January is the busiest time of the year for health clubs sign-ups, but after that first month about a third of those newbies will show up only about once a week. Within five months, 80 percent of them will quit altogether. To avoid becoming a gym dropout, here are 12 tips to help you stay the course.
1. Get a training partner. Having a training partner, preferably one who shares your fitness goals, increases your commitment to training. It also provides a sense of accountability as your training partner is relying on you to show up.
2. Change training partners. If your training partner is not as committed as you to training, their behavior can negatively affect your motivation. Especially on those training days where you want to push yourself or just need a good spotter, having your training partner skip out on you can be a downer that may affect the quality of your workout. As a general rule, avoid seeking family members as training partners because they are often more lenient when it comes to allowing you to slack off or skip a workout.
3. Make a written contract with yourself with penalties. One of the common motivational tools for working out is to reward yourself whenever you accomplish a goal. Another approach that has some interesting research to back it up is to punish yourself if you do not achieve your goals. Seriously.
A study on exercise adherence called “Association Between Monetary Deposits and Weight Loss in Online Commitment Contracts" was published in August 2016 in the American Journal of Health Promotion. The study involved 3,857 individuals who signed weight-loss commitment contracts with penalties. Note the authors, “Participants specified their own weight loss goal, time period, and self-reported weekly weight. Deposits were available in the following 3 categories: charity, anticharity (a nonprofit one does not like), or donations made to a friend.” Researchers found that “The participants whose penalties went to a group they disagreed with had the best results,” with the no penalty group having the lowest success rate.
4. Change gyms. Changing gyms may be just the spark you need to take your training to the next level and stay there. Often you get burnt out using the same resistance training machines, or find that some of the machines you have been using at your gyms are not comfortable. Joining a new gym with different brands of equipment may make your workouts more enjoyable and increase your training drive. Consider, however, that if you join a gym in January it’s probably going to be crowded – don’t worry, a significant number of these members will be gone by February.
5. See your doctor. It’s always a good idea to see your doctor before going on any new exercise program, but having a check-up can be a great motivator as a physical can give you valuable baseline data on your current physical condition. For example, if your cholesterol and blood pressure are high, getting to the gym to avoid being put on medication can be a great motivator. After 4-6 weeks of training, ask your doctor to get your lab work redone to see how you are progressing.
6. Commit to Compete. While some people will make a commitment to compete in a figure or physique competition to motivate themselves to stick with their program, you don’t have to go to that extreme. Instead, find an athletic event you enjoy and make a commitment to participate in a competition at some level, such as a running event or a state games.
7. Get help from social media. The Internet is full of social media groups that have people who will support your goals and often offer good advice about your program. If powerlifting or weightlifting is your thing, there are many Iron Game sites that have exceptional coaches in these sports who enjoy helping others achieve their goals.
8. Get your family on your team. Before starting any exercise program, ask your family members to help you stay with it. For example, if you have a home gym and make a commitment to train three times a week for one hour, you family needs to understand that you are not to be disturbed during your workout except for emergencies. This is your time.
9. Plan your workouts. Very few gym members bring any written workout with them to the gym, doing pretty much what they feel like that day. Such an approach to training makes it difficult to achieve progress. Instead, plan out a detailed workout to bring with you to the gym that covers all the basic loading parameters of exercises, reps, sets, rest, rest, and tempo.
10. Hire a personal trainer. Yes, personal trainers can be expensive, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make use of their services at a reasonable rate. Instead of training 3x a week and going into debt as a result, perhaps you can afford to see a trainer twice a month, using a workout they designed for you doing the days you train yourself? Also, consider that the personal training business is a saturated market, and often it’s possible to negotiate for a rate lower than what the trainers advertise, especially if you can convince them that you are in it for the long haul.
11. Schedule a regular workout time. Most of those who stick with exercise programs train early in the morning or late at night. Morning workouts are usually best as often emergencies or last-minute commitments come up later in the day that will force you to skip training. Plus, getting your workout done early in the morning gets your day off to a healthy start and puts you in a positive fame of mind.
12. Take before and after photos. In addition to seeing progress by how much weight you lift and how much and bodyweight and bodyfat you lose, take before and after photos of yourself so you can visually see the results of your efforts. Be certain to wear the same clothes each time, and take photos from several different angles (front, back, side) using the same poses.
The sad truth is that many gyms could not handle all their gym members if everyone decided to start training on a regular basis. That’s not your problem. Use these dozen tips to help you make an investment in yourself that will pay off in transforming your body and improving the quality of your life.