The Fitness Zone

Staying motivated to achieve your fitness goals

Oct 20, 2015 | by AIF

Have you ever worked towards a fitness or health goal, only to achieve it and then slowly slide back to where you started? Australian Institute of Fitness Master Coach Josh Pullman sheds some light on why this happens, and suggests ways we can shift our thinking and training to ensure we cultivate long-term habits, rather than just “smash goals”.

Why is maintaining a goal so hard?

There are a number of reasons why maintaining a change in behaviour is often tougher than making the initial change itself. These include:

  • Having a ‘race to the finish’ mentality, whereby there is a ‘start’ and ‘end’ point to achieving your goal. This approach doesn’t work over the long-term because you’re going to burn out at some point.
  • Forgetting about maintaining your goals once you’ve achieved them. Once the target is met, people often take that as a reason to relax and celebrate, rather than continue their good work.
  • Setting large goals and no smaller, more quickly achievable ones. Long-term goals only work if you have also set yourself day-to-day goals to help and encourage you through your journey.

So how can motivation be sustained?

Interestingly, motivated people often don’t think of themselves as ‘motivated’ – they just think of themselves as ‘consistent.’

The trick is is to keep doing something for so long that it feels unnatural not to do it. Think of how you feel when you don’t brush your teeth in the morning, don’t have your seatbelt on, or are forced to take a different route to work. Fit, healthy people who might seem motivated to others simply feel uncomfortable when they don’t eat well or miss a workout. They’ve done it so well for so long that it feels weird not to.

The key is to form good habits and stick to them. You need to work on your discipline levels to ensure you reach goals and maintain them.

There are a few life-hacks you can use to reinforce your positive behaviour.

1. Write it down

One reason people often relapse into old patterns of behaviour is because they’ve forgotten the discomfort associated with their former selves. Once a goal is reached, it’s easy for them to slip back into old habits.

With this in mind, write down some honest, brief points on:

  • Your opinion of self-image.
  • Your quality of health.
  • Your level of fitness.
  • Your social life.
  • Your old energy levels.

Be candid. Write ‘Old Me’ at the top of your list, and stick it in a place you often frequent like the bathroom mirror or fridge, to serve as a constant reminder of why you decided to start your plan. This way, you can ensure that throughout your day, no matter what you’re doing, you’ll always be reminded of the reasons why you started, and why you want to stay fit and healthy.

2. Make sure you’re investing in the right changes

Nothing reinforces positive change like experiencing actual progress, you just need to be consistent and give the new you a chance to emerge.

The research tells us that HIIT or high intensity interval training is the gold standard for losing fat and improving health. As long as you’re paying attention to posture and doing things correctly you shouldn’t injure yourself. Pick a high intensity activity that you like, as this makes it much easier to stick to. If you enjoy riding a bike, invest in a new bike or riding gear. If you love swimming, buy a pair of swimmers and hop on down to your local pool.

3. Don’t tell everyone about your goal

Scientists have observed significantly lower success rates in those who announce their goal to lots of people, compared to those who keep it to themselves. It’s counter-intuitive when you consider how useful a support network might seem to someone undertaking something new, but behavioural psychologists are telling us that making our goal public creates a premature sense of completeness. They suggest you should focus on reiterating your goals to yourself instead. Be private about your goals and you’re more likely to achieve them.

4. Aim for progress, not perfection

Even Olympic athletes are human, and they have tough days too. If they’re allowed to trip and fall once in awhile, so are you!

Aiming for perfection is a fast way to develop an unhealthy relationship with exercise. Give yourself a break if you slip up, but stay on your toes. Find out what caused you to fail and learn from it. After that, it’s a matter of preventing that situation to occur again. Be patient and forgive yourself for any trip ups.

5. Look at the big picture

When looking at improving health and fitness, people often make goals based on numeric targets. This shouldn’t be your focus. There are going to be weeks when the figure on the scale doesn’t budge. So it’s important to look at the big picture. For example, if you’ve been attending the gym for week and barely notice weight loss, don’t be hard on yourself. The fact you managed to go to the gym every day for a week is an achievement in itself!



The Australian Institute of Fitness
The Australian Institute of Fitness (AIF) is the largest and longest established fitness training organisation in Australia, with dynamic training methods and expert course coaches nationwide - spanning fitness, massage and nutrition. The AIF qualifies more fitness professionals than any other provider in Australia, as well as offering a broad range of continuing education courses (CEC), upskilling resources and partnership programs for existing industry.

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