If you want to get in shape but your best intentions aren’t enough to motivate you, identifying the problem can suggest a solution

Self-help gurus sometimes promise that it takes 21 days to form a new habit, but research has shown that it actually takes between two and eight months for a new habit to stick. Moreover, one of the tricky parts of forming a healthy new habit is that it can be hard to get started. So if you’re scratching your head wondering why your New Year’s resolution to get to a gym regularly didn’t amount to much, here are a few reasons why that might be—and some proposed solutions.

  1. You’re making excuses or procrastinating.
    It’s easy to say that you don’t have enough time to go to the gym or that you’ll “go tomorrow.” The week fills up with social engagements, work, hobbies, cooking, cleaning…. The problem is that you’re not looking at your schedule realistically and making time for the gym.

Solution:
Start by deciding on the one day and time a week that you can go. Maybe it’s Sunday mornings at 9 a.m.—plan to go every single Sunday morning at 9 a.m. Go for the hour, and then go again next week. Be specific about the day and time, and eventually it’ll be easier to find a second and maybe even a third or fourth day to go. Keep these commitments as you would a doctor’s appointment: you wouldn’t skip your appointment because you have a brunch date; you’d find another time to go to brunch.

  1. You tried it, and didn’t see any results.
    You may have begun to work out but then become discouraged after a few weeks because nothing was changing in your body. A lot of people think that these changes will happen overnight. That’s putting a lot of pressure on yourself, and it’s likely that you’ll set yourself up for failure. Also, while working out is important, it’s only a part of the equation: you’ll probably start to see real results if you re-evaluate your nutrition. Finally, it might also be an issue of what you’re doing at the gym—perhaps you have specific results in mind, but you don’t know how to get there.

Solution:
If this sounds like you, it’s time to consider bringing in a professional. Hire a personal trainer (be clear with him or her if you can afford only a few sessions, so that he or she can plan accordingly) and get him or her to show you the basics. Explain what your goal is, and he or she will help you create a realistic plan. It may also be time to speak to a dietician or a nutritionist, or your doctor, about your food intake. I’m not suggesting trying a fad or fancy diet, but having someone look at what you’re eating might be the key in getting to your goal.

As well, it’s can be helpful to measure your success by keeping track of numbers other than the one on the scale: trackh how many kilometres you can walk briskly without getting winded over time, or track your waist size, or if you’re feeling bold, take photos of your body to track your progress. The scale doesn’t account for muscle gained in place of fat lost and can therefore mislead.

  1. You did it alone.
    Going back to Point 2, it can be overwhelming to navigate a big life change without any help or support. It also can become unmotivating to do it on your own—some people are able to motivate themselves, but many people need external motivation to keep them on track.

Solution:
If you don’t want to hire a professional, at the very least, wrangle a friend, partner, or colleague to join you at the gym. Go together and hold each other accountable. Having a buddy can be great for motivating each other, and it can also be cathartic to have someone right there with you to commiserate over difficulties and celebrate the accomplishments.

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