Maintaining Motivation When Starting Your New Workout Routine

It’s great looking around and seeing more of a focus on health and wellness these days!

  • Organizations are promoting fitness challenges and other programs to help their people make healthier choices.
  • There are reality TVs shows with a pure focus on fitness and competition such as American Ninja Warrior, and Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge as opposed to just the drama packed weight loss shows.
  • You can also find fun runs, 5Ks, fitness related meet up groups and adventure races in your area with little to no trouble.
  • There is something for everyone – CrossFit, Running Clubs, Yoga, Spinning Classes, Pilates, and everything in between.

Slowly and surely we are collectively buying into a culture where being healthy and fit is a must-have to ensure a long, productive and prosperous future.

So with this positive shift, at some point (I hope) we will be compelled to start a new workout routine to help us achieve our fitness goals.  Maybe someone or something inspired you to get healthy, or perhaps this motivation resulted from a scare in the doctor’s office (I hope not).  Either way, today I want to talk about building, and more importantly, maintaining your new workout routine to better ensure your success.

The initial decision to workout along with setting a goal is the easy part, but how do we maintain the momentum to get there?  How do we avoid having another New Year’s Resolution fizzle out by week 2 or 3?

The hardest part is building and maintaining a flow of motivation and discipline to transform this new routine into an ingrained part of who you are.

What does that mean?

It is that mental shift that takes place when we stop saying that healthy eating, lifting, running or CrossFit is something I do a few times a week to where we begin to say – I am a healthy eater, I am a weight lifter, I am a runner, I am a CrossFitter.  

It becomes less of what we do and all about who we are.

So let’s get there!

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Overall, I consider myself a healthy person – I eat well, lift 3-4 times per week, get at least 10,000 steps a day, and focus on recovery (stretching, heat pads, yoga, and the occasional massage).

However, I found myself lacking something – the fire I once had when I was training for football season.  The more I thought about it, I realized the stakes weren’t high enough.

Now don’t get me wrong – I take my health very seriously, and remain focused on eating well and working out to ensure that I do everything in my control to be around for my family for as long as possible.  I just needed a little kick in the rear / a shake up / a bit more fun and adventure in my workout routine.  So I found 10 seconds of courage and signed up for my first Spartan Race!

This goal of completing the race forced me to look at and alter my traditional routine, while pushing myself to a new level of fitness within my adult life.

Despite my history of consistently working out, this routine was very new, very challenging, and a big change.   As a result, I needed to build and maintain momentum to properly prepare for my goal and the challenge that stood in front of me.

So let’s talk about some of the tools and strategies I used that can help you find success as well.

Building a Successful Routine

No matter your goals (weight loss, completing a race, increasing a particular lift, winning a competition), the path to success is forged in consistency, discipline, and determination.

So before you set out for your first run, or pick up a dumbbell, get out a pen and paper and lets walk through the following together!

Get Deep on Your Why

Surprise!  There is never a better place to start than your ‘why’.   Go as deep as you can to determine why you want to take on this new routine.

Is it as simple as wanting to lose weight?  Or is it deeper?  Do you want to get healthy and strong for your family, or perhaps because your doctor told you if you don’t get some blood pressure, cholesterol numbers, etc. in check that there could be dire consequences?

No matter what it is, the clearer you are on that internal drive to accomplish your goal, the more likely that ‘why’ will be there and help you push through the tough times when you don’t want to get after it.

Understand Your Starting Point

Before we start any new routine, we must be honest with ourselves about where we are in order to get to where we want to go.  For instance, if you want to run a marathon, don’t try to run 26.2 miles on your first run!  No matter what we do, we need to build up slowly and allow our bodies to adapt.

So let’s think about the last 6 months and write down or think through how often you did something physical.  What types of foods do you eat on a regular basis?  Are they fueling your body or slowing you down?  Does anything hurt?  Also, don’t forget to consult with your doctor before taking on any new workout plans!!  (Had to say it…)

Again, be real with yourself about where you are – it will help you set realistic goals and the timelines to get there.  If you aren’t honest with yourself, you will only hurt yourself.  Taking a couple minutes now will pay huge dividends in the future!

Set a Proper Goal

Once we decide to get healthy and fit, we need to define a goal – our definition of success.  Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but it should be a SMART goal!

Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Time-bound

We don’t want to set vague and generic goals such as ‘I want to get healthy.’  What does that mean?  How do you get there?  When are you going to magically become ‘healthy’?

Here is a personal example when I signed up for my race.  After signing up on June 23rd, 2017, I made it my goal to successfully complete the Washington DC Spartan Sprint on September 9th, 2017 by creating a plan focused on building my stamina and endurance (running and burpees), strength (body weight exercises, kettlebells, dumbbells), and dialing in my nutrition (nutritious whole foods, lots of water, and decreasing / eliminating eating garbage and drinking alcohol leading up to the race).

I wrote my whole plan down in a journal before my first workout and referred back to it when I didn’t feel like I was giving it my best.

Set the Right Goals

I wanted to touch on this separately to point out a couple finer points when setting goals.

