The mornings are getting a little lighter and there’s slightly less frost on our windscreens, which means we are fully submerged in February. The second month of the year is an interesting one because the excitement of Christmas and New Year has dissipated while the anticipation for the warmer months hasn’t quite started building, leaving us in limbo: January offers optimism, but what does February bring?
When you decided on your New Year’s resolutions, were you overly ambitious or were you realistic? Unfortunately, a shocking 80% of people who sign up to the gym in January stop going by the second week of February and a disappointing 41% of smokers manage to last the month without a cigarette when trying to quit. Only 19% of healthy eating regimes started as a New Year’s resolution become a long-term lifestyle change which means only 1 in 5 of us are sticking to our dietary goals.
The term exercise adherence specifically refers to the maintenance of an exercise routine for a prolonged time period after the initial starting phase. In other words, continuing to follow your training plan long after the novelty has worn off. This post-Honeymoon stage of adopting a lifestyle change is the most challenging stage of all, making February, in particular, a challenging month. Set out below are some examples of why we find exercise adherence so problematic and some suggestions of ways we can battle these barriers and become February Fighters:
- Lack of motivation – At times it can feel impossible to summon the motivation to go for a run, hit the gym, or even to choose the stairs over the lift, but there is a way! Following the principles of cognitive behaviour therapy, it is important to remember why you were motivated to implement your exercise routine in the first place. Ask yourself, ‘what has changed between then and now?’ Remind yourself of the positive impact of leading a healthy life. Weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of the exercise you are avoiding and consider what is truly your priority.
- Boredom – It’s not uncommon for exercise to be avoided on the grounds of its inability to entertain! This barrier is simple to overcome and plays an important role in increasing your enjoyment of exercise in general. Try mixing up your exercise by going swimming with friends, swapping your military fitness workout for a dance workout or try running whilst listening to an audio book.
- Restricted time – We lead incredibly busy lives, and any spare time seems to inexplicably disappear at the hands of Instagram or Prison Break. By the time you’ve got home from work, hung up the laundry and sorted the children’s packed lunches for tomorrow, there is no time left for exercise. The important thing to remember is that all movement and mobilisation counts as exercise and will do you good! Run up the stairs instead of taking the lift, walk to the station instead of driving and dance round the kitchen while you cook dinner!
- Body image – Negative body image is a prominent cause of low self-esteem. Sometimes we feel down about the way we look and are less inclined to be seen exercising in public. Even amongst friends, our own sense of self can prevent us from exercise adherence because we feel inadequate. Firstly, stop comparing yourself to other people. Each individual has a unique genetic makeup which means some have a fast metabolism, some are natural ectomorphs, some have a more positive outlook and others can do the splits without even trying. The only person you should be comparing yourself with is who you were yesterday and who you want to be tomorrow. Avoid this barrier by exercising at home or in a group which is suited to your standard.
- Cost – A commonly reported barrier to exercise adherence is the expense. Although a year’s membership at the gym is an unthinkable expenditure, this isn’t the only way to live a healthier life. You don’t need to buy the top running shoes, you don’t need to attend four yoga classes a week and you don’t need to sell your soul to buy the Insanity Workout Programme. All you need to do is set manageable goals, like buying a finite number of personal training sessions, which you know you can maintain.
When you assess your own reasons for struggling with exercise adherence, you will find each reason can be broken down and managed individually. February doesn’t have to be the month of failed New Year’s resolutions, it can be the month of exercise adherence and continued success; and a little support from a Personal Trainer can go a long way. Focus on prioritising what is important to you and how you can spare yourself from becoming too sedentary. To increase your chances of fighting February, set yourself realistic targets and take the time to congratulate yourself on your achievements, even when they seem small.