Do you also not brush your teeth because you claim to not have time? I doubt it. You know that brushing your teeth is important, so you do it regardless of what else you have going on. If you want to make improvements in your fitness level then you need to develop habits that support this goal; you cannot allow these activities to be on the chopping block when your schedule starts to fill up.
I’ll leave you with three of the most important areas when it comes to seeing results in your fitness program – be that building muscle, burning fat, performing better at your sport, or whatever. I’ll also include a couple tips for each one on where to start with forming your habits.
Nutrition undoubtedly plays a key role in success in fitness. Whether you are someone who is trying to add 20lbs of muscle or you are someone who is trying to drop bodyweight, nutrition is critical.
Once you have an understanding of what foods you should eat (how much protein, how many carbs, and so on) then the most important habit to develop is the combination of grocery shopping and meal prepping. Here is where to start:
- Decide what dishes you want to cook that will support your nutritional needs
- Make a list of what ingredients you need to cook these dishes
- Designate a specific day of the week to go to the grocery store to buy everything
- Similarly, designate a specific day to do all your meal prepping
The way Mira and I do it is that we have a shared grocery list on our phones, and we add things throughout the week. Then I go to the store on Sunday morning and buy everything, and then Sunday night we meal prep. By doing this every week we have healthy food readily accessible all week long.
Similar to nutrition above, the more specific you can be with putting workouts on your calendar the better. Here is where to start with exercise:
- Set specific days & times that you are going to get in your workout, and put them on your calendar
- Prioritize these time slots and do not move them around except for extenuating circumstances
- Plan a specific workout for each day & time. Do not say something vague like “I’m going to go workout” – instead, be specific. Are you going to meet with a personal trainer? Are you going to take a specific class? Are you meeting a friend at the gym? If so, what exercises will you be doing? Squats? Lunges? Turkish Get Ups? How much weight will you use? How many sets & reps?
- Try to plan at least 90-min per week of strength training. Two sessions of 45-min works great, and you could also possibly do 3x 30-min sessions.
Building muscle, burning fat, or performing at your best in your sport all benefit from rest & recovery. Sleep quality and quantity both matter here.
QUANTITY: Your goal should be 8-hours per night if you can. If you honestly cannot allocate that, then get as close to it as possible. My number one habit for getting more hours of sleep:
- Set a bedtime for yourself. This may involve only watching one episode per night on Netflix instead of two, but you’ll be rewarded with an extra hour of sleep that will support your recovery.
QUALITY: It is well established that being on your phone / device close to bedtime reduces the quality of your sleep. Here are two options for habits to form to help you get off your device and improve the quality of your sleep:
- If you have a separate bedroom from your living area, then make a habit of not bringing your phone to bed with you. You may need to purchase some “ancient technology” (an alarm clock) to make sure you wake up on time, but that is a nominal cost compared to the benefit of not scrolling on your phone while in bed.
- If you live in a studio apartment and do not have a separate bedroom, then at least don’t take your phone into bed with you. Find a place to keep it that is away from the bed, and shut it off at least 15-min before going to sleep.
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