Staying with a fitness routine is not always easy. Here are some of the tips and tricks used to stay on course and reach your goals.
Self-efficacy and self-regulation
Self-efficacy is the belief in one’s own ability to achieve goals. Self-regulation is the ability to set your course toward the goals and follow through consistently with the required behaviour.
Both self-efficacy and self-regulation are very important qualities for achieving fitness goals. Unless you truly believe in your own ability to continue to exercise, it’s most likely you will stop or find reasons not to continue. Similarly, being able to stay disciplined on a regular basis, or stay self-regulated is important to achieve your goals. One must necessarily follow the other.
Believing you can lose weight, but not exercising or eating clean every day, is not going to get you very far.
When you develop belief in yourself that you are truly capable of achieving a goal and stay on course by working out regularly, you get motivated to continue. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Along the way, in your fitness journey, you are likely to face setbacks and failure. The ability to bounce back is greater when you have self-efficacy and resilience.
Psychologist Albert Bandura developed the theory of self-efficacy. He said that people with self-efficacy truly believe that they have influence over events in their own lives and their behaviour.
Ways to improve self-efficacy
One of the best ways of increasing self-efficacy is to develop mastery over the task. This means that you do something till you are good at it, at which point, you actually start to enjoy it and develop a deeper sense of self-belief.
Another way to improve self-efficacy is through vicarious experiences. This means finding a role model and following her example. Watching other people that you can relate to and observing their lives and successes can boost confidence. By the same token, watching them fail may lower your judgment of your own efficacy if you are too dependent on vicarious experiences.
Social persuasion – being told that you are capable and possess the qualities it takes to keep going can bolster self-efficacy. Bolstering self-efficacy by using social persuasion alone is difficult, as when one fails in one’s efforts despite social persuasion, it actually undermines self-efficacy.
Ultimately, while vicarious experiences and social persuasion can help in improving self-efficacy, it is the mastery that truly improves it.
Find your WHY
“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” – Friederich Nietzche
Put into the fitness perspective, if you have a compelling enough reason to continue to exercise, you will do so no matter the circumstances.
For instance, most people start exercising to lose weight. Asking the question, “Why do I want to lose weight?” will put things in perspective. If your ‘why’ is vague and not internalised, you can be easily swayed. Having a strong ‘why’, like reversing a chronic disease or training for an event can be strong motivators.
Even a simple ‘why’ like — I want to keep my mood elevated/positive because I know I don’t feel good when I don’t exercise, can be a good enough motivator when truly internalised.
Writing down why you intend to keep exercising and adding as much detail as possible will keep it real for you. Stick it on your mirror so you see it every day.
Internal locus of control
People with an internal locus of control tend to be more centred and able to combat adversity. It means you believe you have the capacity to influence and control the events in your own life. Whereas an external locus of control implies that you believe everything that happens to you is the result of things you have no control over and therefore cannot change.
For instance a person with internal locus, intending to go for a run but finding it pouring outside would easily change course and train indoors. On the other hand someone with an external locus of control may just throw their hands up and get back into bed blaming the weather for their inability to exercise that day.
People with internal locus of control have a “plan B”.
There are innumerable excuses one can come up with when trying to exercise. Finding alternatives, not giving in to the excuses are features of people with internal locus of control.
Set proper goals. Your goal is not necessarily one such as “I will lose 10 kg in four months”.
Instead it should sound more like I will walk for 40 minutes covering x distance everyday in the first week; I will include strength training twice a week; I will stop all processed foods and sugar… and so on.
The weight on the scale could be just one of the goals (if realistic) but ideally, you should focus on what you can control in terms of your behaviour.
Goal setting is an art. If the goal is too daunting and unrealistic, it can overwhelm you. Breaking it up into smaller segments and being very specific about how you will go about achieving the goal can make it more realistic and achievable.
Following through with the behaviour to achieve the goal is related to your self-regulation. If you have problems with self-regulation, make it simple and look at short-term goals that are easily achievable. Something as simple as, “I will walk for 15 minutes every day” is good enough to begin with. Once you stay with this goal for a week, make it, “I will walk for 20 or 30 minutes every day” and so on.
Give yourself rewards as you progress. Obviously these rewards need to be thoughtful and not sabotage your goals themselves. Treating yourself to a large pizza because you have lost your first 5kg would hardly be productive.
Rewards can be something as simple as the mere acknowledgement that you have made it this far. When you give yourself that acknowledgement, it allows you to feel good about yourself and it produces a small surge of neurotransmitter dopamine that causes you to seek out your next reward, thereby helping you progress.
The author is a lifestyle medicine physician. firstname.lastname@example.org www.drsheelanambiar.com
Other simple hacks to stay with your exercise routine:
- Find a fitness buddy
- Find a good personal trainer
- Find a mentor who inspires you
- Do something you like and enjoy
- Tie your routine to something you enjoy (music, nature, holidays)
- Vary your workout
- Challenge yourself at frequent intervals
- Eat healthy
- Start slow and increase momentum to prevent injury
- Believe that doing something is better than nothing at all
- Ask yourself the important question — “what will happen if I don’t exercise?”