First, if the goal doesn’t scare you (even a little), and is too easy to accomplish without much of an increase in effort, thought or strategy then… it is not big enough!  The bigger the challenge, the bigger the reward and impact!

Second, understand what your goal really means.  Let’s start with one of the most popular goals we hear about – “I want to lose 20 pounds by such and such a date or event.”  I’m mostly OK with that as long as the event isn’t within the next 1-2 months!

The actions we take to accomplish our goal should be maintainable and healthy!  Working out three times a day, everyday or starving ourselves is not the path to a positive and lasting result.  Anyway, back to my point.

If the actionable steps you are taking to lose weight are purely to decrease the amount you are eating and/or cutting out the bad stuff, then great!  I can get behind that approach.

However, if your plan also includes exercise, then make sure you understand what to expect during weight loss journey.  Losing purely 20 pounds on a scale is not the same as getting in shape / fit.  Did you ever hear the phrase, “muscle weighs more than fat?”  I have, and it’s wrong!

Think about it for a moment, you put a pound of muscle and a pound of fat on a scale and guess what happens – they both weigh a pound!  The difference, and what they mean by that statement, is that the amount of space a pound of muscle takes up is way less than that pound of fat!

So as you work out whether by lifting, running or a similar exercise method, eventually you will begin building muscle (good thing) while burning fat (also a good thing), but you may see your weight loss slow or maybe even go up!

What am I doing wrong?!?!”  Nothing!

This may cause you to panic, but I want you to pause and think through why the loss is slowing or why you might be gaining weight.  If you are still happy with what you are seeing in the mirror, or how your clothes are fitting, then maybe the pure weight goal is actually no longer the right goal.

Don’t think you have to have it all figured out from the start – your goals may change (and should change) as you either meet them or pivot in what you want for yourself.

Measure!

I’ll keep this short and to the point.  As we noted above, the number on the scale can become misleading over time, so depending on your goals, take measurements to track progress on a regular interval and keep that momentum growing!

Measurements could come in the form of split times for miles, size of arms, legs, chest, body fat percentage, number of miles run at a time, bench press amount, etc. – it will depend on your goals, but they key is to find the measurement(s) to show your growth and keep you fired up.

Create Milestones

What we don’t want on the road to achieving fitness goals is to have one and only one point of success – namely meeting the final goal.  It is too difficult to maintain the drive and momentum you will need.  Not impossible, but we also don’t have to make it that hard.

To keep ourselves motivated, we should setup road signs along the way that give us a smaller target to hit that keeps us on track while giving us that good feeling for hitting or exceeding one of our marks.

For instance, if you still want to run that marathon, maybe your milestone along the way is to work up to a 5 mile run within a month on your way to the marathon you signed up for in 8 months.

You can create as many milestones as you see fit based on your timeline to your goal.  They are highly recommended.

Also, as an added incentive, treat yourself to something for meeting that milestone, which brings us to my next point…

Build in Healthy Rewards Along the Way

I’m pretty sure it is human nature to love rewards!  All those chemicals firing in your brain – it’s science!

So let’s take advantage of that human nature and pick some milestones on our journey and attach a reward to them.

What we don’t want to do is treat ourselves to a platter of fried food or half an ice cream cake (Mmmm… ice cream cake) for hitting a milestone, but we can treat ourselves to something that helps us further our goals such as:

  • New workout clothes (since your old ones will be too big)
  • New running shoes (since you crushed so many miles on your old ones)
  • Book a massage / spa day to keep your body primed to keep working towards your goals

There are plenty more ideas, so think through what motivates you and is healthy, and start working towards them!

Incorporate Recovery

No matter how new you are to exercise, make sure to plan in recovery just like you plan for your workouts.

Nothing derails a new workout routine more than injury.  Make sure you are taking care of yourself when you aren’t working out – get enough sleep, proper stretching and nutrient rich foods to keep you fueled for success.

Schedule the time!

Like anything at work or in life, if something isn’t on your calendar then it isn’t a priority, and most likely won’t get done.

As you begin your new routine, get a feel for what days and times work best for you and then block off that time!

It might be a small thing to do, but it will constantly be there to remind you to get that workout gear on and get after it!

Get an accountability buddy

Finally, nothing says get your back-end in gear like an accountability buddy!  This should be someone you trust with your ‘why’ and goals that will hold you accountable and keep the positive vibes coming your way.

The ideal accountability partners will share your goals so that you can workout together and keep each other motivated, but that’s certainly not required.  If that’s not possible, then look to someone who will keep you hungry, and that is on their own journey.

Helping each other will not only increase both your chances for success, but it will also give you a great sense of personal satisfaction to help someone else along the way.

The Road Ahead

Consider today your ‘Day 0’.  Understand what you want to accomplish, why you want to accomplish it, and leverage the tips, tools and strategies above to increase your chance to success!  Chart your plan for your next workout routine and hit the ground running knowing that you are primed for success!

If you have any questions or want some additional motivation, please let me know!

Discussion Question: What on this list (or not on this list) keeps you most motivated on your fitness journey?  How has it helped you battle through the barriers along the way?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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