Habit Forming and Staying Motivated in the New Year
New Year always feels like the perfect time to make positive changes. It offers a fresh start. New Year’s Resolutions are a chance to challenge ourselves. Among the most popular New Year’s Resolutions made each year are those with fitness and weight management outcomes. These, however, can also be the toughest to achieve, especially given harsh winter weather, and busy new year schedules.
Recent estimates suggest that less than 10% of people who set a New Year’s Resolution manage to stick to it. Indeed, multi- sport platform STRAVA even coined the name ‘Quitters’ Day’ for January 19.
But never fear, here’s our simple 3 step guide to help you beat the odds and turn you New Year Fitness Resolution into a lifelong change…
1. Don’t make resolutions, form habits.
Research suggest that habit forming can begin just 18 days after a person adopts a new behaviour. On average, it takes 66 days for a new habit to become ‘automatic’. That is, an everyday part of life. That’s plenty of time to get you past quitters’ day, and even beyond the second week of February (by which time 90% of resolutions have been abandoned).
One key factor when trying to form a habit is consistency. To keep things simple, try just to change one thing, and then be as consistent with that change as possible. Easy ways to keep things consistent include:
Set a time
If your resolution is to run or cycle more, you could set a goal such as getting out for 30- 40-minutes at 7 am each morning. 30 minutes is less than 3% of a full day. So, if you find a time that works for you, this small change can be fitted into your routine, without causing too much disruption. Burning up to 350 calories however, it could have a huge impact on your overall health and fitness.
Although you can have days off, it is best to avoid having 2 consecutive days off, as this can set back habit forming.
Don’t go it alone.
Having a friend, family member, or partner to go through the journey with you, makes it much more likely that you will both succeed in committing to a behaviour change. Partly, because you feel accountable to the other person, and also because doing things you enjoy, especially with people you enjoy spending time with, makes it much more likely that you will continue.
Although the lock-down makes it harder to connect with people from outside our homes, we can still head out to exercise once a day with our family, or with one person from outside our home. Alternatively, there are several online platforms like Zwift where you can exercise in the virtual world, and now, countless classes and clubs that have taken to platforms such as Zoom, to keep us all motivated, connected, and active.
Enjoy what you’re doing.
It is much easier to commit to a habit if you enjoy what you’re doing. This can be as simple as moving your hobby outdoors! How many people have an exercise bike gathering dust in the corner of a room, but find riding outdoors much more stimulating and rewarding.
Vary your routes to explore the local area. If you live in a city or town, chances are that there are roads within a mile of your house that you’ve never been down. Whether you’re admiring some unique architecture, looking for inspiration for your garden, or just curious, take this opportunity to get to know your town or city.
2. Set Goals
SMART is the secret to setting successful goals. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and set within a Time frame. It is also a good idea to set several intermediate goals, so that you have a focus for the short, medium, and long term.
Rather than setting abstract goals, like ‘I want to get fitter and lose weight this year’, you could say, I want to set a short-term goal of running 25 kilometres a week by march. In the medium term, I want to be able to run continually for 50 minutes by June. Then I want to be able to complete a half marathon, at a bucket list event, by September.
Remember that your goals should be clear, easy to track and measure, and should be achievable within the time frame set. This way, you can keep track of consistent progress, which should help to keep you motivated.
Having your main or long-term goal as a reward can really incentivise you to commit to your habit. So, booking a bucket list event, or entering your dream race can be the perfect motivator, while also having short- and medium-term goals to work on in the meantime.
3. Look forward, but also learn from the past.
While goal setting can be a great motivator and having targets and events to aim at can help keep you on track, you can also learn a lot from your past successes and failures.
Consider past successes. Events where you did better than you thought, maybe you set a PB, or reached a new milestone. Can you identify any specific factors that might have contributed to this success? These factors might be something mentioned above, such as having support, or having a big event in mind to use as a goal, but there could also be other factors at work, such as keeping a training diary or raising money for a particular charity.
Remembering past successes, and how they made you feel, can also be a great motivator for future successes.
The best way to learn from failures, is to stop looking at them as failures, and start seeing them as another part of the journey. Instead of repeating the same process next time, consider what went wrong. Was your goal too big? Does it need breaking down further? Or did you try to achieve too much too soon?
The most successful resolutions are the ones that slip easily into your daily life. Try to turn one simple change into a habit. And remember, habits stick.
Looking for the perfect event to motivate you this year? You can find all our Running, Cycling and Triathlon events for 2021 and into 2022, on our website.
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