Amber is a mother of three children, devoted fitness-addict, vegan lifestyle blogger, and published academic who is currently completing a PhD in Mathematics Education.With expertise and experience in the field of education, Amber’s skills of facilitating learning and growth for individuals stands her in solid grounds for making contributions to the realm of personal growth and fitness – two fields she has long been a passionate devotee and student of. Amber is a life-long learner, and hopes to bring this enthusiasm to the world of holistic health, fitness, and wellbeing, in hopes of sharing some of her knowledge and skills with others along a similar journey. Follow her on Instagram @Woah_Mumma.
Staying motivated in your fitness regime is a dynamic process, this has to be recognized first and foremost, as failing to recognize it only leads to unrealistic expectations and disappointment.
While we can enviously look at the physiques of the most astute athletes, body-builders and fitness models, and assume that the motivation behind such achievements must be at a perpetual high – this is a fallacy. As even the best of the best will have their ‘off’ days, where the intention to carry out their goals just isn’t met with the energy/focus/determination/drive required.
That being said, there are some tips and skills that I have learned along my OWN fitness journey, which have helped me to live a very active, highly motivated lifestyle for all of my adult life and much of my young adult/adolescence.
I am by no means a professional athlete, a title-holding body builder, or a Sports Illustrated cover model; but I am, however, a very active and healthy mum who has managed to stay lean, motivated and fit for all of my life.
My body has not changed much in the last 16 years, even with the addition of my three beautiful children and all of the ups and downs of life in between.
OK…. That is not entirely true. Sometimes I think that after 100 sit ups and rolls ups, my stomach will never ‘quite’ return to its pre-baby state (i.e. no stretch marks and taut, firm skin), but hey…. Whatcha gonna do? Maybe I’ll stumble across some miraculous remedy for that, and when I do, I’ll be sure to post it on here!
So without going into my whole life history, my relationship with being ‘active’ probably began as a small child when I was always involved in extra-curricula activities, like dance and swimming, which kept me fairly active and fit. But my mindful activeness – the point where I started to consciously ‘decide’ to be active almost every day, probably began around age 15, when I would get up at 6am every morning to go on a morning ‘power walk’ before studies and school.
I remember finding this time liberating and peaceful, as I was just being ‘myself’, and using those moments to reflect on things that were happening in my life, and to talk myself into being ‘ready’ for the challenges I was then facing (think HSC/end of school exams and all the pressures associated with that early stage of becoming an adult). This same feeling is probably what keeps me going to the gym/power-walking/swimming/running now as a grown woman with three children. The sense of peace, calm, and control I get to feel each and every time I take the time to move my body…
It really is quite addictive.
But what I would like most to share with you here, right now, are a couple of basic strategies I have developed myself along this journey, (and I am sure which others have found to be useful – I don’t assume to be the ‘pioneer’ of fitness motivation as at least a-billion have taken that status), which I feel keep me focused and ‘on track’ with my fitness goals, most of the time.
Perhaps neither of these will be relative to you and your particular circumstances, and in that case you can dismiss this work as drivel from another self-proclaimed legend on the blogosphere. But even if one of these strategies speaks to you and motivates you to embed it into your own lifestyle, then this article has served us both well (and I might retain some semblance of legendary status).
Setting Clear Goals:
This means, being CLEAR about what you want to achieve, both in the long-term, and the short-term. I like to think of these as ‘the big picture’ (e.g. I want to improve my cardio-vascular fitness in the next 8 weeks), and the smaller, ‘stepping stones’ (e.g. this week I will run for 60 minutes, at least three times).
I write these down in my diary/active journal at the start of each month so that I can break them down into four-weekly blocks. My overall ‘big picture’ sets the tone for the month forward, while the ‘stepping stones’ are reflected in my weekly goals that I usually set each Sunday night when prepping for the week ahead.
Note: I have found that keeping a separate fitness journal/diary is great for this, as that way you don’t get all of your other ‘life’ stuff muddled up with your fitness plan and goal setting, giving you greater focus, clarity, and vision to stay MOTIVATED!
Once you are clear about what you want to work on, then devising a strategy to get you there becomes so much more tangible.
I have found myself in the past, and from observing/discussions with others, that if you are just ‘exercising’ for the sake of ‘staying/getting in shape’ (two indeterminate terms which really give no indication as to what you are setting out to achieve, but are used more generally as a “this will do” type of approach), then staying motivated to stick to your fitness regime or schedule will become more difficult. Why? Because you have no objective to be working toward, and no clear markers of success for when you ‘do’ get to your goal. With these kinds of cloudy visions, how will you know exactly if you are making progress?
