What’s the hardest part of getting started with a healthy lifestyle? The actual fact of getting started. How many times have you said, “I’ll start that diet on Monday / I’ll go to the gym on Monday”? But then Monday rolls around and it just doesn’t happen. Or, it happens for a week and then you stop. Don’t worry, it’s the same for most people, even me.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the last three weeks of eating, eating, and more eating. It’s been therapeutic in a lot of ways – it was a nice mental break from sticking to a plan 100% and it allowed me to eat foods I avoid during prep. It’s replenished my energy stores and made me stronger, I’ve even enjoyed the fact that I can break a sweat again when training! But, I knew it had to come to an end at some point due to my competition plans. So, I’ve had the thought in the back of my mind that the holiday weekend would be the start of cleaning up my diet (slowly). So, in honor of the fact that I’ve got to get back on track, I thought this post was appropriate now.
About a week ago, the thought of getting back on plan made me unhappy and stressed. Mentally, I just wasn’t ready for it yet. Then, suddenly, I was ready for structure and to feel better (feeling bloated is never fun). It was like a switch went off in my head and I was excited to make the necessary changes.
When people ask for a trick to get motivated, or ways to stay on track for longer, I can only tell them two things – they have to be excited for the plan and 100% mentally “in”. If you aren’t looking forward to the changes you’re going to make, it’s going to be incredibly tough to stick to it. For some people setting a date might help, for others, just diving in might be easier. As usual, everyone is different!
While everyone is different with different goals, here are a few thoughts to keep in mind as you’re getting started:
- Have a thorough, structured plan in place before starting. Without a plan, it’s going to be hard to start and stay on track over time. Make sure your plan is guided by your goals – start from the top and work your way down. What do you want to accomplish? What steps are going to get you there? For example, if you want to run a half marathon, have a detailed running plan which breaks down your goal distances each week.
- Set yourself up for success by being prepared every day. If you’re focused on healthy eating, cook in bulk and stock healthy snacks instead of keeping junk food in the house. If you’re trying to be more active, pack your gym bag the night before so you’re ready to go without any delays, excuses, or forgotten items.
- Don’t beat yourself up if something goes wrong! You ate some junk food one night, or missed a few workouts? Don’t let it derail your whole plan, get back on track for your next meal or workout. Take it one day at a time, and don’t let bad thoughts carry through to tomorrow – leave them behind.
- Understand that progress will be slow, so look for small improvements to stay motivated. Make a list of the benefits you’re going to feel and see – look at this list on the days when you’re starting to feel discouraged.
Finally, understand that you’ll feel frustrated and discouraged. It’s going to happen, you’ll have bad days where you wonder why you’re bothering. The best thing you can do during those days is to stay on track and then take pride in the fact that you pushed through the tougher times. Enjoy the good days, and use those to help you stay focused during the bad ones. They happen to everyone. Without a doubt, in every prep I experience a few days where I threaten to quit. But, the only thing that feels worse than frustration is the knowledge that you gave up on a goal. You’re stronger than that – just prove it to yourself! Now, go kill it.
This is why I try to encourage so many people to start exercising because in order to exercise regularly, you have to be disciplined. Discipline just doesn’t give you a great body, but it also will lead you to a great deal of success.