At the beginning of the year, you probably set a fitness goal.
Maybe you wanted this year to be different—the year that you finally get your act together and get into the gym five times a week, no matter what. You wanted this to be the year you hit your goals. You probably started off great—in January, you were in the gym every day, you avoided alcohol, you skipped dessert, you were getting up early. Then February came and you dialed it back a bit—you allowed yourself to skip another day at the gym, started going back to the vending machine at work, binged on the couch a few weekends too many.
After a while, work and life started to get in the way and all of your other commitments and responsibilities started taking priority over your fitness goals. You had to travel for work, you got injured, or you had to work overtime. Then, you stopped getting enough sleep. Now, it’s halfway through the year and you’re feeling frustrated and discouraged. What happened? If this story sounds familiar, here are 10 things that might be holding back your fitness goals.
- Lack of a Support system
If you are feeling alone in your efforts to have a consistent, committed fitness routine, you might need a better support system. Committing to a regular fitness routine is extremely challenging to do on your own if you have struggled with a fitness routine in the past. Consider utilizing your social network to find groups involved in the fitness activities that you enjoy who will include you as part of the group. Or, form a group of runners or walkers or weightlifters. If your schedules do not work, consider setting up a Facebook group and utilizing mobile technology and social media to communicate your fitness routine and your results with one another online. Positive feedback, support, shared experiences, and accountability from others is critical for motivation.
Much like food or entertainment, everyone’s tastes and preferences differ. Fitness is no different. Maybe your coach used to tell you that you had to do 30 minutes on the treadmill,15 minutes of weightlifting, and 5 miles runs every week in order to meet your goals. And perhaps you tried that for ten years and now you are no longer motivated. What works for some does not work for everyone. Everyone’s body type, age, condition, and natural energy stasis point is different.
Some individuals need a heavy amount of cardiovascular exercise in their routine to burn off tension and stress and to feel relaxed. Others need very little cardiovascular exercise to be fit. Some individuals need mental stimulation and a challenge when they work out—they may need exercise through things like dance, martial arts, or team sports like basketball. Team sports provide social engagement which is necessary for motivating some individuals to work out. Other people may want to zone out during exercise—they may prefer a quiet run in the woods, laps in a swimming pool, or listening to music while they work out.
It’s important to recognize that your body, needs, and preferences will change over time. You probably know many people who swore they would never get caught in a yoga class and now they cannot imagine their lives without it. If your fitness routine is no longer motivating you, it might be time to change it up and find new activities that speak to the changing needs of your mind and body.
Having sufficient time to pursue fitness goals is one of the most challenging aspects of meeting your fitness goals—a lack of time is also one of the easiest excuses to fall back on. However, having a busy schedule is not a unique problem for those who work out. Some of the busiest people you know are still able to fulfill their commitments to their health and well-being. They know it will make them a better coworker, boss, parent, and life partner for the people in their life.
It’s important to remember that fitness does not require extensive hours of time every day. Many studies suggest that engaging in shorter, interval-based routines on a daily basis and integrating more consistent movement throughout the day when opportunities arise is actually more effective than long workout sessions 2-3 times a week. Consider the times of day that you have the most energy and available time—then, consider when those factors coincide the most.
If you’re struggling to do that, try exercising in the morning or right after work. It’s important to make it non-negotiable, the same way we make work, school, and other essential commitments non-negotiable.
A lack of sleep, a poor diet, chronic illnesses, and a poor immune system can all interfere with a regular fitness routine. While it’s inevitable that occasional illness and stress will rob you of days or weeks to work out, chronic illness and lack of energy might be indicators of a deeper problem.
If you’re missing workouts due to health challenges, it might be necessary to consult with sleep specialists, mental health specialists, nutritionists, and your family physician to help isolate the variables that are creating the most difficult health challenges for you and formulate a health plan that will enable you to have the energy and constitution you need to be able to exercise.
