It’s the beginning of a new year and that can only mean one thing for those of us in the fitness industry. A HUGE influx of new gym members, new personal training clients and generally a much larger overall interest in fitness and health. When I used to manage big box gyms, it wasn’t out of the ordinary to see a 50% increase in both revenue and member traffic.
Nothing gets people motivated to start a fitness routine like ending an old year and starting a new one. Combine this with the fact that the indulge-fest known as the holiday season just ended and you have a perfect storm of motivation for ambitious new fitness and health goals. This all sounds great, until you learn that most people abandon their gyms, workout routines and diets within a few short months. In fact, several studies have demonstrated a 90% fail rate.
Working in gyms and training clients for the last 20 years, I had a front row seat to this phenomenon many times. After witnessing person after person come into my gyms with amazing enthusiasm, buy memberships, hire trainers and start with gusto only to completely disappear (like clockwork) a few months later I made it my mission to figure out a couple things. First, I wanted to figure out how such motivated people could just quit their fitness and health journeys. Second, and most importantly, I wanted to figure out why some people did NOT quit and how they developed long-term fitness and health habits. After years of observing, questioning, and working intently with people, I am pretty sure I have it figured out. It’s all about understanding your mindset, being honest with yourself and employing strategies that lead to long term behavior change.
First, let’s peer into the mind and emotions of people who make big fitness and health goals. Most of them either haven’t consistently (6 months or more) worked out in a long time or they never have. Also, aside from short crash course diets, their food choices largely revolve around convenience and/or the enjoyment of eating.
At some point the overindulgence of the holidays, or the realization that another unhealthy year has passed and they have an “aha!” moment. They feel a surge of motivation usually combined with an unhealthy feeling of self-hate or disgust and they decide, once and for all, “it’s time to do something about this!!” This feeling propels them to make huge goals for themselves. It was not uncommon for new members to tell me their fitness goals were to lose 30 plus pounds and the time frame was usually “as fast as possible.” They meant it too. They were ready to workout 5 days a week, hire a personal trainer, buy all the supplements and completely revamp their diets. If this is you don’t feel bad, you aren’t alone, this describes most people in modern societies.
Here is the problem, these people (and maybe you) make these goals while in a very motivated mind set. When we feel motivated we tend to overestimate our abilities. If we ALWAYS felt that motivated it would be easy. Unfortunately, motivation is almost never permanent. It’s a state of mind and, like all other states of mind, motivation comes and goes. As soon as motivation fades your new lifestyle is impossible to maintain. Of course, people fail when they go from zero to fanatic overnight. That’s going to almost always be a failing strategy.
The key is start by being COMPLETELY honest with yourself. Not just your motivated self but with the other versions of yourself as well, including the lazy and unmotivated version of you. When getting started on a fitness and health journey ask yourself the following question; “What can I start now that I know I can and will maintain FOREVER?” Answer this question with brutal honestly and make sure to use FOREVER as your context. Pick a small change that is challenging (this gives it meaning) but also honestly REALISTIC.
What you will find is that your goals and the methods you decide to employ to accomplish your goals change immediately. This is not only perfectly fine, but it’s also AWESOME, because you now have REAL goals. No goal is too small here and there is no such thing as too little exercise or too little dietary changes so long as they are more than you are doing now. If you aren’t exercising at all now then even one day a week is an improvement. If you pay zero attention to your diet then simply being more conscious of your processed food intake is an excellent place to start.
Now you have a great starting point, but we aren’t done. Deep down inside you really do want to lose a lot of body fat. You really do want to live a healthy vibrant life. This comes from a life-long healthy relationship with exercise and nutrition. So, what do we do after we become consistent with our initial small goals and realistic methods? Repeat the process! Once your new realistic change has become a part of your life and has solidified as a behavior of yours, have the honest conversation with yourself again. Make small, challenging but realistic changes, rinse and repeat.
These small but permanent changes equate to HUGE changes over time. I have seen dramatic transformations with this method and the best part is that most of them were permanent.