Raise your hand if you made a New Year’s resolution this year.
Keep it up if that resolution had something to do with going to the gym.
I would high-five that hand, if I could. You are awesome, and I hope you’re still rockin’ it.
Many of us start out the year amped and ready to make it the best one yet. We’ve got a list of all the things we’re gonna do: Go to the gym at least three times a week. Maybe even four or five! Cook healthy meals at home. Watch less TV and read more books. Meditate for 30 minutes every day. Spend time with family. Have a social life. All while balancing work, kids, partners, and friends. Basically, we’re trying to be superheroes. Should be fine, right?
You know where this is heading. According to The Wall Street Journal, the third week in January — as in, riiiiigghht about now — is where it starts to come apart, for many.
Featured image photo credit: Jalbus Photo
When life gets stressful and schedules get busy, oftentimes the first thing to get chucked is exercise. Exercise, after all, too often falls into the category of “should do,” and “should do’s” aren’t all that fun because they feel like obligations. So, ditch the shoulds and ask yourself this instead: what do you want to do?
It’s a small mindset shift that can have massive repercussions, because how much easier is it to stick with something you actually like doing? Contrary to what most fitness marketing will tell you, effective routines come in many forms; you don’t have to do any one thing, you just have to do anything, often.
Consistency is the key to seeing results. Results then lead to confidence and feelings of self-efficacy. Confidence leads to a willingness to try new things. Trying new things leads to more variety, and variety keeps your brain engaged. All this leads back to the very beginning: you doing activities you like and enjoy. Every one of these variables is connected.
So how do you make fitness a fun, engaging experience? Here are three tips to get you started:
1. Find a Gym That Feels Like Your “Third Place.”
In his book The Great Good Place, author Ray Oldenburg describes our time as being divided between three places. The first: your home. The second: your workplace. The third: your communal place. That’s where everyone knows your name and if you’re gone, you’re missed. Our environment holds massive influence over our lifestyle choices and will factor greatly into the creation and implementation of new habits.
He further defines the third place as a public place on neutral ground where people can gather and interact. In contrast to first places (home) and second places (work), third places allow people to put aside their concerns and simply enjoy the company around them.
In my experience, community is everything, especially when it comes to workouts. Having a place to rendezvous with a group of people sharing similar goals and experiences makes working out much less a chore and more about enjoying your time there. Soon enough, you’re enjoying the journey too much to worry about the destination…but you’ll get there anyway.
2. Find Your Tribe.
Photo credit: Jalbus Photo
Did you play sports when you were growing up? If so, how easy was it to stay accountable to team practices? Pretty easy, right? You didn’t want to let down your team or your coach, and you played a role on that team.
Working out with a partner or two isn’t a new idea, but research has shown that it’s an important one. Whether it’s setting up a buddy system to head to the gym, making contracts with others to complete workout challenges, or setting up walking, running, cycling, or even rock-climbing groups, studies have shown that this sense of accountability leads to an increase in how often you do an activity, how long you spend doing it, and how well you do it.
The takeaway? You don’t have to go it alone, nor should you. By finding your tribe, workouts become more like play dates for adults. How do you connect? Shop around different gyms. Feel out the vibe of the places you visit and scope out the regulars. How easily do your questions get answered? How happy do the members look? Do they engage with each other? Are you introduced around? Are the members doing things that you’re curious to try? If you’re looking for more than a place to plug in your earbuds and hop on a treadmill, these questions are important.
3. Hang With The “Cool Kids.”
Who are the cool kids? Anyone who is doing what you want to be doing. A recent study out of the University of Georgia reveals that people tend to mimic the behavior of those around them. In observing hundreds of volunteers, researchers found that subjects experienced a greater level of self-control when surrounded by others with strong self-control. And the opposite was also true — subjects showed poor self-control when others around them did.
The role-modeling effect was so strong that even when subjects were shown the name of someone with good or bad self-control influenced the behavior of the subjects.
Researchers concluded that self-control — or lack of it — is contagious. The takeaway? Forging friendships with like-minded people who show a strong commitment to achieving personal fitness will increase your own likelihood of being consistent with your chosen activity, and thus succeeding in your goals. The extra-good news? By modeling good fitness behavior, you then become the influencer, and by enjoying the process, you’ll inevitably encourage others to do the same.
Fitness as a healthy contagion? That’s the best news I’ve heard all year.