Reaching the turning point - how to make your fitness routine a habit that sticks
Over the past 20 years of being a personal trainer in Brighton and London I’ve noticed there’s a pivotal moment for many clients on their journey to achieving their health and fitness goals. A crossroads.
It’s the point when the hard work and consistency finally starts to show physical results – whether it’s fat loss, improved fitness levels, or new muscle definition that you didn’t notice before.
You might be able to walk up stairs now without knee pain, be sleeping better and wake up with energy instead of the usual snooze cycle to start your day in a slump.
The ‘reward’ might show itself mentally, at first – how you feel about yourself, pride at your achievements, increased self confidence and focus at work, or anxiety levels decreasing.
Over time, you start to see and feel the reward, and take closer steps towards your long term goal – but then life takes over (or lockdown hits!), your motivation wanes, and you question yourself:
Are you going to push on to achieve your potential or are you going to drift back to where you started?
If you’ve been here before you’re not alone. It’s easy to slip back into old habits, and in this blog, I explore why.
As your personal trainer and nutritionist, it’s my job to give you the tools to help you push through and realise: yes you can.
The difference between a routine and a habit
The key to making fitness routines stick is to first understand the difference between a habit and a routine. Both are behaviours or actions that we do in a regular and repeated way, but the difference lies in how aware and intentional we are.
A routine requires effort, it’s something we have to remember to do with intention, whereas a habit is a behaviour done with little or no conscious thought – or on ‘autopilot’ – like brushing your teeth or making a cup of tea in the morning.
Look at all the things we’re now habitually doing during the pandemic – washing our hands and sanitising far more often, practicing social distancing, wearing a mask to enter restaurants and shops. At first we had to think about doing these things as they were part of a new routine, but now, after several months, they’ve become a habit.
Working towards your fitness goals is at first a new routine: it requires consistent and conscious effort even when you don’t feel like it. In time, it can become a habit, if you have the tools (a gym in Brighton with a personal trainer definitely helps) to help you push through those environmental and emotional barriers to cement your routine into your daily life.
How long does it take to form a new habit?
There have been several studies on habit formation showing it can take anything from 18 to 254 days or more to form a new habit. Our 12 week body transformation gives 84 days to lay solid groundwork for new healthy habit-forming and bring real, sustainable results.
Twelve weeks is the ideal timeframe to set and work towards a new goal. It’s long enough to achieve a dramatical physical change, yet short enough to keep you motivated and focused, and keeps you on track by combining a personalised fitness and nutrition plan with regular monitoring and accountability.
But it would be nothing if alongside that it didn’t tackle the psychological factors that stop so many people from reaching their goals.
How to set achievable fitness goals
Firstly, your goal must really excite you, but be specific enough to measure results and be achievable with a clear path laid out in front of you.
A lot of the work we do on our 12-week transformation is setting small milestones and helping you understand the psychological barriers between you and your goals.
A personalised fitness and nutrition plan is all well and good but without understanding why you make the choices you do and how to spot and manage the environmental and emotional triggers that precede those decisions (work stress, family life, uncertainty during the global pandemic), you’ll find it hard to stay on track.
We take a holistic approach to help you understand these triggers and how to overcome them so that routines can turn to habits and fit easily into your schedule instead of feeling like a burden when life takes over.
To give your goals some focus, have a think about your fitness goals using the SMART method:
Your goal must be specific for it to work, there’s no room for vagueness.. Instead of aiming to ‘lose weight’ or ‘eat healthily’, narrow it down to what you’ll do and the physical benefits you’ll feel.
Quantify your progress by monitoring your results and being accountable for your efforts. If you want to ‘get strong’, you could say you want to learn a particular lift or set a weight to aim for. You don’t always need a gym, you can work with whatever equipment you have at home.
Whilst you’ll have a long term goal as the bigger picture, you’ll get there by taking smaller steps. Set yourself some milestones to hit along the way and keep you motivated – lose your first 5lb, or log your food for a whole week.
Always keep your ‘why’ in your mind. What do you want to achieve by achieving this goal? Is it to walk up stairs without knee pain? Run 5k? Complete a triathlon, or simply keep up with the kids?
Setting a deadline creates urgency and keeps you incentivised to stay on track. Our 12 week transformation is a perfect example of these SMART goal steps in action!
Back to the pivotal moment
In 2020, amidst Covid 19 and lockdown uncertainty, it’s never been more important to show up for yourself and stay fit and healthy.
Going back to the pivotal moment I mentioned at the start – whether you push on to keep challenging yourself to reach your potential, or drift back to where you started, is always up to you – but it’s a decision made easier when you have the tools and support of a personal trainer by your side (online or in person), with a dedicated plan.
Motivation is obviously vital because it’s what gets you started but you need consistency too. When you consistently show up for yourself, motivation becomes less important and you can start to rely on the routines and habits which form over time.
That’s when it becomes ‘easy’, it’s just part of the new you.
If you’d like help forming new habits on your journey to a healthier, fitter, stronger you, join one of our personal trainers in Brighton or London for online personal training whilst our studios are closed.
If you start now you’ll lay the foundations for success to hit the ground running long into 2021 and beyond, like Allie did.