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How to Keep Your Fitness Goals on Track

confidence, mindsetTheo Brenner-RoachComment
How to Keep Your Fitness Goals on Track Header

It's ok to have a bad day, we all have them. 

They come steaming into your life out of nowhere and seem to make everything a million more times difficult that it actually is. You know the days I mean, the ones where you struggle to get motivated to do anything, confidence is low and your normal routine goes out the window.

These days can often be characterised by the following behaviour:

  • Skipping your workout even though you know you should do it
  • Avoiding writing that email, blog post or text message you've been meaning to write
  • Cancelling social arrangements in favour of staying in
  • Straying from your nutrition plan because you can't be 'bothered' to cook your food

The funny thing is that if you actually just made yourself do all or any of these things it would almost instantly make you feel better and help turn your day around.

However, it's not always as easy as just doing it. Life can be tricky and these days can suck.  You must realise you're not alone, everyone has them and the truth is it's how you deal with them that makes the biggest difference.

That's why I have put together 3 strategies to help guide you through the tough times and get you back on track as quickly as possible.

  1. Set clear, defined goals
  2. Educate yourself 
  3. Prepare in advance

Let's tackle these in order and see how they can help.

Set clear, defined goals

Clarity is a wonderful thing.

Being able to see where you want to go and how you're going to get there can be incredibly powerful. Goal setting allows you to do this; it shows you in no uncertain terms what your goal is, what you need to do to get there and how you're going to do it.

On days where getting motivated or simply moving through your usual routine is difficult, goal setting becomes vitally important as it allows you to act on autopilot without making any decisions. You already know what you need to do and how to do it, all that's left to do is actually doing it.

Not only this but goal setting allows you keep an eye on the big (exciting) long-term goal whilst being grounded in what needs to be done day-to-day to get there.

Sounds simple enough right? 

Yet so many people neglect to invest time setting goals, instead they prefer to rush into creating action headfirst, causing 2 problems:

  1. Trying to focus on too many things at once and not doing much of anything
  2. Having no meaningful way of measuring progress and becoming demotivated

This is problematic because not only are you simultaneously trying to focus on multiple goals that are all competing for your attention, motivation and willpower but you also have no way to know if what you are doing is working or where it is taking you.

So when you do hit that first roadblock or encounter a bad day everything inevitably goes out the window and nothing gets done.

It's not uncommon for people in this position to quit, thinking that their goal was unattainable, when in fact they just went about it the wrong way.

How do you set smart goals?

Goal setting, specifically smart goal setting doesn't need to be difficult it just has to be done.

It can be broken into 3 main steps:

  • Deciding your long-term goal
  • Breaking your long-term goal into mid-term goals
  • Creating short-term goals to achieve your mid-term goals

The key is this; recognise what you want to achieve and then systematically break it down into long, medium and short-term goals that can be measured.

For example:

Long-term goal

  • Build 10 lbs of muscle in 10 months

Mid-term goal

  • Gain 2 lbs of weight per month

Short-term goals

  • Gain 0.5 lbs of weight per week
  • Strength train 3x per week
  • Eat in small calorie surplus

Note: Your short-term goals will be your day-to-day and week-to-week tasks and will therefore be more detailed and numerous.

This is just an example and can be applied to any goal you wish to achieve.

Through the process of setting up your goals you hold yourself accountable to your actions each and everyday. 

Your goals act as a reminder of what you want to achieve and every time you find yourself feeling disheartened or unmotivated it'll be easier to stay the course as all decision are made for you and you just have to follow through.

Educate yourself

I can't stress this enough.

Education and understanding is paramount to your success.

If you follow blindly because it's the "right thing to do" or your just doing what you've been told then you'll struggle to truly understand the purpose of what you're doing on a deeper level.

Now, of course this doesn't mean you should be an expert or even try and replace your main sources of information, but by educating yourself you give yourself the ability to weed out the bullshit, broscience and mis-information that's out there. 

Ultimately, it comes down to being effective and efficient. 

Knowledge allows you to make well-informed judgements on what you read, see and experience. It gives you the ability to evaluate what is in front of you and to know whether it's worth pursuing or not.

