Keeping to a new training program is probably one of the most common problem people face after New Years Eve. Promises of better health and a fit body are common at this time of year but if simply making the new year’s resolution was all that was needed, the world would be populated with only fit and healthy people. Not quite reality is it? What happens to most people is that they keep to their new training program for a short time—maybe a few weeks—and then they start slacking off. What started out so well soon turns into another burden: every time a session is missed, the risk of failure rises and the burden of guilt piles up. In the end it is just so much better just to skip the whole thing go back to the way things were—anything just to keep from feeling guilty all the time.Why does this happen? Why is it so hard to keep to new training programs? More importantly, what can you do make sure you keep to it?
The number one problem is that it is just too easy to talk yourself out of training. You didn’t do it before, so why is it necessary now? Your internal dialogue can be quite interesting to listen to—anything that speaks in favor of training seems so small, and making up excuses is just so easy.
The reason that all of this happens is that your new training program is not a habit yet. People are creatures of habit, and we generally resist change. No big surprise there—if you think about it, you will likely see the pattern. Lasting change require extra effort, and it is not until you make something a habit that changes will last.
Get in the habit
The solution is simple: make your new training program a habit.
That sounds easy enough, but as it turns out, it may not be. Just because you set out to create a new routine, it will requires a fair bit of consistency to become a true habit. To get this going, the first couple of weeks are the most important: this is where you form the basis of the new habit (if it becomes a habit). You have to make sure that you keep any cheating to an absolute minimum. Depending on what kind of person you are, the way that you can do this will vary: below are some very powerful suggestions and by using one of them—or even better, a combination of them—you can make sure you stick with things long enough to form your new desired training habit. After this, you will reap the benefits for years to come.
These are the methods I propose:
1. Get a training partner.
Doing this is effective on many levels: first, you combine your health and fitness with social interaction, which will make heavy or painful exercise a little bit more enjoyable. Secondly, having a training partner builds automatic positive peer pressure: if you want to skip a session, you don’t just have to convince yourself, you have to call your training partner as well and give him/her a good reason. This alone can make you go the extra mile. The best training partner you can find is somebody who is already in the habit of working out, so you’ll be piggy-backing on their habit. You then reap the benefits of the work your friend has already put in.
2. Make a bet.
If you have problems finding a training partner to actually train with you in person, you may be able to make a bet with someone who is doing the same thing you are instead. Agree that for each time you miss a training session when they do train, you have to pay the other person a nominal fee. Now you have voluntarily included a monetary reason to train, combined with the slightly weaker peer pressure of having to tell the other person you missed a session.
3. Add accountability by telling people.
By telling people about your new training practice and the goals you have made, you are basically recruiting an army of people who will hold you accountable. If you spread the word on Facebook that you have now taken up running (for example) and post your progress there, people will start asking you what is going on if you miss a session. They want to know about your progress, and posting progress that you’re proud of having achieved will keep you going.
4. Schedule the time to train.
This one is so simple, but is probably the most overlooked thing to do. Don’t just say “I am going to train 3 times a week”—put specific times and dates into your calender with reminders and everything. If you don’t do this, other engagements will soon take over and your training sessions will be few and far between.
When I took up runnin,g I got myself a partner who is a better runner with more experience; we scheduled our runs at specific times 3 days a week, and I started using the Runkeeper app to post results on Facebook after every session. This kept me going in the beginning long enough for me to form the habit of running.
What do you do to make sure you keep to your new training program?
Featured photo credit: interior of an old gym for bodybuilding via Shutterstock