Ever make a lofty New Year’s resolution, only to find yourself on the couch at the start of February with an unopened box of kicks, an empty family size bag of M&Ms, and a nagging feeling of disappointment? Same. Which is why this year, we’ve chosen to ditch the resolutions and set goals to build healthy habits that will last longer than that Friends marathon you swore to stop bingeing two episodes ago. We’ve tapped some of our favourite experts to bring you Wellness Goals, our newest series on living well for the long run.
In our third installment of the series, we wanted to know: how can we can turn our fitness goals into long-term practices? So we turned to Emma Brown – trainer, influencer, RYU apparel rep, and all-around badass – to find out how we can make a fitness plan and fitness habits that stick.
If the crowd at the gym on January 1 versus February 1 is any indication, lots of us plan to get fit this year but few of us actually manage to stick to it. Why do you think so many people fall off so quickly?
Emma Brown: While a new year is in many ways a great start psychologically to pump ourselves up for new goals and fresh starts, often our best intentions are thwarted by too much change in such a short period of time.
When we overwhelm ourselves by cutting out so many old rituals and simultaneously try to implement new ones, we are bound to revert back to our baseline for comfort. They key to lasting change is small and consistent improvements.
Take a good look at where you’re starting and decide to implement three major changes per week to help move you in the right direction. Then build from there.
I don’t want to completely discount the philosophy of giving ourselves a swift kick in the butt with some sudden change at times; a really big shift to kick off a new goal in the beginning can sometimes be helpful, as seeing positive change often motivates us to keep going. But make sure you have a plan to scale back to a sustainable pace and incorporate things that keep you feeling balanced and, most importantly, not deprived or overextended! Once you move past the first week, motivation levels often dip and temptation levels spike in turn, so make a plan that allows a slow build from then onwards.
What are some ways we can set ourselves up for success from the outset in terms of how we make our resolution (i.e. a broad goal like “I plan to get fit” versus a specific goal like “I plan to work out at least once a week”)?
EB: Set goals with clear intention. Take inventory of why you want to accomplish something. This helps reveal your true values and drive behind wanting to do something. Find goals and a fitness plan with a strong sense of meaning – “I want to improve my fitness to be able to run with my spouse” or ” I want to feel more confident” – versus a general sense of being out of shape and an ambient “I should get it together, I feel gross” dialogue with yourself.
What is your why? What does achieving your goal or fitness plan really mean to you in the end? Knowing the answer to this often makes us achieve things for a much deeper and more meaningful reason, which also strengthens our adherence to the course!
Sometimes figuring out the why behind something will make us even more steadfast in our pursuit of achieving it.
Have periodic measurements of your progress and, most importantly, rewards! Be kind to yourself and recognize how challenging it is to undertake new lifestyle habits and ditch old ones that we know are unhealthy but also extremely hardwired.
If you fall off your fitness plan, should you just ditch the resolution entirely or is there a good way to forgive yourself and get back to it?
EB: Oh my gosh forgive yourself already! Everyone screws up; we are human. But with that notion of understanding, make sure you (kindly) give yourself tough love afterwards and remember how good it fells to have forward momentum. I always try not to let the “oops” last more than two days at a time. The shorter the time between when you feel you’ve gotten off track and when you re-attempt the challenge, the better chance you’ll have to make your healthier practices become habits.
What are some tips you have for keeping yourself accountable?
EB: Measure your progress and know that it doesn’t have to be on a scale.
How is your energy? How has your cardio output been when you do workout? How many times a week are you partying versus eating well and training? Track it!
And of course, engage the buddy system! There is no better way to stay on track than to have someone (who is equally motivated) stay the course with you and vice versa.
Would you suggest going to group classes, heading to the gym solo, or working with a trainer?
EB: All of the above! The key to success is variety and keeping yourself engaged in activities that center around a healthy lifestyle. But everyone always has something they generally hate and activities they love, or at least don’t hate when it comes to working out. Figure out what you like and make that a regular part of your week.