This is part two of a three-part article series from guest author Megan Applegate.
Staying on the horse
So you’ve gotten on the horse in your quest to find non-weight loss progress measures. Getting started probably wasn’t the easiest thing you’ve ever done. Maintaining your program isn’t necessarily going to be a piece of cake, either.
But with a little bit of direction, you can keep the horse galloping.
Stick to a routine
Routines can be as structured or fluid as you like. There is no cookie-cutter routine. What works for someone else will not necessarily work for you. Exercise is often the first thing to go when you get busy, so carving out time for it in a way that still allows to you meet your other needs is the best way to ensure that you stay on track.
At the same time, make sure you’re allowing for flexibility. If you miss a workout or skip the salad to go out for lunch with friends, it’s not going to completely disrupt your progress. Constraining yourself to an exceedingly strict regimen can lead to demotivation if you go even slightly off track.
A fluid routine allows for much more flexibility and will work best for you if you have a variable work or school schedule, or if you travel a lot. If you work a standard 9-5, a structured routine may be a better fit for you.
Let’s check out a few examples.
Decide how many days (e.g., 4 days per week) or which days of the week (e.g., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday) you will exercise, and make that a weekly goal.
Fill out a calendar with your workouts. For example, this might mean that Mondays and Thursdays are cardio; Tuesdays and Fridays are lower body, Wednesdays and Saturdays are arms, back & core. You can even make a plan for which exercises you’ll do each day to ensure that you’re exercising each major muscle group twice a week.
If you miss a day, big deal. Having your routine laid out reduces the anxiety of figuring out where to pick back up.
Make a standard list of healthy groceries (berries, citrus, root vegetables, greens, lean meat, low-fat dairy, whole grain rice, etc.) – buy these each week and supplement with others to mix it up
Meal prep like a boss. Spend Sunday afternoon preparing your meals, and you can avoid the stress of deciding which fast food restaurant is the ‘healthiest’ lunch or grabbing a couple slices of leftover pizza.
Use a recipe and only buy what is needed to make your meals for the week. This is a great way to reduce food waste and stay on budget!
A mindset routine isn’t a necessity for everyone, but it can be really helpful for staying on track. This could be anything like journaling before bed each night about the things that made you feel empowered, proud, grateful, or strong that day, taking the time to meditate, or doing a simple 5-minute yoga flow when you wake up.
Self-reflection and introspection can help you maintain focus and smack down negative thoughts that can creep in and blight your motivation. And yes, a mindset routine is backed by science and a common theme across the world’s top performers.
Strategies to keep it fresh
Reward yourself for meeting goals! If you aren’t enjoying the process, you aren’t going to keep it up. Get an ice cream cone, have a couple beers, and celebrate the amazing things your body can do. Mindful indulgences are part of a healthy lifestyle diet.
“When we take the time to notice the things that go right – it means we’re getting a lot of little rewards throughout the day.” – Martin Seligman
Some diet programs, like Whole30, discourage using food as a reward. If you are subscribing to a program like this, there are plenty of other ways to reward yourself: get yourself some new gear, go out to a movie, do something fun with friends.
Choose something that you feel pays tribute to the work you have put in.
Create new goals
Never stop challenging yourself. Regularly create new short-term goals to stay motivated. Keep in mind the SMART goal guidelines. If you are dieting, you can choose a new fruit or vegetable to incorporate into your meals each week to keep it interesting. Signing up for 5Ks or other races are always a great way to force yourself to stay on track with cardio.
Mix it up
As you progress through your program, make sure you are keeping it challenging. If you do the same 8 exercises each time you workout, you’re going to get sick of it. On top of that, you need to be regularly overloading your body to see real progress.
If you’re getting bored with the treadmill, replace a regular cardio session with a sprint interval workout, or run outside. Go to a group class, or hiking, or to a rock climbing gym. This will also ensure that you are exercising the accessory muscles that don’t always get targeted through your usual exercises.
Pack your gear
Before bed each night, pack a bag with your shoes, clothes, headphones, and water bottle. Setting your intention when you are in the right mindset can help to remind you of your commitment when you’re thinking of skipping the day. Maybe even keep your goals list in your bag, as well!
Maintaining a program is tough but routines and healthy habits make it easier. Nevertheless, we all fall off the horse sometimes.
Stay tuned for Part 3 for some great tips on how to get back on track and track your progress.