It gives you the confidence so that when you encounter one of your bad days you have unwavering faith in what you are doing, it's limits the doubt and prevents you questioning your methods.

It gives you the confidence to power on regardless and to trust the process and this is vital.

Again it means you can get your head down and get on with what needs to be done without having to make decisions. If you know your methods work, understand the ideas behind them and trust the process then there will be no questions about effectiveness on your bad days, instead you can push yourself to do what needs to be done knowing it's bringing you closer to your goal.

How can you learn more?

Education comes in many forms and you'll need to find out what works best for you in your given situation and then set aside some time specifically for the purpose of learning.

A few ideas:

  • Read a range of different books
  • Listen to podcasts whilst walking or on your commute
  • Watch YouTube videos and tutorials
  • Do your own experiments and learn what works for you
  • Read and analyse research papers and studies
  • Follow and read related blogs
  • Create or join a group of like minded people to learn from
  • Do a course
  • Participate in online forums

The idea is to try and get a wide ranging view of topics and opinions on the subject and see where you current opinions and beliefs fit in. You want to keep an open mind, accept that sometimes you will be wrong and may need to change your mindset; to let go of what you thought was right and accommodate a new truth. 

This is ok, you won't always be right and honestly neither will the experts.

Times change, things change and research rolls on, so don't expect to always know the answer or for the answer to remain the same. This is why you need to invest consistent time in education and learning, it's not a one-time thing. To stay current and up-to-date you need to be learning on a regular basis.

“The man who thinks he knows the most actually knows the least.”
— Anonymous

I urge you to always continue learning. There is nothing more powerful that investing in your own future and if that's not enough to persuade you then remember that having a solid understanding of the methodology will allow you to embrace what needs to be done, get your head down, grit your teeth and power through the hard times. 

Prepare in advance

Let me ask you something:

  • Would you go shopping without checking your fridge and cupboards and making a list first?
  • Would you take a holiday without booking flights, finding somewhere to stay and having at least a rough plan in place?
  • Would you try and go to one of the most popular restaurants in your area on a Saturday night without making a booking?

You wouldn't, would you? I don't blame you, it would be counterproductive and probably a waste of time.

Yet when it comes to other parts of your life you're happy to wilfully neglect any sort of forward planning. Sure maybe you know what you want to do but you don't plan and prepare to ensure that you actually follow through and do these things.

So when the going gets tough you fail before you even start. 

Without any advance planning you are not prepared for the unexpected, difficult times, the bad days. Therefore, the easy and default option is to bail on what you wanted or even needed to do in favour of doing nothing.

It doesn't have to be this way.

By preparing yourself in advance you can ease your path and ensure continued success even on your bad days.

There are a few ways you can do this:

Prioritise Tasks

Getting everything you need to do out of your head and onto paper helps you stay clear headed and focused. It also gives you a snapshot of everything that needs to be done and gives you a chance to prioritise the most important tasks. I find doing this first thing in the morning and last thing at night is a great way to stay on track.

Build Habits

Building habits helps automate your life and keep you on track even when you're feeling unmotivated or things are feeling difficult. For example, packing your gym gear and leaving it by the door the night before means you won't forget it in the morning and will actually go to the gym. Setting 'checkpoints' like this helps to keep things running smoothly and removes potential barriers.

Create Routines

Creating routine in your life is a great took to keep you moving forwards on your bad days. Try setting aside time to do certain tasks, much in the same way you always make time to brush your teeth in the morning, by factoring important tasks into your daily routine. This regularity helps you perform these actions without having to make decisions. You just do it.

These are not the only ways to prepare in advance but they are 3 that I find most useful in my life to help me stay on track even when I'm having a bad day.

Prioritising tasks

Do you ever notice that just through the act of writing something down or setting a reminder, you actually remember it more easily? This is the effect we want to capitalise on here, we want to bring things to forefront on the mind so we can evaluate them and decide what is important.

Often it's not until we can visually experience everything we need to do that we can begin to zero in on the most important tasks. The ones that will make the biggest difference and carry the most importance.