By being more specific about what you would like to achieve in your fitness and health, you can start to visualize, anticipate, and get precise about markers of success. For example, “I would like to improve my cardio-vascular fitness” could extend to: “in 8 weeks from now, I will be able to swim for 600m without any breaks”. Get the idea?
It is also crucial to be REALISTIC in your goal-setting. There is no point in setting goals that you simply cannot achieve in the designated time period. Failure to meet these objectives will just have you feeling disappointed, perhaps slightly inadequate and envisaging the tub of ice cream you have sitting in the freezer at home waiting to be eaten… Because after all, what the heck is the point resisting, right?
Na-ah! Be realistic, set achievable goals, and give yourself the opportunity to succeed! This way, when you DO accomplish those goals, with each and every instance you will gain more strength, more determination, and more ‘grit’ to begin working toward the next! (this applies to all aspects of life, not just fitness, FYI).
Goals = Actions
Setting goals also determines the kinds of activities you will be doing to get there, and can completely change the structure of your workout plan.
To give you a personal example, I can tell you right now that for the past four months my fitness goals have been more centered on building strength and muscle mass/shape, as opposed to cardio-vascular fitness. I came to my own conclusion (and through reading various articles in women’s’ fitness magazines) that by over-doing the cardio side of things, I wasn’t making progress toward my goal of building strength and shape, particularly in my legs and butt!
So in order to do so, I had to back off the cardio from what were daily sessions, to tri-weekly cardio sessions, while simultaneously upping the amount of weights training I was doing each week accordingly.
This change in focus has meant a drastic change in my fitness regime, with results showing fairly quickly just what such a change can bring about with persistence (insert before and after shot – emphasis on building strength, rather than just staying ‘skinny’ #transformationtuesday).
I have found it useful to do a bit of reading of fitness-related materials about my specific area of focus in order to make positive changes to my fitness plan.By being informed of the latest approaches/advice/research in the areas you are targeting, you are giving yourself the best chance of making progress.
While we cannot all give up our jobs and become full-time fitness junkies, reading all of the latest scholarly materials on physiology and exercise science, I recommend finding a good read, such as ‘Women’s Health and Fitness’ (Aus), which generally features some pretty well-researched and informed articles about cutting edge approaches and expert advice to fitness. I have taken to carrying this read around with me for those ‘moments’ I get to sit and wait somewhere for five minutes. It is quite amazing what you can learn just from a few minutes of reading!
There is so much more I could, and would love to go on with… but I think for now focusing on setting those clear, attainable goals is a great place to begin, and working out some tangible ways of assessing whether or not you have, or are in the process of achieving them. If you have already engaged in this process in some way, perhaps take some time to reflect on the goals you have set, and ask yourself “have I accomplished this goal x?”; “how much further do I need to go before I have reached the goal?”; “how much progress have I already made?”
If this is the first time you have really consciously thought about setting fitness goals, then ask yourself these two questions:
~“What is my Big Picture goal?”…. so, what do you want to achieve in the next 4-8 weeks? Which part of your fitness are you going to specifically focus on?
~And, “What is my Stepping Stone goal?”…. this means breaking your larger goal down into smaller chunks, and being realistic with what you can manage to achieve in just one week. At the end of each week, take some time to reflect on your stepping stone, and where you will be driving toward in the week to follow. This might mean you need to re-adjust your goals because you have found the ones you set to be too mild/overly-optimistic…. And at any time if you need to re-adjust them, always remember that THIS IS OK! Setting goals and adjusting them as you go is all a part of the process, and is NOT to be mistaken as a weakness or slight of focus….
This is where it is also important, before you take any of these steps, to be honest and frank about where you are currently, in terms of your Big Picture fitness goal. By having some baseline, or ‘starting point’, then noticing and capturing your progress along the way will be more clear-cut. This is where I have found that the good ol’ ‘gelfie’ does have a place, albeit a rather self-absorbed one. But to be honest, by looking at yourself 3 months ago and comparing that image to what you now see in the mirror, then you can more than likely ‘see’ those changes you are after, and this, my friends, is as good a motivation tactic as any!
In following weeks I will be building on this base of goal setting and staying focused through the following points:
- Making a weekly plan
- Being accountable
- Being spontaneous
I am very much looking forward to hearing any feedback you have about this advice, and to hearing of some of the own tips and insights you have learned along your own fitness journey! Together, the more we can share our progress and triumphs, the more we can individually and collectively accomplish!
Until next time, STAY MOTIVATED, STAY FOCUSED, and SET THOSE GOALS!