Following a rough few years, a shiny new one arrived and, for many, inspired a pledge to embrace a healthier lifestyle. But as work and other commitments pick up, you may already be catching glimpses of the slippery slope that could eventually see you abandon your goals.
It’s a scenario Anytime Fitness Canberra City managing director Danny Sciberras has seen play out countless times in his 20 years as a personal trainer.
“And it doesn’t have to,” he adds.
“I’ve overseen many clients successfully reach a range of fitness goals, and there are some common denominators for success and failure.”
Over two decades, Danny has identified three key stages to forming sustainable health and fitness habits.
“First, you have to imagine your goal or goals as a puzzle, and each piece is an element that moves you forward,” he explains.
“You need to break your goal down into those pieces and then work to make them increasingly granular until they’re easily achievable, measurable and sustainable.
“For example, if your goal is to lose weight, you might initially break that down into exercise and diet.
“On the exercise side, you might decide the smaller pieces, including going to the gym, participating in a team sport or taking a certain number of steps a day.
“You can break those down even further by asking yourself the right questions. If you have a family, how can we get the whole family exercising? Do you like walking with friends? What are the opportunities for incidental exercise? Can you park further from shops or work and walk that last extra bit?”
Step two involves taking action – but there is an optimal order.
By considering the complexity and impact of each piece, Danny says you can form a roadmap to success.
“Ask yourself, ‘on a scale of one to 10, how confident am I that I will be able to achieve this?’ When you’re first starting, the magic number is nine or 10 – those are the goals we’re going to knock over first,” he says.
“Inevitably, you’ll see momentum building through those smaller successes, which has a snowball effect on the rest of your goals.”
But Danny warns there are pitfalls along the way, including one of the most common errors – over-promising and under-delivering to yourself.
“When people first start, we encourage them to think big but start small and to make goals specific,” he says.
“Rather than saying, ‘I am going to hit the gym five times a week’, start with two, and let’s go ahead and dedicate the times per week when that’s achievable.
“If you set a lofty goal and fall short, it feels like a failure and motivation starts to drop. Starting small and building on success creates momentum. And specificity enables you to make it routine.”
Another common pitfall is how we perceive our failures, according to Danny.
“No roadmap is bulletproof, so at Anytime Fitness, we set clients up to understand that the process of developing healthy habits is going to be a combination of successes that we build on and failures that we learn from,” he says.
“That’s why we diversify the pieces of the puzzle and tackle health with a holistic approach; if one piece falls over, we have other elements in place to keep us on track.
“It also requires frequent re-examination, which is step three. For example, if your goal was to improve your nutrition, you may have broken that down to a time restriction on eating, eating more vegetables and drinking more water.
“We know that even ‘drinking more water’ is too open a goal, so we break it down further into action items and here’s where it’s worth examining where and why we failed in the past. What prevented you from drinking more water? Perhaps you forget, or you’re too busy or simply don’t like the taste. So your informed action items might be having cold water in the fridge, adding lemon or merely committing to filling your water bottle up every morning.
“Examine things as they fall down – and they will. Frequent examination allows us to look at our goals rationally rather than emotionally, which is what we tend to do when we leave this examination until New Year’s Eve.
“Eventually, you’ll get to a place where you love it, it’s part of life and you miss it when it’s not there.”
Find your nearest Anytime Fitness gym here.