Last New Years Eve, I sat in the Malmaison Hotel in Glasgow and wrote down four specific New Years Resolutions on a piece of hotel paper. They were as follows: (1) pass my UK driving test, (2) visit Stockholm, (3) start a blog, and (4) read more books. Number four is debatable; I read more books than the year before but not as many as I would have liked. However, I achieved the other three goals pretty early on. What is the key to achieving your goals? In my experience, the more specific your goal is, the more likely you are to achieve it and if you set a timeframe, even better. In doing this, you are holding yourself accountable and trust me, the feeling of disappointing yourself is far worse than disappointing anyone else.
My New Years Resolution, at the beginning of 2010, was to change my lifestyle through going to the gym at least three times a week and eating a healthier diet with less alcohol and less junk food. I had read in a popular UK fitness magazine that the key to changing your lifestyle or your habits was to make the change for three weeks, and after that 21-day mark, the change would be pretty much permanent. With a lot of perseverance and determination, I made it past that three week mark and realised that the change was going to be long-term. Those three weeks were critical as it could have been so easy to give up through saying ‘yes’ to that pub invitation or through snoozing that 6am alarm clock. For someone who is a ‘yes’ person, saying ‘no’ was tough, but I am so glad that I found my inner strength.
How did I get past the three week mark? Routine. Decide on a routine and stick to it, even if this means getting up at 5am or 6am every single morning. I was a student at the time so my routine was: 6am wake-up, 6:45am library study session, 4pm gym session, walk home, 6:30pm shower, 7pm dinner, 8pm TV or reading, 10pm bed. For me, that 6am wake-up was made easier by the fact that I met one of my best friends to walk to the library together. I knew if I didn’t get up that I would be letting her down and this was that extra little kick in the butt to get up. I would encourage you to do the same and find a little bit of extra motivation to get out of bed earlier; meet a friend for coffee every morning at the same time or sign up for a class at the gym.
My early morning wake-ups are also made easier by the fact that I am a morning person. I am even more of a morning person now that I drink an 8 oz. glass of water as soon as I wake up every day. Then I eat my pre-workout food, check my email, read the news, and 45-60 minutes later, I hit the gym. If you aren’t a morning person, take your gym bag to work with you and you will feel obligated to go to the gym straight after work. Do NOT forget your gym bag because the moment you step in that door after a long day at work, the temptation to stay at home will be too strong. If you are a morning person but find it difficult to get up early, move your alarm clock to the window ledge or dresser so that you physically have to get out of bed to turn it off. Set two alarms if necessary in case you snooze the first one. It only takes about a week to get into a new sleeping routine and once you get into the habit of waking up earlier and going to sleep earlier, you will feel a million times better for it.
Motivation comes from you. If there is one thing I have learned through this journey, it is that you need to want this. You need to want the lifestyle change for the right reasons because if there’s one thing I have learned, thin doesn’t necessarily mean healthy and it doesn’t necessarily mean happy either. Happiness has to come from living a healthy lifestyle and loving your body and mind. The biggest thing I have realised recently is that a healthy lifestyle isn’t setting one goal and achieving it then stopping. You are constantly trying new recipes, new foods, new eating plans, new exercises and you are constantly trying to improve yourself to feel fitter, stronger and healthier. Success isn’t a destination; it’s a journey.