What New Year’s resolution? (Photo: Getty Images)
The start of a new workout plan starts with a burst of energy: You hit the gym thinking, “Yeah, I got this! Bring it!” But after a few weeks, the initial excitement starts to fizzle. Be honest: Have you even thought about your New Year’s resolution lately?
Turns out, there’s a specific day when this waning motivation starts to happen. Today, Feb. 9, is the day gym check-ins begin to steadily decline — known as the “fitness cliff” — according to an analysis of check-in data from corporate Gold’s Gym locations across the United States.
There are a few reasons motivation starts to wane in February. “People think of ‘motivation’ as a strategy, but really it’s an emotional state,” explains Jessi Kneeland, certified personal trainer and founder of Remodel Fitness. And since motivation is an emotion, ultimately it’s a fleeting feeling, she says.
“Motivation tends to be high around New Year’s, because people get filled with hope and excitement and visions of ‘a new me!’ They ride that emotional state until it ends, which is … usually right about now,” Kneeland tells Yahoo Health.
In addition, a visible change in your body takes time. It’s easy to think “this isn’t working” and quit. “Most of us don’t structure exercise to fold into the habit cycle of our psychology,” Emmett Williams, president of the heart-rate-tracking system MYZONE, tells Yahoo Health. “We don’t reward ourselves quickly enough, and the payoff — weight loss in three months, lower blood pressure in six months — is just too far away for it to be motivating,” Williams says.
So how do you keep from falling off the fitness cliff? “Today is the day when you have the choice to make it or break it,” strength expert Holly Perkins, CSCS, creator of The GLUTES Project, tells Yahoo Health. “The difference between success and failure here is simply action,” she says. “Don’t think about it, just go to the gym. Don’t negotiate, just do your workout!”
If the “just do it” philosophy still isn’t enough to get you moving today, tomorrow, and all month long, bookmark these tips from five top fitness experts.
How to Avoid the Fitness Cliff and Stay Motivated to Work Out
- Be honest with yourself. Most people start off doing too much because they’re so motivated, but it’s unrealistic and unsustainable. For example, if you hate getting up early and are the type of person who hits snooze until they absolutely have to get up, it’s unrealistic to say “I’ll get up two hours early to work out and shower.” You’re setting yourself up for failure. Instead, look at your history of behavior and find what’s most realistic — not necessarily what you’d like to do or what you think is ideal.
- Do something that you like. We all know exercise is medicine, but we don’t like to take medicine when it doesn’t taste good. If you like weight machines, use machines. If you hate machines, don’t use machines. Make the medicine taste good.
The expert: Jessi Kneeland, certified personal trainer and founder of Remodel Fitness
- Acknowledge that motivation is an emotional state and thus, by definition, a fleeting plan. Have compassion for yourself when you run out of motivation. It was nice, but it was never meant to last, so don’t let yourself feel guilt or shame when it’s gone.
- Put into place a real plan by looking at your goals and working backward to break it into daily tasks. For example, if your goal was to be able to run three miles nonstop, instead of running whenever you’re motivated, work out how long it would take you to build up to your goal if you consistently run three days a week.
- Be generous with your plan; make it easier than you think you need. Set yourself up to experience tiny victory after tiny victory. Feeling like a success will help you stay in a long-term state of motivation.
The expert: Mike Ryan, Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute expert trainer
- Add some “class” to your routine. Whether it’s functional training like TRX or moving to the beat with a Zumba class, group exercise is a great way to inject some energy into a stale routine and will help you with your pledge to get back in shape.
- Use technology to keep you on track with your goals. It will add a whole new dimension to your workout, helping you pump up your fitness slump. (For ideas, check out Yahoo Health’s 8 New Ways Technology Is Making Your Workout Better.)
- Enlist a trainer. Even if it’s just for a few sessions, working with a certified personal trainer who can design a program that’s tailored to your body is the big step to transforming your body and reaching your goals
- Find a deeper reason to work out. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a hot body, but your impulse to sit on the couch and binge watch a season of Empire is going to overrun your six-pack fantasies. Ask yourself why it’s important to work out. Once you have an answer, ask why again. Repeat that five times and you’ll come up with something truly impactful. Now you have real ammo to help you get your butt up and moving.
- Take a single step. Most people fail at their fitness goals because they try to overhaul everything at once. It’s just not sustainable. You wind up burning out and quitting completely. Take a second to evaluate your plan and focus on just one thing. Those small daily steps are what add up to massive change.
- Just freaking do it. Sometimes the best strategies in the world fail to motivate us. Here’s where you need to force yourself to do something, however small. Ten bodyweight squats. A few jumping jacks. Whatever. You’ll find that this simple act ignites the desire for more movement.
The expert: Harley Pasternak, celebrity trainer and nutritionist, author of 5 Pounds: The Breakthrough 5-Day Plan to Jump-Start Rapid Weight Loss and Never Gain It Back
- Make your goals actionable. Think: Walk 10,000 steps a day, sleep at least seven hours a night. Don’t make it about a dress size or a weight.
- Set empirical (number-based) goals so that you can actually count them and push yourself to hit that number. For example, eat protein five times a day, unplug for at least 20 minutes, or do at least five minutes of strength exercises each day.
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