In addition to health challenges, injuries can prevent you from hitting your fitness goals. As you get older, injuries can become more frequent and can take a longer time to heal. However, depending on the nature and severity of the injury, you may still have some ability to exercise. In fact, your health care providers may even recommend some forms of exercise as part of your recovery. Exercise will help to prevent further weakness, overcompensation, and injury in other areas of the body.
If possible, try not to give up on all forms of exercise unless specifically directed by your doctor. Work with your physical therapist, massage therapist and/or chiropractor to determine how much exercise to do and which exercises are appropriate.
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- The Wrong Mindset
One of the easiest ways to defeat your fitness goals is to approach them with the wrong mindset. The mind and body are inextricably interconnected. Your attitude, thoughts, and expectations greatly influence your ability to reach your goals and experience the positive benefits that can result from hitting those goals. It’s often useful to focus on the positive feelings that come at the end of a workout.
Rather than viewing your fitness routine as a chore or obligation, reframe it as rare and special personal time you are taking for yourself. Just like how you prioritize home repairs to take care of your home, you should also prioritize fitness to take care of your body. View your exercise routine as a gift—a form of self-care. You are worth it.
Many people have long commutes to and from work or have to travel frequently. Figuring out how to handle frequent travel is challenging for any fitness devotee. However, there are many suggestions and tools for managing fitness while traveling. If you’re a free weights user, resistance bands and straps are an extremely effective travel replacement, as they are lightweight and can be folded into luggage or even a briefcase.
If you’re traveling during the holidays to visit family, make a checklist of items to pack that center around fitness during the Holidays. If you do have an internet connection while traveling, consider using a streaming service in place of a fitness class, personal trainer or gym membership. If you don’t have equipment, internet, or a hotel gym, try the Nomadic Matt travel routine, a foolproof way to get fit without needing substantial space or equipment.
We live in a highly competitive society that emphasizes winning at all costs. We seek external validation from others and are constantly pushed to succeed as individuals at the highest levels. This cultural pressure is exacerbated by social media. Instagram has produced many fitness superstars with gorgeous images of sculpted arms and perfect bodies in the latest brand of yoga pants posing in the sunset. The goal of fitness should ultimately be about personal well-being. Such a modest goal does not require a “six pack” or sculpted arms as a necessary outcome of a healthy fitness routine.
While body sculpting is certainly a great goal, it takes several months or years to achieve. It requires a level of commitment that many people simply cannot demand of themselves with full-time jobs, family obligations, and other competing priorities and commitments. People often fall into the trap of thinking that if they cannot achieve the perfectly sculpted body in six months with 20-30 minutes of fitness a day, then what is the point? Expecting immediate and drastic results will not only lead to disappointment, it can also lead to illness and injury. People push themselves beyond their personal limits resulting in burnout. The old adage, “it’s the journey, not the destination,” is apropos of fitness as well.
Consider focusing on being fully present when exercising. Rather than focusing on a predetermined set of goals, cultivate self-awareness and self-acceptance of wherever you are with your fitness goals and however you are feeling on a given day. Give yourself permission to fail and be satisfied with doing your best even if you’re not achieving your personal goals everyday. You will benefit whether you are doing plank on your knees or not.
- Outcome-Oriented Goals
Many people frame their goals strictly in terms of outcomes. “I want to drop three clothing sizes,” is an example. While there is nothing wrong with wanting a specific outcome, there are many factors beyond our control which can interfere with our ability to achieve that specific outcome.
Developing goals that are strictly outcome based often sets you up for failure. Instead of focusing solely on an outcome, like having a flat stomach, fitness experts recommend focusing on changing a specific behavior, such as “I want to do three sets of squats three times a week.”
Focusing on a specific action requires you to set a behavioral goal which is immediately doable and can also be tracked. Individuals are much more likely to stick to behavioral goals and to experience positive results that they can measure, even if they don’t immediately reach the outcome they’re seeking.
Amanda Turner is a freelance writer and recent graduate who is exploring her passions through writing.