Developing long term fitness habits is one of the toughest things for a lot of people to achieve. Fitness requires discipline and hard work. You must show up, put in the effort, and really push yourself if you want to continue seeing results. The results take time and are seen in small increments.
Maintaining a good level of fitness will make you look and feel better, reduce risk of disease, and increase the length and quality of your life. Well worth the investment. So here are my thoughts on how to develop fitness habits.
Before you can make any kind of change in your life, let alone developing good fitness habits, you need to become aware that there is an alternative to what you are doing currently. This may be because you are unhappy with your current health, mood, or body shape. You’ve possibly started thinking more about your long-term health and mobility. So, you seek out a way of improving these things. Maybe your friends have introduced you to the gym, sports, or other fitness routines. Maybe you have been inspired by something you have seen online or on social media.
Being fed up with your current situation
To really want to change, you also need to be fed up with something in your current situation. You need to have a stimulus to give you the motivation to develop new fitness habits. This could be one of many things. Some examples include new baby, holiday, wedding, health scare etc. This stimulus is what you are going to think about as you move on to…
Thinking about change
This may sound a bit silly or obvious, depending on your point of view. However, unless you think about making a change and what that change looks like, you are not very likely to progress with it. You need to think about how much commitment you are willing to put into developing your new fitness habits and what kind of fitness activities you are prepared to take part in. You may think about this for a few days, maybe a week or so but it’s important to start formulating a plan. Rather than attempting something new unprepared and possibly giving up before you really get started.
Once you know what fitness plan you are going to follow, visualise yourself doing it. If it’s the gym, think about which exercises you are going to perform and in what order. Picture yourself going through each movement and lifting challenging weights. If you’re going to start running, imagine yourself running the route you plan on taking.
This visualisation will make you better prepared mentally when you do go any perform your chosen fitness plan. It will almost be like you’ve already done it once, so you will feel more comfortable.
Sound like a load of nonsense? There have been a number of studies supporting the benefits of mental imagery & visualisation
Check this one out from the National University of Physical Education and Sport in Romania
You first step to developing your fitness habits is to simply ensure you show up to the number of training sessions you have committed to. If that’s training 3 times a week at the gym, then make sure you attend three times. If it’s swimming twice a week, make sure you go to the pool those two times.
Before you start to push yourself with performance challenges, you need to get into the habit of going. Attending every session is your initial challenge. It’s so easy to come up with excuses or prioritise something else. After a few weeks it will become ingrained into your weekly routine. You will be less likely to miss a session and book something else in its place. Fitness will become a priority in your schedule, and you’ll ensure you stick to your allocated training times.
Now that attending has become second nature and a permanent part of your diary, it’s time to make your routine more interesting. Start to research new exercises, techniques, and ideas. This will help you gain a better understanding of how to progress. It will also help you better understand your sport and training plan. If the gym is your thing, for example, research will allow you to better understand which muscle groups get trained in exercises so that you can put a well-balanced program together.
Some great places to research include:
- Online fitness blogs & websites
- Social media accounts (from qualified fitness professionals)
Challenge & progress
To ensure you stay motivated and keep your training interesting, it is essential that you continue to challenge yourself. Set yourself goals and celebrate when you achieve then. But make sure that you set another goal shortly after. You want to keep running faster, swimming further or lifting heavier.
The sense of constant goal setting, progress and achievement will keep your new fitness habits alive for a lifetime.