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How to Stay Motivated to Stay Fit

By Nicole Park, FNP CDE CDTC | Internal Medicine

More Americans are becoming physically active these days. According to a 2015 Gallup and Healthways survey, 55.5% of people indicated that they exercised frequently– a rate that has been increasing since 2008. This is great news. And yet, once someone has attained a higher level of fitness, they soon learn that the challenge is how to maintain it. Because, let’s face it, life happens! Fitness takes consistency. And when you “fall off the wagon,” it can be tough to climb back on.Fortunately, Nicole Park, Family Nurse Practitioner and Certified Diabetes Educator at CareMount Medical, knows how to help. Nicole sees many pre diabetic and diabetic patients who successfully reach their desired fitness goals, but still struggle to maintain their new weight. If you find yourself in that position, take heart. Assessing what you’ve learned about yourself is a valuable component of staying healthy.

According to Nicole, being fit means understanding that you don’t need to arrive at a destination. “Becoming fit is not about reaching the end point of a fitness journey, but about changing your mindset,” she says. “You can set a new objective to prevent yourself from going back to old habits.” Ideally, you want to take the momentum from achieving your original goal and keep it going!

Linda Do is a Family Nurse Practitioner at CareMount Medical, she shares this advice: “Congratulate yourself for accomplishing a feat that you set your mind to. Take a moment for reflection. Think about how you got yourself to do this, and all the positive physical and emotional changes that happened during this time. Be willing to be in tune with what your body is telling you.”

But how do you actually do this? If people are “more flexible in their thinking,” they may have an easier time getting or staying in a routine, Nicole says.  For example, if you don’t exercise for a week, you can decide that instead of giving up entirely, you can accept that it’s okay that you missed the gym or that your schedule was different that week. “But you can motivate yourself again,” Nicole says. “It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I believe something is always better than nothing.” She and Linda offer additional tips below.

How to Stay Motivated

  • Understand your relationship with food. Ask yourself: Am I eating out of real hunger or because I’m bored? Am I feeling stressed? It can be helpful to clarify whether emotions are influencing what you’re eating and when.
  • Understand that exercise is not a punishment.  Reflect and adjust your goals. Keep challenging yourself. You don’t have to go it alone. Group classes like CrossFit, spinning, and Zumba create communities and provide encouragement. Even if it’s just for an hour, you will be motivated to go boost your achievements and be with your friends. Using apps such as Fitness Pal helps to track and share your progress.
  • Tracking your diet and activities will also help you stay accountable. Dividing your daily calorie intake into six small meals under a predictable eating schedule, will assist you to keep hunger at bay, which can prevent you from overeating. You can share your progress and help inspire others.
  • Set realistic goals. “I always tell my patients to set short-term weight and exercise goals. Long-term goals are important but will tend to frustrate people,” says Nicole. “People are more likely to give up if goals are out of reach. Short-term goals give more of an instant gratification. For weight loss, I suggest trying to drop 1-2 lbs. a week, which might be more attainable.”
  • Make it Fun. Sometimes routines can get boring. You can start giving yourself rewards— like buying a new pair of athletic shorts or leggings —after meeting a certain fitness goal. Try changing up your workout playlist every month. Because self-motivation can be hard, involve your friends, coworkers, or family in a fitness activity. Make sure to pick something that you truly enjoy.

Finally, Linda advises that, “Staying fit is not just about ‘wanting to fit’ into your swimsuit for the summer. That mindset will always get you off track,” she says. The ultimate goal is to continue to look for ways to keep feeling healthy.