It's a good idea to get used to writing down everything you need to do at the beginning and end of each day, add, move and remove tasks as necessary. Alternatively, you could keep an up-to-date and detailed calendar with time blocked out for specific tasks.

Just the act of allocating time to tasks will increase the likelihood you will follow through especially when you are having a bad day, feeling unmotivated and just want to pack it all in.

You won't always be able to do everything but you will be able to do the important things and over time you will begin to see what tasks never get done and let these go altogether.

The point is, by acknowledging what is important to you and your goals you can then work out what needs to be done and in what order. 

Not only this but by getting these tasks and thoughts out of your head you'll find you can concentrate better and really focus on what needs to be done.

Building habits

Habits are so important to long-term success.

I would describe habits as the regular practice of a task that can be done without analysis or thought and is often hard to give up.

Habits are automatic, you do them without thinking, they just become part of what you do. Like brushing your teeth, you never need to think about how to do it, when to do it or where to do it.

You can use them in all aspects of your life to help ease the day to day and make sure you are doing the things that are important to you. Then over time you'll find they just happen, you no longer need to actively think about doing them.

Packing your gym gear the night before and leaving it by the door is a perfect example. At first you'll have to actively remind yourself to do, perhaps you'll forget on occasion but overtime it'll become automatic and will become something you just do every evening.

This helps inform your routine of waking up, getting ready, grabbing your gym gear of the way out and going to the gym.

Hopefully, you can begin to see how important habits can be, particularly on helping your get through the bad days and tough times.

Creating routines

Routines are very closely linked to habit, in fact they quite often directly feed into one another, with the habit reinforcing the routine.

For me routine is a set of actions performed one after the other on a regular basis. For example, you get up, get ready for work, grab your gym gear, go the gym and then go to work.

Routine can be a very powerful tool when set up in a positive way that reinforces your goals.

Think about how you react to something new or unexpected, it can often be difficult to deal with and at the very least throws you momentarily off track. Having a routine helps keep things regular, it gives you an idea of what to expect and when to expect it.

It allows you to allocate time to specific tasks, increasing the likelihood you'll complete them on a regular basis.

Maybe you go to the gym before work or maybe it's after work but whichever it is I'm willing to bet you stick with the same time 90+% of the time. Even if you do a combination of before and after work, the chances are you still keep that regular.

It's this regularity of your routine that helps you successfully complete your task so consistently. If in your brain you've already said at X I'm going to do X, when X rolls around it's only natural you do X.

That's not to say everyday is the same because it's not, but if you're having one of those bad days and feeling unmotivated but you've grabbed your gym gear out of habit and left the house at the same time through routine then the chances of you continuing with your routine and hitting the gym are much higher.

One last point on routine is this; routine although regular and consistent does not have to be set in stone. In fact, by having a degree of flexibility you can make this even more powerful.

What this means is, if you have a morning meeting and can't get to the gym at your usual time don't just think "ah, well that's my routine messed up and I can't go to the gym anymore" look at your day and see where else on this occasion you could fit it in.

Or if you get invited out for a work dinner or drink you can afford to miss don't think "I have to miss my planned dinner so I'll just eat whatever", instead eat smart and adjust your plans to stay on track.

This flexibility means that on the odd occasion your normal routines gets altered you can stay on track regardless.

Takeaway point

Throughout your journey to your goal, you'll come to realise that there will be inspiring highs and crushing lows.

Days where you feel like you just can't do it and that it's not worth it anymore.

Yes, you will have doubts.

Yes, you will second guess yourself and the methods.

You will ask yourself it is all worth it and you’ll think about changing your workout routine 'because it's just not working for you'. This is ok, inevitable even and certainly a human response but, you must move past it, hang in there and trust the process.

Use these 3 strategies to help ease you through the bad days and back on to the path to success and remember that nothing worth having comes easy.

Latch onto the feelings from your good days, remember why you do what you do and stay focused. Sometimes you’ll have to dig deep and it’ll take all the girt, persistence and determination you have to stay on track. Do this though and I promise you will be rewarded.
 
No day is equal and why should it be, it's up to you to make the most of your time.

How do you deal with your bad days? I'd love to hear what works for you in the comments below.

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