February drop-off – Our top tips to stay motivated

All the February motivation you need

Depending on when you read this – we could be a good six to eight weeks into 2022. Were you one of the millions of UK adults who made a New Year’s resolution to put your health and wellbeing first this year and get fitter? Did you start a new gym routine and resolve to get stronger and more toned? Perhaps you just wanted to get more active. Well? How’s it going? Need some help to get motivated to continue on the path of positive change? You’re in the right place.

First and foremost, don’t beat yourself up if you’ve slacked off a bit or altogether. You joined the gym in January, and you’ve only made it in twice. We get it. The modern world is busy and demanding and being hard on yourself is counterproductive – show yourself some compassion. Remember, no one’s life is a straight trajectory in one direction – habits and New Year’s resolutions are like anything else in life, they’re like a roller coaster, they go up and down. Our job is simply to help you to keep going.

Whether fitness and exercise are new to you, or you’re an experienced pro and have set yourself new goals, whatever your resolutions are for 2022, know that new habits and routines take time to form. Many psychologists and health experts agree that it can take anywhere from 18-254 days to form a new habit – and, an average of 66 days for a new behaviour to become routine. But again, there are no hard and fast rules, and everyone is an individual. The keyword that most health and fitness experts land on is “consistency”. Results take time, positive lifestyle changes take time – but, trying to be as consistent as you can for as long as you can, will help your new routines become second nature. Now, let’s help get you motivated.

1. Set goals

One way to stay motivated is to set a goal. You may find our blog from earlier this year https://www.placesleisure.org/blogs/setting-smart-new-years-resolutions/ on setting SMART goals helpful. Set your goal, and then use the SMART goals toolkit to get organised. The key is to set specific, measurable, realistic goals with incremental, time-based deadlines and agree to your commitment by writing it down.

Let’s say for example that you haven't exercised in a while. You could set a specific goal to swim twice a week for thirty minutes in each session for two months straight. It’s a specific goal – twice a week, 30 minutes per session for two months. You can measure your progress week by week by using our SWIMTAG wristband and noting how many lengths you’re swimming and how fast you’re swimming each length. By writing it down, you’ve agreed to and, therefore, committed to your goal. It’s also realistic – two, 30-minute sessions per week. Finally, you’ve made it time-based by saying you want to do this over two months. An intermediate goal might be to swim 30 minutes five days a week. A long-term goal might be to complete a swim challenge.

Don’t forget, for most healthy adults, the NHS recommends at least 150 minutes of activity per week. Greater amounts of exercise will provide even greater benefits.

Woman lifting weights

2. Make your fitness fun

Be sure to focus on activities that you enjoy, then vary the routine to keep it interesting. If you're not enjoying your workouts, try something different. Try badminton or squash or get a group of friends together to play netball or five-a-side football. Join a group workout class and try yoga or Pilates, group cycling, HIIT or Zumba. New to the gym? A member of the fitness team will introduce you to all of the equipment and demonstrate how to use it – there’s so much more than treadmills and free weights! Remember, exercise doesn't have to be boring, and you're more likely to stick with a fitness programme if you're having fun!

3. Make physical activity part of your daily routine

Finding time for exercise isn’t easy. We live in a very busy, time-demanding world. Make your exercise time part of your self-care, me time, and make it a priority. Schedule workouts as you would any other important activity.

Don’t forget, all activity counts. Be sure to slip in physical activity throughout the day. Take the stairs instead of the lift, or park further away from the store. Walk up and down the side-lines while watching the kids play sports. Take a walk during a break at work.

If you work from home, stretch, walk or climb your stairs on breaks. Or do squats, lunges or crunches. Walk your dog if you have one. Pedal a stationary bike, walk or jog on a treadmill, or, do strength training exercises during your lunch break and listen to a podcast or audiobook at the same time.

Research indicates that sitting for long periods of time may negatively affect your health, even if you otherwise get the recommended amount of weekly activity. If you sit for several hours a day at work, aim to take regular breaks during the day to move, such as walking to get a drink of water or standing during phone conversations or video meetings. Try and get up every 50-60 minutes even if it’s just for five minutes.

Group of people walking

4. Put it on paper

Do you want to lose weight? Boost your energy? Sleep better? Manage a chronic condition? Write down your goals. Seeing the benefits of regular exercise and writing your goals down on paper is part of the SMART goals toolkit and will help you to stay motivated.

You may also find that it helps to keep an exercise diary. Record what you did during each exercise session, how long you exercised and how you felt afterwards. Recording your efforts and tracking your progress can help you work toward your goals and remind you that you're making progress.

5. Buddy up!

You're not in this alone. Invite friends, family members or colleagues to join you when you exercise or go on walks. Work out with your partner or other loved ones. Play footie with your kids. Organise a group of neighbours to take fitness classes or work out together. Make fitness a family pursuit or friendship pursuit and you can all cheer each other on. Fitness doesn’t have to be a solo event – it can be social too!

Two people using resistance bands

6. Reward yourself

After each exercise session, take a few minutes to savour those feel-good endorphins. This type of internal reward can help you make a long-term commitment to regular exercise – you’ll associate your fitness routine with a positive reward, and it will help to motivate you to keep going.

External rewards can help too. When you reach a long-term goal, treat yourself to a new pair of trainers, a new audiobook to listen to or new EarPods to listen with whilst you’re exercising!

7. Be flexible and go easy on yourself

If you're too busy to work out or simply don't feel up to it – seriously, don’t sweat it. Take a day or two off. Go easy on yourself if you need a break. The important thing is to get back on track as soon as you can.

Don’t forget – we’re not here to preach, we’re here to help. When you need that cheerleader to boost your morale – when you’re looking for something new to do – when you need a new training programme or fitness routine to try…we’re here for you. Our job is to help you not only reach your goals but smash them. Now, set your goals, have some fun and reward yourself once in a while. Physical activity is for life. Review these tips whenever you feel your motivation slipping.